Travel Confidential: Dragon Bay delay -- That's showbiz

t's been almost two years since Sandals announced that it would develop Dragon Bay, a boutique property on Jamaica's southeast coast, so when TC ran into a Sandals official last week we decided to check on its progress.

"We've been delayed about four months," the executive said with a smile. Why the smile? "Fox Television took over the whole place to film a pilot, and we had to stop everything. And in the end, they decided not run the show. But for us, it was a very, very profitable delay."

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Speaking of Jamaica, the island was well represented at Modern Bride's Best Honeymoons black-tie awards night in New York last week. Three thousand travel agents voted for their favorite destinations in various subcategories, and Jamaica officials watched the results with keen interest. They were pleased to have been chosen as "Sexiest Honeymoon Destination," but when Colorado won the "Best for Winter Sports" category, Jamaica's tourism director, Paul Pennicook, put on a shocked look. "What?" he said, in mock disbelief. "Haven't they heard of the Jamaican bobsled team?"

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Rumors afloat: Though hotels and trains account for the vast majority of Orient-Express Hotels' revenue, the tagline "Hotels, Trains & Cruises" has been attached to its corporate logo for some time. Since 1995, the company has floated only one vessel, the Road to Mandalay, in Myanmar. But 2004 is apparently the year it's getting serious about the cruise business. We reported last week that Orient-Express is acquiring Afloat in France's five luxury canal barges, and word now has reached us that it's going to announce a marketing partnership later this week with Bora Bora Cruises, whose two luxury ships sail the waters of French Polynesia.

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TC picked up rumblings during Caribbean Week in New York, sponsored by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, that the CTO's new secretary general would be announced at its annual tourism conference in Aruba in October. Secretary General Jean Holder announced in 2002 that he would retire in 2003, but there's been no official comment on the latest time line.

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Most of the cruise ships under the former American Classic Voyages brand have found a home. But what about coastal cruisers the Cape May Light and the Cape Cod Light? TC's source at the U.S. Maritime Department says: "Those two ships are still for sale." Anybody need a ship?

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TC is only asking, but why would a general manager leave the cushy life at a deluxe resort in the Caribbean for a yet-to-be-built dude ranch 40 miles from Missoula, Mont.? Here's the lowdown: Jamie Holmes, former general manager at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, and before that GM at Biras Creek, British Virgin Islands, had an offer he couldn't refuse from a Montana landowner who wants to expand an existing operation called Paws-Inn [no, it's not a dog hotel] into a very deluxe ranch resort. TC wonders if Holmes is prepared for Montana winters. He'll need more than flip-flops and sunscreen.

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Why did an Aruba resort drop its 25-year affiliation with Best Western and eliminate the moniker from its new name and logo? It's that name game. A resort official explained that although the relationship between the hotel and BW was hunky-dory, the Best Western tag "labels us as a budget business property. We're going the independent route to get the upscale travelers." TC guesses that that means a rate increase as well.

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With the opening of Wyndham's first property in Bermuda set for June 9 amid fanfare and fireworks, TC was surprised to hear the hotel's after-hours phone recording begin with, "Welcome to Sonesta. We'll see you June 9." The property is the former Sonesta Beach Resort, but that's history now. Sonesta ended its 42-year relationship with Bermuda after the hotel suffered severe damage and encountered insurance problems following last fall's hurricane.

TC figures that a call from a Wyndham executive will take care of that phone recording real fast.

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