Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: April 4, 2002

THE ARUBA SONESTA Beach Resort in Oranjestad, Aruba will become the Renaissance Aruba Beach Resort & Casino on April 30, giving Marriott Int'l its third hotel brand and fourth hotel on the island. Management will remain the same; Sonesta rates will be honored until new Marriott rates are introduced. Renovations on the 556-room property will include new soft goods in the rooms and an upgrade to the lobby, landscaping and pool decks. The new booking number for the property is (800) 223-6388.

HUGH RILEY, new director of marketing, Americas, for the Caribbean Tourism Organization, said that initial proposals and recommendations for CTO's new 10-year Caribbean Tourism Strategic Plan will be presented to CARICOM (Caribbean Community) heads of government at their annual summit July 2 to 5. Caribbean consultant Victor Curtin has been retained by CTO to assist with the plan's preparation.

CHANGING TIMES: When Daylight Savings Time takes effect April 7 in the U.S. from April through October, most of the Caribbean is on the same time as the East Coast of the U.S. Of course, there are exceptions. Jamaica and the Cayman Islands observe Eastern Standard Time year-round, so they are an hour behind the rest of the Caribbean and the U.S. East Coast from April through October. It may just be easier to listen for the cockpit announcement as your plane lands. Depending on the time of year and the destination, you will or will not have to set your watches ahead or back one hour.

AMERICAN AIRLINES will add direct, daily service from New York (JFK) to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic four times a week and to the business destination of Santiago, also in the D.R., from JFK and Miami, effective June 15.

US AIRWAYS VACATIONS extended its Caribbean Sale dates for bookings through April 12. The sale offers discounts up to 35% on vacation packages to Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica and St. Lucia for travel from April 15 through Aug. 31.

IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts, with five resorts in the Dominican Republic and five in Mexico's Riviera Maya region in the Yucatan, continues to pay commissions ranging from 10% to 15% on its air-and-land vacation packages. For information, visit the Web site at www.iberostarcaribe.com.

LODGEPODGE
• Sheraton Curacao Resort will introduce a kids-eat-free meal program from a special childrens' menu for the 12-and-under set from May 1 to Sept. 30. Throughout the year, kids stay free which sharing a room with parents (up to two kids per room).
• When Curtain Bluff in Antigua reopens Oct. 26 after its annual summer closing, it will offer a new, air-conditioned meeting room, which will accommodate up to 60 people. The room will convert to a children's playroom during the three weeks a year that kiddies invade the scene (Christmas and spring break).
• Jaguar Reef Lodge in southern coastal Belize offers the seventh night free when six are booked. The resort, at the edge of the jungle where the Maya Mountains meet the Caribbean, offers both reef and rainforest activities, including guided treks to the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary to view jaguars in their native surroundings. For information, call (800) 289-5756.
• Blue Moon Cafe at Secret Harbour Beach Resort in St. Thomas took top honors in a Virgin Islands' survey as having the most romantic setting for dining as well as the best bartender. Visit the Web site at www.bluemooncafevi.com.
• The 128-room Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril, Jamaica, has extended its Ultra Sale dates on room rates. The discounted rates, which start at $119 per person, per night, double, are in effect from April 27 to June 13 and from Aug. 23 to Dec. 20.
• Chenay Bay Beach Resort in St. Croix relaunched its Travel Agent Loyalty program that pays 20% agent commission year round on new bookings made directly through the resort. In addition, the agent discount from April 1 to Dec. 20 is 50%, while the peak-season discount for agents visiting the resort from Dec. 21 to April 14, 2003 is 20%.

CLUB MED has eliminated its one-time, $30 initiation fee and will introduce an open bar bracelet program for $250 per week at its adults-only villages in Cancun and Turks and Caicos. Commission on air and land remains steady at 10%.

PENCIL IT IN
• Sixth annual American Airlines Caribbean TrAAvel Exchange, Hyatt Regency Cerromar Resort, Puerto Rico, May 8 to 10.
• Upcoming races at Indian Castle Race Track in Nevis are set for May 5 and 19, June 23, Aug. 4, Sept. 15, Oct. 13, Nov. 24 and Dec. 26. For info, contact the Nevis Tourism Authority at (866)-55NEVIS.
• The seventh annual Carib News Multi-National Business Conference in St. Maarten Nov. 7 to 10.
• Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, April 18 to 25 and Antigua Sailing Week, April 28 to May 5.

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