Double treat: Resort serves kids and couples

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas -- Its Web site describes Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina here as an "ultimate Caribbean island vacation made for romance."

All too familiar with glowing Caribbean destination descriptions, I zeroed in on another descriptive phrase that proclaimed Sapphire to be "ideal for families."

"Kids stay free up to age 17 and eat free up to age 12," it read.

Now I was curious. How can the resort successfully market and serve two distinctly different markets -- couples and kids?

"The honeymooning couple doesn't necessarily want to spend their time next to a family of four," said Louri Lynn Throgmorton, the resort's director of sales and marketing. "We believe both markets have something to offer each other, and Sapphire can and wants to accommodate both," she added.

The resort's 30 acres sit on the east end of St. Thomas, about six miles from the island's capital, Charlotte Amalie, and less than a mile from Red Hook, which offers ferry access to neighboring St. John and views of the British Virgin Islands.

Sapphire's six buildings are arranged in clusters, draped by bougainvillaea and curving along a crescent-shaped half-mile beach, perfect for family fun, water sports -- and romantic walks.

Each of the buildings houses 16 suites and eight villas. The villas are more spacious and more expensive, but each offers either a beachfront or a harbor view.

Sapphire set aside three of its villas and suites specifically for families and created a Kids Klub with themed events.

The designated family units have the same upscale amenities and views as in the couples' units because, as John Moorhead, general manager, said, "Family travel is so important to Sapphire and the travel industry that we are constantly looking for ways to improve the family experience for our clients."

This policy works for Fiona Taylor, Caribbean marketing director for Gogo Worldwide Vacations. She said that Gogo sends many clients to Sapphire, most of whom are families.

"The resort realizes how important families are to its business, and families appreciate the space in the units and the Kids Klub," Taylor said.

She pointed out that the family packages, which offer complimentary accommodations for kids, a meal program and activities, "are a terrific family value."

The beachfront suites are spacious, about 640 square feet, with a 150-square-foot deck or balcony, and can accommodate four guests comfortably; the harborview units overlook the resort's 67-slip yacht marina.

The decor of both is similar, with wicker or bamboo furniture; a full kitchen with a microwave, four-burner stove, standard-size refrigerator and coffeemaker; a bath with tub, shower and double sinks; one king or two twin beds plus a queen-size pullout sofa bed; direct-dial phone, ceiling fans and individual central air conditioning. Also included are a satellite television, an iron and an ironing board.

The two-level villas, which can accommodate six, feature a sitting area with satellite television and a queen-size sofa bed, a full kitchen, a bath with shower and double sinks on the ground floor, and a bedroom, full bath, balcony and TV on the top floor.

Sapphire's family plan offers complimentary accommodations for kids up to age 17. Rollaways are $20; cribs cost $10 per night. Kids up to age 12 eat free from the kids' menu when accompanied by an adult, although they can order from the regular menu at a 50% discount.

Kid-friendly menu items include banana-rolled pancakes, ham and cheese egg rolls or fix-your-own mini-hamburgers and bagel pizzas. All nonmotorized sports are complimentary and include snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking and sunfish sailing.

Throgmorton said that families "appreciate being able to snorkel right off our beach."

The two-tiered freshwater pool (with views across Pillsbury Sound to St. John) also is a favorite with parents and their children. The shallow, upper-level pool is for youngsters, while the lower level pool, with its swim-up bar, is for adults.

The resort has taken one of its suites and morphed it into a vividly colored play area, although most of the supervised, complimentary activities for kids ages 4 to 12 take place outside.

These include treasure hunts, campouts, volleyball, arts and crafts, sand-castle building and beach time.

Themed events like Iguana Day, Fishing Day and Crab Racing Day integrate the environment with activities that involve children and their parents. Older kids can kayak and take windsurfing classes.

Sapphire also has a Nite Klub from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. that features movies, music, crafts and dinner for $15 per child, per day. The Kids Klub includes lunch and snacks. Baby-sitters from a bonded vendor can be arranged in advance, at $10 an hour for a minimum of three hours for two kids.

Room key: Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina
Box 8088, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. 00801
Phone: (800) 524-2090
Commission: 10% on rooms and packages.
Tropical Treat Getaway: Five-night minimum stay. Includes continental breakfast for parents, two excursions, taxes and surcharges, from $1,888.75 for family of four, Dec. 24 to April 12.
Kids Caribbean: Five nights, four excursions, three-day car rental and four milk shakes, from $3,245 for family of four Jan. 5 to April 12.
Agent discount: 50% off rack rates. During Travel Agent Month in August, agents receive three complimentary nights.
Nearby attractions:
• Coral World Marine Park, $18,
• Paradise Point Tramway, $15,
• Virgin Islands Ecotours, $50, 2 1/2-hour guided kayak and snorkeling tour,
• Atlantis Submarine, $72,

To contact reporter Kaleel Sakakeeny, send e-mail to [email protected] .

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