Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: May 1, 2003 May 01, 2003 Share 1 -- IN A SHOW of support for U.S. troops, Sandals and Beaches Resorts on May 9 will launch Operation Relax, a program that offers free vacations to active members of the armed forces. The resort chain will donate $1 million worth of free three-night trips to its Caribbean properties while an additional $1 million will be available via bookings through agents. When consumers book and pay for a stay of six or more nights in a premium room, the participating agency receives a three-night land-inclusive trip, valued at approximately $2,000, to distribute to a local member of the military. Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman, initiated a similar effort after the 1991 Gulf War. To become members of the program, agents should contact (800) 48-SPECIAL or visit www.sandals.com or www.beaches.com. ALTHOUGH NO SARS cases have been reported in the Caribbean region, nine Caribbean nations instituted preparedness plans in case an outbreak occurs. They are: Antigua and Barbuda; Belize; Dominica; Jamaica; Montserrat; St. Maarten; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos; and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Bermuda has cautioned its residents against nonessential travel to affected areas.LODGEPODGE • News from Curtain Bluff, Antigua: The 73-room resort, which completed a two-year renovation project, will pay full commissions on its all-inclusive rates, beginning with the 2003 winter season (previously only the room rate was commissionable) and will extend that season to July 24 (prior closing was May). The resort, now affiliated with Virtuoso, inked a partnership with Classic Custom Vacations, tripled the size of its wine cellar to 25,000 bottles and unveiled the Morris Bay and Grace Bay suites, each 1,900 square feet. The 2003-2004 season opens Oct. 18 with inclusive rates from $595 per night in fall/spring and $850 in winter. For details, visit www.curtainbluff.com. • Dominican Republic inclusive resort chain Victoria Hoteles will use Inter Island Tours' Puerto Plata Holidays site [www.puertoplataholidays.com], which is set to launch this month, as a conduit for U.S. bookings. Victoria Hoteles operates the 190-room Victoria Resort and the 506-room Gran Ventana Beach Resort, both inclusive properties on Playa Dorada near Puerto Plata. There is no booking capability on the Victoria Hoteles site at www.victoriahoteles.com.do. • Breezes Runaway Bay in Jamaica became SuperClubs' second resort to earn the World Travel and Tourism Council's Green Globe 21 certification for the resort's commitment to preserving the environment. The first resort was Grand Lido Negril, also in Jamaica. • To celebrate the second annual Puerto Rico Travel Agent Month in September and in conjunction with the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Assn., the Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, will offer discounted rates to agents from $69 per room, single/double. Agents who are members of the Puerto Rico Tourism Program for Travel experts qualify for rates from $59. For details, visit www.westinriomar.com.ANGUILLA Hotel and Tourism Assn. launched its new auction Web site [www.anguillaauctions.com]. It features donated prizes from member establishments, such as hotels, restaurants, car rental companies, watersports operators and local attractions. The first auction lot to be featured is a five-night stay in a one-bedroom beach house at Covecastles Resort on Shoal Bay West with daily breakfast, taxes and service charges. The starting bid was $300; the package will be featured on the site through May 12 when bidding closes. For Anguilla details, visit www.anguilla-vacation.com.