Travel Weeklys Caribbean E-letter: April 6, 2006

WEATHER FORECASTERS are predicting an active hurricane season, which starts June 1. But will it top last years record number of 27 named storms and 14 hurricanes? Theres no way we could have another year like last year, said Denis Phillips, chief meteorologist at WFTS-TV in Tampa. Phillips was one of 150 weather experts who gathered at the 10th annual Bahamas Weather Conference, held recently at Our Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island, to look back on the 2005 hurricane season and to look ahead at the 2006 season. The 2006 season will be an active one, with 17 named storms, of which nine will reach hurricane strength, and of those, five will be between Category 3 and Category 5 storms, said William Gray, head of the Dept. of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. Gray said he is predicting a greater number of storms than he did last year. Grays next forecast is due out shortly before the June 1 date launching the 2006 six-month Atlantic hurricane season.

THE BAHAMAS WEATHER CONFERENCE began with 22 people in Nassau in 1997 and a mission to bring true weather content together with a lesson in Bahamian geography, according to Vernice Walkine, director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Meteorologists have taken to heart our message of the Bahamas being an expansive destination that requires accurate reporting with great attention to geography. The 2006 storm lineup: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie and William. The World Meteorological Organization uses six lists of names in its rotation. A name is retired if a hurricane is very deadly or very costly. Katrina, Rita and Wilma are permanently off the list.

LODGEPODGE

" Frenchmans Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas forged an exclusive partnership with Zora the Sandal-Maker, a local crafts merchant, to offer guests made-to-order leather sandals. The If the shoe fits... four-night shopping spree package begins at $363 per person, per night, double, though mid-June and includes two pairs of handmade Zora sandals, daily breakfast, unlimited water ferry tickets from the resort to Zoras store in downtown Charlotte Amalie, tote bags, two pedicures, a welcome drink upon arrival and taxes. Zoras store opened in 1962; customers can choose from among 20 styles of sandals. Clients select the style, get their feet measured and have a final fitting during their stay. The finished product is shipped home three weeks later. For details on the package, call (340) 776-8500.

" Riu Hotels & Resorts will open its 28th hotel in the Americas and its ninth in the Dominican Republic with the April 28 debut of the 612-suite, all-inclusive Riu Palace Punta Cana in Bavaro Beach. The new resort is the second Riu Palace in Punta Cana and is part of the six-resort Riu complex in that area. For details, visit www.riu.com.

WEB SITINGS

" The Dominican Republic launched its new Web site at www.godominicanrepublic.com. The user-friendly site includes a trip-planning section and suggestions for activities and sightseeing. Luis Simo, vice minister of tourism, said the destinations recent growth spurt made it essential to develop a website that will grow with us and our visitors need for information.

" The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, which will eventually reside on Grand Cayman, launched an official Web site that enables dive enthusiasts to research dive destinations. The site, at www.scubahalloffame.com, also includes the organizations history; biographies of its members; and photos and videos of the Cayman Islands, as well as dive sites around the world. Pilar Bush, director of tourism for the Cayman Islands, said that although long-term plans for establishing a physical location for the Hall of Fame were initiated in 2000, Hurricane Ivan in 2004 delayed those plans. For now, the Web site provides the Hall of Fame with a virtual home, according to Bush.

" One&Only Resorts, which operates the One&Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, introduced its new site at www.oneandonlyresorts.com.

" The official Bonaire Island Map is now on line at www.bonaireislandmap.com. The map features phone numbers for tourism-related entities; highlights official dive sites; and provides information on hotels, restaurants, shops and car and scooter rentals. One section of the map details the full island with beaches and main streets identified; the second section highlights the capital of Kralendijk and other neighborhoods.

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