Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: August 4, 2005

NEWEST ENTRANTS in the hurricane protection policy lineup are Expedia.com and Spirit Airlines, joining firms such as Club Med, Sandals, and SuperClubs, which have had such plans in place for several seasons. Expedia.com will waive its cancellation fees and advocate on behalf of clients for travel partners to waive fees for any hotel or flight affected by a hurricane watch or warning. The Hassle Free Hurricane Promise applies to customers who have booked hotels, flights or vacation packages on Expedia.com to any North American destination (including Mexico and the Caribbean) affected by hurricane-related problems during the time of travel. Expedia.coms traveler alert page will now provide more hurricane reports and offer hotel-by-hotel damage assessments.  For details, visit www.expedia.com/hurricanepromise.  Spirits Hurricane Buster fare protection program waives the penalty fee for reservations changes if a hurricane watch is in effect at customers' origin or destination airports through Nov. 15. Spirit also negotiated a special rate of $12 per person for customers who want to purchase Travel Guard insurance to cover their non-air travel needs. Details can be viewed at www.travelguard.com/partners/spiritairlines. For air reservations, visit www.spiritair.com.

THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL, Grand Cayman, the first Caribbean project for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, hopes to break ground later this year in Grand Cayman -- but not on Seven Mile Beach, the islands most popular and populated stretch of sand. Instead, the 114-room, $45 million resort will sit on a 10-acre site that features a 950-foot stretch of sand called Barefoot Beach on Grand Caymans northeastern coast, 35 minutes from the airport and George Town. Included in the development, which is scheduled to open in 2007, will be 37 private residences that will be part of the 114-room count when the owners are not in residence. Oversized guest rooms and suites, set in low-rise buildings, will fuse Caribbean and Asian designs. Each unit will offer a balcony or patio with ocean views and state-of-the-art in-room entertainment systems. Six restaurants and bars will offer alfresco dining and contemporary cuisine. Facilities also will include two pools; tennis courts; a fitness center; an 18,000-square-foot oceanfront spa, with 11 treatment rooms; and a water sports center with a full roster of activities, including windsurfing, kayaking, diving and snorkeling. Deep sea fishing, boat rentals and parasailing tours and golf will be nearby. Mandarin Oriental currently operates 21 hotels with seven more under development. For details, visit www.mandarinoriental.com.

TAKEOFFS

* United added winter season flights to St. Thomas from Chicago and Washington (Dulles), effective Dec. 17. The line will offer three weekly flights from Chicago and four weekly flights from Washington. United also is adding new service on the same date from Washington to Nassau, from Washington to Montego Bay; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and has expanded its Washington-Aruba service. For details, visit www.united.com

* Caribbean Sun launched two daily roundtrip flights Aug. 1 between St. Thomas and St. Maarten. For schedules, visit www.flycsa.com.

WEB SIGHTS

" The St. Kitts Tourism Authority launched its new website at www.stkittstourism.kn that includes 360 virtual tour photos of island attractions, the option for live chats with tourism professionals and a booking engine. Information about hotels, restaurants, events and news also is featured.

" The destination Web site for Trinidad & Tobago [www.visittnt.com] now features a North American travel agent finder facility that allows clients to search for a Trinidad & Tobago Agent Specialist nearest their location.

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