Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: October 20, 2005

AMERICAN EAGLE will launch daily service between San Juan and Vieques, Puerto Rico, on Dec. 16, using Super ATR twin-engine 64-passenger aircraft. Bookings opened on Oct. 16. The flight will depart San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport at 2:30 p.m. and arrive in Vieques at 2:59 p.m. The return flight will leave Vieques at 3:30, arriving in San Juan at 4 p.m. Under construction now at the Rivera Rodriguez Airport in Vieques are a lounge, baggage facilities and a car rental booth for American Eagle passengers. Through checking of baggage will be offered so that passengers can check luggage through to their final destination. The new building will comply with Transportation Security Administration requirements for security screening. The $800,000 construction project at the airport was "substantially" funded by Reig Capital Puerto Rico Inc., developer of the nearby 156-room Martineau Bay Resort & Spa, according to Rabin Ortiz, general manager. The resort, which was formerly under the Wyndham banner, will be converted to W's first Caribbean property by December 2006 at a cost of $25 million, Ortiz said. "The new air service and facility will make it a lot easier and more seamless for travelers coming to Vieques," Ortiz said. Current options from San Juan include twin-engine, nine-passenger flights on Cape Air, Vieques Air Link and smaller lines, including Flamenco Air and Air Sunshine. There also is passenger ferry service from Fajardo (on the mainland), Puerto Rico, to Vieques.

LODGEPODGE

" Eden Rock on St. Barts will unveil its new look in December, marking the completion of a $25 million project. The chic resort added eight new suites and five beach houses on the former Filao Beach Hotel property, adjacent to Eden Rock. The beachfront houses range from one to three bedrooms, each with plunge pools. All new guest rooms will offer flat screen TVs, DVDs and sound systems. Both existing restaurants also have been renovated. Winter rates start at $750 per night, double, with breakfast, transfers and taxes. For details, visit www.edenrockhotel.com.

" Club St. Lucia installed a state-of-the-art Ecoplan Wastewater Mobile Treatment Plant, which can purify up to 80,000 gallons of water per day without chemicals. The plant is part of the resorts effort to promote responsible tourism. For details and winter rates, contact www.clubstluciabysplash.com.

HURRICANE WILMA, a category 2 storm by midweek, tied the record last set in 1969 as the 12th hurricane in one season and posed a threat to the Cayman Islands, western Cuba, parts of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and/or Florida and the Gulf Coast as it strengthened and picked up speed. As much as 12 inches of rain were possible in the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. Several cruise lines were forced to alter itineraries and substitute port calls in the eastern Caribbean to get out of the storms projected path. So far this season there have been 21 named storms, tying a record set in 1933. If there is another tropical storm -- the Atlantic Hurricane Season does not officially end until Nov. 30 -- it will be named Alpha, for the first letter in the Greek alphabet.

PENCIL IT IN

" Sandals Ultra Caribbean Bash Tour for travel Agents, Oct. 25 to Nov. 3, various U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Costa Mesa and Pleasanton, Calif.; Chicago; Detroit; Hauppauge, N.Y.; Milwaukee; and Newark.  For details and venues, call (800) 487-7324.

" 41st Ms. Travel Agent 2006 Pageant, Dec. 9 to 13, Sandals Montego Bay, Jamaica, sponsored by American/Wolfe International Hotel Representatives, Sandals and Air Jamaica. Six finalists will be flown to Sandals for four nights; the winner receives a four-night stay for two at any Sandals resort. Contestants must by currently be employed by a travel agency in a sales capacity for at least a year. Entry forms are available by calling (800) 223-5695.

" 13th Annual Barbados Jazz Festival, Jan. 9 to 15, Barbados.  Key performers this year are Lionel Richie, Jill Scott, Arturo Tappin, Roy Hargrove & Roberta Gambarini, Art Work & Wayne Willock, Norman Brown, Cindy Alexander, the Gary Davis Band and the Cuban Jazz All-Stars. Tickets are priced from $25 for each event.  To order, visit www.barbadosjazzfestival.com.

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