I was eager to see the new look of Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, following its $48 million, five-month renovation.
The Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, property has welcomed me many times over the years. However, the most notable visit came in September 1995, two days after Hurricane Marilyn pummeled the island on the heels of Hurricane Luis two weeks earlier.
Frenchman's served as the command center in the difficult days and weeks after the storms. FEMA representatives, rescue workers, insurance adjusters and staff, many of whom had lost their own homes, occupied the rooms that were usable. I stayed elsewhere on that visit.
However, the resort survived, thrived, renovated and eventually reopened.
Now, the 302-room Frenchman's, the largest hotel on St. Thomas, has updated, face-lifted, modernized and looks pretty darn good for a 40-year-old.
Old-timers expecting to see the pastel-pink exterior will be disappointed, however. Frenchman's now is a sand beige color, although one section in the main building still has the pink of old.
Government and tourism officials, Marriott representatives, guests and media were on hand last month as Frenchman's unveiled its new look, marking the completion of the renovation.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. hailed the reopening as helping to position the resort as "the pride of St. Thomas."
New to the resort are two pools (including an infinity pool), a pool deck and bar, giving the resort a total of three pools; Lazule Sea Spa; a fitness facility; a wedding gazebo; a kids' pool and club; a marketplace; and five restaurants, including the Aqua Terra grill and lounge, Sunset Grill and Rum Bar Terrace.
The main building's guestrooms have been renovated, while those in the 80-room Sea Cliff Wing will be redone next summer; the 96 rooms in the adjacent beachfront Morning Star complex will be updated next fall.
Business was brisk during my stay, with six weddings scheduled on one day.
"Group bookings are strong for 2012, and we have an even stronger group base going into 2013 and 2014," said Jose Gonzalez, general manager.
More than 90% of leisure and group business is from the U.S.
Frenchman's introduced an all-inclusive meal option earlier this year, "which is selling pretty well," Gonzalez said.
Grand reopening rates start at $229 per night, double, must be booked by Jan. 31 and are valid for travel throughout 2012.
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