Destination Wedding Report: The Revamped One&Only Ocean Club
I'm literally rubbing shoulders with pilots as the Embraer Phenom 300 speeds down the runway of White Plains Airport. David Mendal, the owner of Ultimate Jet Vacations and the man in the captain's seat, has invited me to join him and the co-pilot in the cockpit for takeoff, which offers a thrilling vantage point as the wheels of the jet leave the ground, the homes of and forests of Westchester County growing smaller and smaller. David points to the map of our route on the plane's screen, which will take us from the dreary gray of New York in winter to the vibrant colors of the Bahamas in about three hours.
This is the inaugural flight of the "Jet to Villa" program with the One&Only Ocean Club, the famed Paradise Island resort that has recently reopened after renovations. While the program isn't exclusively for weddings (and is certainly a big splurge) as I head back to the cabin and my cushy seat it's easy to envision a wedding party of up to seven people aboard, popping open a celebratory bottle of bubbly in anticipation of the weekend ahead. I'm eager to see the One&Only first-hand myself. Anyone who has worked in the wedding biz long enough is familiar with the property as it's a popular choice for island nuptials. It's also a fun spot for James Bond fans-much of Casino Royale was filmed on the property, and the Martini Bar makes a mean Vesper martini.
I arrive at lunchtime, and head to Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Dune restaurant positioned along the hotel's waterfront, where standout dishes include the Bahamian conch salad and the local lobster in a light curry sauce. Then, it's off for a walk around the property to scope out potential wedding sites. The Beach Deck, a simple platform perched above the ocean seems the perfect place for a welcome dinner or casual celebration. The Pool Terrace is chic little spot for cocktails on the veranda, but for me the main attraction is the sweeping Versailles Gardens where the terraced design, adorned with tropical blooms and sculptures, is capped off by a 12th Century Augustinian cloister at the top. Weddings here include the services of a dedicated "celebration consultant," handy for sorting out details from afar, and can include dazzling extras like a fireworks display or a Junkanoo Rush, a local tradition in which colorfully-costumed stilt dancers and acrobats accompany musicians playing drums, whistles, bugles, and horns.
Three-or-four- bedroom villas-which feature private pools and include daily breakfast as well as sunset champagne and strawberries for everyone staying there-are a best bet for wedding parties, while the Jeffrey Beers-designed Hartford Wing rooms are ideal for honeymooners. A splurge-worthy spa, yoga classes, and golf and tennis offer plenty to keep guests busy, while a pristine beach and three swimming pools make it easy to do nothing but relax, too. Sadly I have to hop on the plane for the trip home, conch fritters from Dune in hand to help ease the transition from the blues of the Caribbean Sea to the cold weather blues of the Northeast.
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