CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Bolongo Bay Beach Club and Villas celebrates its 25th anniversary in 1999.

The 75-room beachfront property on Bolongo Bay on St. Thomas' southeast coast originally opened in 1966 as a cluster of seven small bungalows, a pool and a pool bar and was called Bungalow Bay Beach Club, according to Richard Doumeng, current general manager whose family took over the property in 1974.

Today Bolongo encompasses a 1,000-foot crescent beach and recently renovated guest rooms that each include a balcony, a ceiling fan, air conditioning, color cable television, an in-room safe and an efficiency kitchen.

Hair dryers and clock radios have been added for the winter season.

Bolongo facilities cover the gamut from volleyball, basketball and tennis courts to the Bayside Fitness Center with a pool and canopied deck; another pool and a swim-up bar; Lord Rumbotton's and Iggies restaurants; watersports, and the St. Thomas Diving Club, a PADI training facility which offers a scuba lesson and pool dive free to all guests. That's a far cry from 25 years ago.

Doumeng attributes Bolongo's success to the fact that the resort is family-owned and -operated and always has been. "Bolongo is more about who we are, not what we are," he said. "The Doumeng family members spend a lot of time with our guests, and it shows. Our repeat-guest ratio is consistently growing."

Options abound, another factor in its success, Doumeng said. "We do not restrict our guests nor do we require wristbands or bracelets to separate the inclusive guest from the EP guest," he said.

The resort added a European Plan program to its winter season offerings to complement its inclusive plan (introduced in 1988) and Continental Plan programs. "We offer choices at affordable prices," Doumeng said. "Tour operators wanted an EP program, so we are offering a stripped-down rate for the first time this year." Operators account for more than 70% of all bookings "because they have the air," Doumeng said.

Bolongo guests and island locals mix and meet, especially at Iggies restaurant on karaoke night each week. "We serve good food and decent liquor to our guests and the general public," Doumeng said.

In addition to its guest rooms, Bolongo is back in the villa business with the reopening of 15 oceanfront villas following a renovation program. The one- and two-bedroom villas, targeted at the growing family market, provide extra space to accommodate children and are equipped with a full kitchen, a balcony, cable television, air conditioning and a safe. Maid service is available for a nominal fee. Winter villa EP rates through April 4 range from $255 per night, double occupancy, for an oceanfront studio to $425 per night for a two-bedroom unit.

The resort's EP scuba plan covers unlimited dives and use of dive equipment, accommodations, use of the fitness center and entertainment. Rates start at $530 per person, double occupancy, for three nights up to $1,168 for seven nights.

The seven-night honeymoon plan with Gogo Worldwide Vacations, valid through April 4, starts at $2,055 per couple. Included are accommodations, champagne, a cocktail cruise, an all-day sail, daily breakfast buffet, $100 food and beverage credit, two T-shirts, $100 certificate for a future stay and room tax and service charge.

Rates range from $535 per person, double, for three nights to $1,182.50 per person, double, for seven nights through April 4. CP daily rates this winter start at $112.50 per person, double, for accommodations, breakfast and entertainment.

Guests staying seven nights or longer receive a free all-day sail to St. John with lunch. Inclusive rates require a three-night minimum stay and start at $230 per room, per night, double.

Bolongo Bay Beach Club & Villas, Phone: (800) 524-4746, E-mail: [email protected], Web:

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI