Shut by Lenny, Four Seasons Resort Nevis prepares to reopen

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CHARLESTOWN, Nevis -- Welcome news from the Four Seasons Resort Nevis: Reopening is set for Nov. 24, one year and one week after Hurricane Lenny shut down the deluxe 196-room property.

"That's a firm date and we are taking bookings," said Robert Whitfield, general manager.

Although he had been at the property since April 1998 as resort manager, Whitfield was named to his general manager's post one week before the rogue, late-season storm cut an erratic west-to-east swath through the Caribbean.

The Christmas period, which carries a 10-day minimum-stay requirement, is already sold out and bookings are "solid" for next winter, according to Whitfield.

The scenario last winter was far different.

The deluxe beachfront property suffered extensive water damage to its 100 ground-floor guest rooms.

Flooding, followed by erosion, destroyed a portion of Pinney's Beach in front of the property and some of the fairways and the 18th green on its golf course.

Foliage was stripped by the high winds, and the swimming pools sustained foundation cracks.

Although 170 guests were safely evacuated before Lenny hit full force, another 140 guests remained on site during the storm.

"We used kayaks to deliver meals, fresh towels and linens to the guests who were instructed to stay in their rooms," Whitfield said.

As soon as it was safe and the airport reopened on St. Kitts, Four Seasons chartered a plane to fly guests to Miami for onward connections.

However bad the damage, the hurricane did present the 9-year-old property with the opportunity to redo and redesign as well as repair and replace.

"The total investment represented a significant amount of money," Whitfield said. He declined to name the exact figure but said it was "many millions."

Returning guests will see changes and enhancements, such as two free-form infinity-edge pools.

The Ocean pool, the larger of the two, has a shallow end for children, a separate area for swimming laps, poolside cabanas and tanning deck space for 140 sun worshippers, complete with chilled towels and spritzes of Evian water from the pool staff.

The Cabana beachfront restaurant, one of three restaurants at the resort, has been redesigned and enlarged to accommodate seating for 160 guests.

Its kitchen, formerly an open-air facility, was relocated inside a building at the rear of the restaurant.

The separate Cabana bar now sits right on the beach and is "a great spot for cocktails at sunset," Whitfield said.

All of the structures at the resort are low-rise and do not interfere with guest-room views.

Restoring the 2,000-foot-long portion of Pinney's Beach that fronts the resort was one of the major projects this year.

The beach is now 120 feet deep and is protected from storm surges by an offshore rock reef that serves as a natural breakwater.

Whitfield stressed that numerous environmental impact studies and assessments were done before the reef was installed.

"Our approach throughout this entire project was to ensure that we can protect our guests and the resort from future damage from rain and the sea," Whitfield said.

"New drainage systems are in place to handle water runoff from the mountains behind the resort. The new reef protects us from the sea in front of the resort."

Enhancements in the guest rooms include stone-tiled floors and walls, upgraded showers, mahogany furnishings and new color schemes.

A new teen entertainment room, which Whitfield described as a "modified tap room," has pool tables, an air hockey table, a large-screen television and video games.

The Kids Club center for 3- to 12-year-olds doubled in size and has a rain-forest theme and a Pirates of the Caribbean decor.

"The children's activities will be more educationally oriented and available seven days a week on a complimentary basis," Whitfield said.

Nanny service will be offered for children under 3 years old.

A third conference room and a business center have been added, and the ballroom and meeting rooms have been upgraded with a new telecommunications system.

Prior to the official opening, invited agents will preview the resort.

The full complement of 700 employees, many of whom were relocated to other Four Seasons properties and to hotels in Florida during the reconstruction, will undergo retraining.

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