Personalized service a tradition at Virgin Gorda's Biras Creek

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"Island time" in the Caribbean is truly infectious, so I was not surprised when my connecting flight from San Juan to Beef Island Airport in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, was delayed.

After landing in Tortola, I motored across North Sound in the Biras Creek Resort launch and checked into the Virgin Gorda resort hours later than scheduled.

The restaurant had closed, but chef Jermaine George had left a meal for me in my refrigerator that included homemade breads, fresh salmon, a mixed salad with mozzarella and chocolate macaroons.

This is the kind of service that is a tradition among Biras employees, who operate with a jack-of-all-trades mentality that encourages a positive atmosphere. In fact, 44 (out of 65) staff have worked at the resort for more than 10 years and have become a second family to repeat guests, who make up 45% of the resort's business.

Biras Creek is the kind of resort where the general manager knocks on a guest's door to answer a question and handle a request, or the activities director sets up a dinner reservation or confirms a return flight.

A Relais & Chateau property since 1999, Biras Creek sits on a narrow isthmus on the northeastern coast of Virgin Gorda, one of 50-plus islands, islets and cays that make up the BVI.

General Manager Rik Blyth put it this way: "I can't think of any other place that captures this kind of setting. We have a harbor in our backyard that gets packed with multimillion-dollar yachts in the peak season, we face the Atlantic Ocean and on either side are gorgeous valleys."

Biras Creek has an old-school Caribbean charm. The lack of commercial activity on the island, minimal outdoor lighting at the resort and the absence of TV and air conditioning in the suites add to its aesthetic allure.

The 31 suites are housed in cottages -- including six with garden views, 22 with ocean views, two large villas and one hilltop villa -- that sprawl over 165 acres with plenty of amenities for guests.

Choices range from tennis courts and nature trails to an infinity pool perched above the water, a fitness center, spa treatments and a secluded beach with a cafe, lounge chairs and hammocks.

A fleet of Boston Whaler boats awaits guests who want to explore the Virgin Gorda inlets and coves, such as Oil Nut Bay, a prime spot for sighting sharks and stingrays. Kayaking in Deep Bay in late afternoon holds the promise of a prime view at sunset; feeding hibiscus flowers to two-foot-long iguanas along the trails is a thrill.

Snorkeling, introductory scuba lessons and fly fishing also are available. The privacy afforded by a luxury island resort in an intimate, tropical setting makes the resort popular with couples.

Golf carts are provided for shuttle service throughout the resort, although many guests prefer biking or walking. The beach is a 10-minute stroll from the center of the resort.

Taking advantage of its natural setting, Biras Creek launched Rejuvenation Week in May, followed by a second one in October. Plans now call for the program to be offered twice a year on a regular basis.

The event featured hikes along scenic trails that wound up into the nearby hills, fitness beach walks, water aerobic exercises and outdoor yoga/Pilates classes.

Biras Creek received a million-dollar overhaul in late 2006, following its purchase by Victor International, a Michigan-based developer of resorts and master-planned communities.

The renovation program included the addition of a new fitness center and a private dining room; new bedding and furnishings in the suites; and plunge pools installed on the decks of the two grand suites and the Premier Suite.

The guestrooms embrace an authentic Caribbean decor with dark woods, high ceilings with overhead fans, local artwork and shell-shaped pottery sinks. The outdoor showers, a Biras Creek trademark, epitomize rustic chic.

But the renovations do not end there. By early next year, a new horse corral will be home to three horses for riding activities, the fitness center will receive new equipment and a boccie court will be added.

Biras Creek's Hilltop restaurant, casual by day and elegant by night, features gourmet cuisine and a selection of international wines. Breakfast is a la carte or buffet; the lunch locale rotates between the beachfront cafe and the restaurant; and dinner features an $85 prix fixe menu for nonguests (all meals are inclusive of the room rate).

Victor International also is developing Oil Nut Bay, a $300 million luxury resort/condominium complex on 400 acres on the eastern end of Virgin Gorda. The resort is slated to open by December 2010.

Biras Creek's winter season, all-inclusive rates start at $850 per room, per night, double, in January for a garden suite. Visit www.biras.com.

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