Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter July 10, 2003

SHIVER ME TIMBERS -- the Caribbean's Windward Islands share equal billing with actors Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush in the just-opened action-adventure film "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." The Walt Disney Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films' swashbuckling production features swordplay, treasure maps, Aztec curses, pirate hideouts, plundered booty, pieces of eight -- and pristine scenes shot on location in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Taking advantage of the movie's expected large family audience, Alken Tours offers a six-night plan from $1,440 per person, double, with roundtrip air from New York to St. Vincent and hotel accommodations. Call (800) 221-6686 to book. For St. Vincent information, call (800) 729-1726; news on St. Lucia can be found at (800) 456-3984.

BEFORE THE NEW U.S. ban on educational travel to Cuba takes effect Dec. 31, salsa lovers can sign up for the final dance trip Nov. 22 to 29 offered by SalsaDanceCuba.org, a travel provider licensed by the U.S. Treasury Dept. and based in Boulder, Co. Hal Segal, president, said the trip's focus is contemporary Latin dancing with dance classes held at the National Theater in Havana. "Salsa is the hottest type of Latin social dance," Segal said. "This program allows dancers of all levels -- including beginners and those who have never danced before -- to learn authentic Cuban-style salsa in the mother country of salsa music and dance." Commissionable rates, covering roundtrip air from Miami, lodging, all meals, dance classes, taxes and tips, start at $1,849 per person, double, or $2,099 per person, single. For details, visit www.salsadancecuba.org.

AIR BYTES
• Effective Sept. 9, Air Jamaica will reschedule its five-times-a-week flight from Orlando to Montego Bay, Jamaica, for an 8:50 a.m. departure so that passengers will arrive at 10:35 a.m. That will be in time to connect with the carrier's onward services to 10 Caribbean destinations.
• US Airways will expand its Caribbean service from Boston beginning this fall. Starting Oct. 26, the Boston-San Juan service goes daily, up from twice a week. On Feb. 14, the carrier will begin service four times a week from Boston to Montego Bay as well as once-weekly service to both Aruba and Nassau.
• TransMeridian launched nonstop roundtrip service between Orlando Sanford Airport and San Juan, daily except Tuesdays. The carrier is headquartered in Atlanta.

GOGO WORLDWIDE VACATIONS' new top 10 list of best family destinations for summer travel includes five Caribbean hotspots: Wyndham Hotels in Aruba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico (two) and St. Thomas; Aruba; Jamaica; Nassau; and Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort & Spa in Turks and Caicos. (The rest of the list includes Anaheim, Calif.; Cancun, Mexico; Oahu; Orlando; and Williamsburg, Va.) Gogo packages to the top 10 can be booked through www.gogowwv.com.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Sandals recently renamed its first resort in St. Lucia, which is now called Sandals Regency St. Lucia Golf Resort & Spa at La Toc. The travel agent that correctly guesses the total number of square feet for all the suites at the resort will win a week's stay in an oceanfront plunge pool suite -- which will be renamed in honor of the winner. Entry forms are available by calling (800) 48-SPECIAL. The winning agent will be announced at Sandals Ultra Convention in Las Vegas Aug. 15.

LODGEPODGE
• The new San Juan Beach Hotel, formerly the Ramada San Juan, features a Pina Colada two-night package through Dec. 26 with two free drinks per person, daily continental breakfast and a room overlooking the ocean or lagoon for $82 per person, per night, double, with tax, tips and service charges. Kids under 12 stay for free. For details, call (800) 468-2040.
• Pleasant Holidays features a five-night package at the Renaissance Aruba Beach through Sept. 30 with rates from $286 per person, double, for hotel and transfers. To book, call (800) 448-3333.
• The 171-suite Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina, St. Thomas, offers 10% off nightly rates and getaway packages booked by July 31. Packages include beach breakaways, soft adventure, family plans, dive and honeymoon plans. For details, visit www.sapphirebeachresort.com.
• Barbados' hotel happenings include the reopening of the Royal Pavilion in October, following a $10 million refurbishment; the reopening of the 200-room Asta Beach Hotel next month; and the opening of the 350-room Barbados Hilton next July. The management of Coconut Court Hotel is restoring the Barbados Pavilion opposite the property as a meetings and dining facility.
• San Juan's boutique-style 84-room Water Club offers a VID (Very Important Dog) package for $48 per night (on top of rack rates). Included are sugar-coated pawprint registration cards, a doggie room service menu, two ceramic dog bowls, a tennis ball, a peppermint-flavored rawhide bone, a clump of rawhide treats, a box of animal cookies and the cost of cleaning by specialists upon the guest's departure (so that the rooms are free of possible-allergens). Rack rates through December for two-legged guests range from $209 per night, single or double to $269. To book, visit www.waterclubsanjuan.com.

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