Travel Weeklys Caribbean E-letter: May 4, 2006

A NEW BOOTH will be showing up at consumer events sponsored by or hosted by the Caribbean Tourism Organization -- and the booth will have nothing to do with regional foods, crafts or water sports. Instead, representatives of the U.S. Postal Service will man the booth, handing out passport applications and taking passport photos. The USPS and CTO agreed to partner on this project to make applying for a passport at CTO-organized events quick and efficient. The partnership hopes to address the new U.S. government regulation requiring all travelers entering or re-entering the U.S. starting Dec. 31 to be in possession of a valid U.S. passport. With the deadline fast approaching, we dont want to jeopardize the peak vacation season next winter, said Hugh Riley, CTOs director of marketing for the Americas. The USPS will have application forms and a camera at the Caribbean Fair during the CTOs annual Caribbean Week 2006 event in New York City at Piers 16 and 17 at the South Street Seaport from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 13. Checks and postal money orders will be accepted on site. Applicants can obtain the passport application at the USPS booth, from any post office branch or can download it in advance at http://usps.com/passport. Proof of citizenship (original documents only) and current photo identification (a drivers license) also are required. Prospective passport-seekers can bring their own passport photos or have them taken at the booth. Fees are as follows: passport, $67; execution fee, $30; and photo fee, $15.

PUERTO RICO is open for tourism, despite the temporary shutdown of 43 government agencies May 1 that put almost 100,000 people out work. The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. is not affected by the closures, according to Terestella Gonzalez Denton, executive director, and expects no major effect on the services used by tourists. According to the PRTC, all tourist services are open and functioning normally, including the airports and seaports; casinos, hotels and restaurants; taxi services; and national and local parks and tourist centers. In addition, all emergency services, police stations, fire departments and municipal services are operational. Although some hotels reported inquiries from guests due to arrive this week, no reservations were cancelled. The most obvious sign of the shutdown was fewer cars on San Juans usually clogged highways. The governor and legislature remained at a stalemate on key fiscal budget issues, one of which is a proposal by the governor for a sales tax to secure a line of credit to finish out the fiscal year through June 30. Without the tax or a loan, the government cannot pay the salaries of an estimated 995,700 public employees. The closings could remain in effect until July 1 when the new fiscal year begins.

LODGEPODGE

" Designer Ralph Lauren lent his hand to the redesign of Round Hill Hotel & Villas 36-room Pineapple House Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The resort also offers 27 private villas, most with private pools. The first-floor rooms at Pineapple House include the addition of balconies or verandahs that open out to sea views. Lauren used an all-white color scheme in the rooms, accented by a four-poster king-size bed draped in a white net with 300-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. The new bathrooms, also a Lauren design, include freestanding white tubs with separate showers. Nightly rates in the new rooms are $350 double, through Dec. 14 and $550 double, from Dec. 15 through April14, including tax and service charges. The resort, a member of Elegant Resorts International, added a new pool, created with 18th century stones from the ruins of the Golden Grove Sugar Works in Jamaica. The site is the same as the previous pool, built on a promontory that projects out over Round Hill Bay. Three pools on different levels feature vanishing edges over the sea with water cascading into a spa pool below. Round Hill also opened a new pool bar, styled after its beach bar. For details, call (800) 972-2159 or visit www.roundhilljamaica.com.

" Club Meds new Share a 7-Day Weekend promotion, valid for new individual bookings, offers seven nights for the price of three, from $810 per person, double, through June 16 and again from Sept. 2 to Nov. 3. Air is not included. For details, visit www.clubmed.com.

SANDALS AND BEACHES RESORTS went smoke-free May 1 in all enclosed areas, including nightclubs, bars, restaurants, lobbies, conference facilities and retail shops. Smoking is still permitted outdoors and in designated rooms in each of the resorts. For details, visit www.sandals.com and www.beaches.com.

Caribbean Editor:

Gay Nagle Myers

Phone: (201) 902-1591

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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