Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter June 5, 2003

THE YACHT HAVEN HOTEL- an eyesore near the cruise pier in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, since Hurricane Marilyn slammed the U.S. Virgin Islands' property in 1995 -- got a step closer to the wrecking ball when Gov. Charles Turnbull signed a bill ratifying a lease agreement and permit for development of the property. The owners plan to build a new hotel and marina, retail facilities, a yacht club and esplanade walkway, although no timetable has been set. Turnbull said the removal of the current structure is "of immeasurable value in terms of our image and appearance for the 1.7 million cruise passengers" who visit the destination each year.

ALSO IN THE U.S.V.I. is a new off-season promotion called the Summer Bucket of Savings, which offers a fifth night free on a four-night booking, a $100 American Express Gift Cheque per booking and coupon savings worth more than $1,000 at restaurants, attractions and shops. The promotion is valid for travel June 15 to Sept. 30 on bookings made by July 15 through 12 participating tour operators. Room rates start at $89 per night, double; up to two children under 18 stay for free in the same room with parents. Participating properties include 15 on St. Thomas, 11 on St. Croix and two resorts and a villa rental company on St. John. For more info, call (800) 372-USVI.

PACKAGED GOODS
• US Airways Vacations extended the booking date on its Free Free Free Caribbean promotion to June 20. The deal, which pays commissions up to 16%, includes a free hotel night, tour and gift. A Samsonite three-piece luggage set also is included when clients pay by MasterCard. For details, call (800) 455-0123.
• Grand Bahama Vacations will launch nonstop service from Tampa, Fla., to Grand Bahama Island June 13. The operator's three-, four- and seven-night packages will include roundtrip air, transfers, accommodations at a choice of 12 hotels, taxes and tips. For details, visit www.gbvac.com.

LODGEPODGE
• The Westin St. John Resort & Villas' new Ultimate Agent Getaway includes agent rates of $99 per night through Oct. 31 and a reward program of a free air-inclusive, five-night stay in 2004 to the top five agents who book the most room nights by Dec. 31 for client travel any time. Winners also will receive a $200 resort credit for use during the winning stay. For details on the property, log onto www.westinresortstjohn.com.
• Congratulations to the 32-room Oualie Beach Resort on Nevis, which was awarded the Pelican Award for Hotel of the Year in 2003 by the St. Kitts-Nevis Hotel & Tourism Association.
• The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino in Puerto Rico is under new ownership, following endorsement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Florida for RECP San Juan Investors LLC to become the resort's owner. RECP is a subsidiary of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Real Estate Capital Partners and a subsidiary of Credit Suisse First Boston. Mark Stevenson, general manager of the 416-room Ritz-Carlton in the Isla Verde section of San Juan, said renovations and design changes, which had been scaled back by former owner Green Isle Partners, will now move forward. Terms of the new purchase were not immediately available; PricewaterhouseCoopers appraised the property at $87 million.

AIR BYTES
• US Airways will reduce service to the U.S. Virgin Islands, primarily to St. Croix, effective Sept. 5, when the current schedule of six weekly flights (Sundays through Fridays) from Philadelphia to St. Thomas continuing on to St. Croix will cease. With the change, the Philadelphia-St. Thomas flight will operate Saturdays only until Oct. 26 when it will revert back to six days a week. The Saturday flight from Charlotte, N.C., to St. Croix and the daily roundtrip between Charlotte and St. Thomas will continue "into the fall," the company said. A spokesperson said economic problems as well as seasonal adjustments are the reasons behind the pullout.
• The Nassau-Paradise Island Express -- which was canceled in mid-February after 15 years -- is back in business. This time the operator is selling bulk seats on a scheduled Continental flight, rather than chartering the whole flight, as it did previously. In addition, the company is starting luxury jet charters to the Bahamas from Newark and Palm Beach, Fla., using 727s configured for 48 first-class sleeper seats instead of the normal configuration of 140 or more seats.
• US Airways and San Juan-based Caribbean Sun will enter into a code-share agreement, effective June 15, on Caribbean Sun flights between San Juan and Antigua; St. Kitts; St. Maarten; and Tortola, British Virgin Islands. The flights will link US Airways' service at San Juan to and from Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh. US Airways Dividend Miles members can earn and redeem miles on Caribbean Sun.

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