Peter Island Resort offers suite luxury

Peter Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands budgeted $4 million to renovate its 20 beachfront suites. Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers was curious to see how that money was spent. Here is her report:

ell someone you are going to a private island in the Caribbean that only has one resort, and it's guaranteed to bring even Enron-bashing to a halt. Peter Island is just that -- an 1,800-acre, 1.7-square-mile gem across Sir Francis Drake Channel from Tortola. Getting to Peter Island can be a challenge. Even with air, taxi and ferry connections timed just right, it's a long day. But it's so worth it.

Peter Island Resort takes nothing for granted, having been slammed twice in recent years by hurricanes that flooded its kitchens, cracked its pool and closed it for a season.

When $1 million-plus repairs were necessary, managing director Wayne Kafcsak did them right, thanks to owners who recognized that while desalinization plants and new sewer lines do not make good brochure copy, they do make good business sense.

Hammocks lie in wait all over Peter Island's grounds.The 20 renovated beachfront junior suites are the latest improvements at the resort. Agents who book these units can rest easy, secure in the knowledge that clients have a water view in every room.

The units have a homey feel, thanks to a seating area with comfortable rattan furniture, fresh flowers, lots of windows and a nonslippery tile floor with throw rugs.

The bathroom-for-two features double sinks, a two-person Jacuzzi and a shower with two separate showerheads.

The resort did not forsake its ban on televisions in guest rooms, but did add a CD player and discs of island music.

Added to the list of amenities are robes, a coffeemaker with a selection of British teas, a stocked minifridge and teak patio furniture with plush chaise lounges.

Air conditioning is available, but rarely needed; cross-ventilation, sea breezes and two ceiling fans do the trick.

The suite was so inviting that it was hard to leave. Jeffry Humes, resort manager, said other guests felt the same way. "They check in and settle in, especially the British."

The resort's market share breaks down to 40% U.S., 40% U.K. and the rest from everywhere else, he said. Agents account for 70% of U.S. bookings.

Humes is one of the few Caribbean general managers able to report that occupancies did not dip appreciably last fall.

Peter Island reopened in October after its annual month-long closure for refurbishing (dates this year are Sept. 3 to Oct. 10) with few cancellations and a full house at Christmas.

"January was a bit soft, but since then, we have been full or close to it," Humes said. "We exceeded our targets for February and March without rate discounting, and our summer bookings look good."

The reason for this, Kafcsak explained, is the resort's approach: "A good product is what sets us apart from the competition. We constantly upgrade staff training and work closely with wholesalers and agents."

Peter Island also reduced its group bookings and launched a food and beverage initiative with new menus and staff.

On tap for this year are a spa expansion and another boat for the fleet of five ferries.

Inclusive rates start at $615 per oceanview room, double, or $710 per beachfront room, double.

To book, call (800) 346-4451. The resort also can be found on the Web at www.peterisland.com.

Wasting days away

PETER ISLAND, B.V.I. -- What's to do on this island? Lots ... or nothing at all.

With trail map in hand, I hiked to White Bay's Honeymoon Beach, two miles up -- and down -- a few steep hills.

The beach, aptly named, is designed for couples. The chaises are set discreetly apart from one another.

Because I was solo that morning, I did not tarry. Because I was hot and had no water, I did not hike back. Instead, I called the front desk from a walkie-talkie on a peg near the beach. Minutes later, Bugs the bellman arrived in a golf cart.

Island tours by van are well worth doing. Grassy hillsides, winding dirt roads, crashing surf and vistas of neighboring islands offer many Kodak moments.

My husband and I swam at Deadman's Beach, which curved in front of our room. Anchoring the beach at one end are kayaks, watercraft and the Deadman's Beach Bar & Grill.

The best angle for the afternoon sun is the horizon pool near Drake's Channel Bar, where tea is served at 4 p.m.

We watched the dive boats leave from the marina, waved to guests who ferried over to Tortola to shop and saluted as the 41-foot Silmaril set sail for nearby islands.

We had no desire to go anywhere else. -- G.N.M.

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