Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Nov. 11, 2004

SANDALS AND BEACHES RESORTS chairman Gordon "Butch" Stewart announced that, starting in January, the firm's 16 all-inclusive properties will be branded as either Classic or Signature to distinguish the levels of services and amenities available. Among the new amenities offered will be Butler Service to guests booking the highest level of suites at the 12 resorts in the Signature Collection and three of the Classic properties (Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Ocho Rios, all in Jamaica). The butlers, trained and certified by the Guild of Professional English Butlers, will provide in-suite check-in, unpacking and packing luggage, drawing baths and arranging in-suite dining. Each Signature resort will have a five-star restaurant and offer champagne breakfasts, poolside wait service, a late-night buffet twice a week and themed evenings.  Beaches in St. Lucia, an $80-million, 300-room resort, which will soon begin construction, will be added to the Signature Collection and will be the fourth resort in the Sandals family on St. Lucia.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS to Grand Cayman will be lifted on Nov. 20, allowing all categories of air travelers to enter the island. Restrictions, which have been in place since Hurricane Ivan in September, limited air travel into Grand Cayman to Caymanian residents, Caymanian passport holders and relief workers. Guests are advised to travel with return tickets or receipts for return E-tickets plus confirmation of accommodations arrangements; those visiting friends and family must have the names and street address of their hosts. According to the Department of Tourism, the island will have 529 rooms available in its hotel inventory by Nov. 20 as well as 75 restaurants. All hotel rooms, restaurants and attractions will have passed an inspection process, conducted by the Dept. of Tourism.

GRENADA welcomed its first mega-cruise ship on Nov. 9 when Norwegian Cruise Line's 2,000-passenger Norwegian Spirit pulled into the capital of St. George's. The ship, which was the first large ship to call since before Hurricane Ivan on Sept. 7, anchored outside the harbor and the passengers were tendered in to a red carpet welcome that included steel band music, decorations and a student chorus. Tour buses and taxis shuttled cruise passengers to several sites on the island that had been inspected and certified as ready to accept visitors. Hapag-Lloyd's 420-passenger MS Columbus visited Grenada Nov. 10. Tourism officials are optimistic that cruise lines now will resume service on a regular basis.


" Cape Air will launch scheduled service from San Juan to Vieques, Puerto Rico, with four flights a day on Dec. 15. One daily flight will serve Vieques from St. Croix. The new service can be booked through major GDSs.

" The Caribbean routes of the latest reincarnation of Pan Am, based in Portsmouth, N.H., are "on hold," according to a res agent at the carrier's call center. The line's Caribbean routes included service from Florida to to San Juan and Aguadilla, Puerto Rico as well as Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.


DELTA, which offers daily nonstop service on CRJ-700 aircraft from Atlanta to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, will upgrade its Saturday flight to a 757 aircraft during the winter season. An item in the Nov. 4 E-letter did not clarify the equipment change on Saturdays.


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