Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: November 28, 2002

THE 2002 ATLANTIC hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30, marked by weaker storm activity than originally predicted. There were 12 named storms, with four hurricanes (Gustav, Kyle, Isidore and Lili), two of them (Isidore and Lili) intense. Hurricane forecaster William Gray at Colorado State University originally predicted an above-average season for 2002, with 13 named storms, of which eight would be hurricanes and four would be major. Gray lowered that forecast in September -- when tropical conditions had shifted -- to eight, three and one, respectively. The first forecast for the six-month 2003 Atlantic Basin hurricane season will come out in December.

STARWOOD HOTELS & Resorts will take over the management of Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort on Grand Bahama Island in late February. The 1,270-room complex will be divided into two commonly managed hotels under Starwood: Westin at Our Lucaya, comprised of the 751 rooms in the Lighthouse Point and Breakers Cay portions and the Sheraton at Our Lucaya, which features the 519-room Reef Village operation. Ownership of the complex, which includes two golf courses and a 40,000-square-foot conference center, remains with Hutchison Whampoa Group and its subsidiary Hutchison Lucaya Ltd. In related news, the resort's long-awaited, 39,000-square-foot casino is set to open during the first quarter of 2003.

LODGEPODGE
• Winter rates at most of Viva Resorts' six inclusive properties in the Caribbean and Mexico are holding steady at last year's levels. Rates are somewhat lower at Viva Fortuna Beach, Grand Bahama Island, during the holiday period and again from February to April 19 and will remain the same in January as last January. Viva Dominicus Palace in La Romana/Bayahibe, Dominican Republic, has increased its rates across the board through the winter. Rates at the three Mexican properties remain the same as last year.
• Bolongo Bay Beach Club, St. Thomas, introduced a year-round Travel Agent Appreciation Rate of $89 per room, per night, double, for the resort's semi-inclusive Continental Plan option. Included in the rate are accommodations, water sports, use of the fitness center, an in-pool scuba lesson and nightly entertainment. For details, call (800) 524-4746.
• The newest member of the Elite Island Resorts' family is St. Lucia's Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort. Elite's lineup includes properties in Antigua (St. James's Club, Galley Bay, Jolly Harbour Villas, Grand Pineapple Beach and Royal Antiguan), St. Lucia (St. James's Club, Morgan Bay), St. Kitts (Allegro St. Kitts) and Palm Island in the Grenadines. The commission at all resorts is 13%. For information, visit www.eliteislandresorts.com.

THE CAYMAN Islands launched a TV and print campaign for the winter season, built around the tag line "Could it be Cayman?" The ads focus on the vacation opportunities available to a range of markets, including family, adventure and couples. The 30-second TV spots, on nationwide cable stations and local networks in Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia and New York, feature shots of well-known sites, such as Stingray City, Seven Mile Beach and Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. The ads will run through the spring.

AIR BYTES
• USA 3000 Airlines, an affiliate of Apple Vacations, will launch seasonal service in December to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from Newark. Agents will earn commissions of $10 or $20 per one-way segment, depending on the fare level, which ranges from $109 to $199 round trip. The service will operate Tuesdays and Thursdays, Dec. 12 to 26 and Jan. 2 to April 29. Bookings can be made by phone at (866) 468-7230; through the GDSs or via the Web site at www.usa3000airlines.com.
• Delta will offer code-share service to Belize four times a week and to Bonaire three times a week via Air Jamaica's hub in Montego Bay.

CLASSIC CUSTOM Vacations' 2003 Caribbean lineup includes 21 new hotel listings and Grenada, the newest destination. The new hotel entries include Malliouhana, Anguilla; LaSource, Grenada; Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort, St. Lucia; and Grace Bay Club, Turks & Caicos. Details on Classic's 68-page Caribbean brochure can be found at www.classicvacations.com.

US AIRWAYS Vacations will slash $100 per reservation on packages of four or more nights to Nassau and Paradise Island made by Dec. 18 via electronic means. Under this offer, travel is valid through Feb. 14 and must be booked via the GDSs or Vax Vacation Access. The packages include roundtrip air, accommodations at a choice of 15 hotels, transfers and some taxes and service fees.

THE BEST OF Barbados value-added program has been extended for stays from Jan. 3 to Feb. 15 on bookings made by Dec. 15. It applies to bookings of five or more nights at inclusive properties and seven or more nights at other properties. For information, call (800) 221-9831 or the check the Web site at www.barbados.org.

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