Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-Letter: November 29, 2001

THE SIX-MONTH Atlantic Basin hurricane season, which ends tomorrow, wasn't so bad after all. The National Hurricane Center originally forecast 12 named tropical storms, seven of which could become hurricanes and three of which could be intense. The 2001 season produced 15 named storms, beginning with tropical storm Allison on June 5, which drenched the Gulf Coast, and is ending with Olga, which currently is meandering near Bermuda but is expected to drift out over the open ocean. Of the seven hurricanes, Erin dumped rain near Bermuda, Felix stayed in the Azores, Iris drenched Belize and Yucatan, Karen spun out near Bermuda and Noel floundered in Newfoundland. Earlier this month Michelle caused the most damage of the season, especially in Cuba and Nicaragua. Today's Caribbean forecast: Sunny throughout the region.

CIRCLE FEB. 4 TO 6 on your calendar if you plan to head for the rescheduled Caribbean Tourism Conference at Our Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island, the Bahamas. CTC-25, which celebrates the silver anniversary of the conference and the 50th anniversary of CTO, was postponed from October after the terrorist attacks.

US AIRWAYS will resume daily nonstop service between Charlotte, N.C., and St. Thomas Jan. 5. The Saturday flight departs Charlotte at 8:30 a.m., arriving St. Thomas at 1:17 p.m. The return flight departs at 2 p.m., arriving Charlotte at 6:20 p.m. with an intermediate stop in San Juan. On Sundays through Fridays, the daily flight departs Charlotte at 11:15 a.m., arriving St. Thomas at 3:45 p.m.

CAP JULUCA in Anguilla extended its early booking bonus to Dec. 31. All bookings made and paid by that date for stays between Jan. 5 and April 5 receive 15% off the daily rates, which range from $635 for a superior room to $5,400 for a five-bedroom villa with private pool.

GRENADA properties stepped up to the plate with peak-season discounts and incentives. Allamanda Beach Resort and Blue Horizons Cottage Hotel offer deep discounts through April 15; Flamboyant Hotel and True Blue Bay Resort offer free nights on five-, six- or 11-night bookings, and Grand View Inn extended its summer rates to April 15.

EFFECTIVE JAN. 1, the 405-room Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau will offer all guests concierge services, which include complimentary limousine transfers, 24-hour room service, stocked in-room minibars and his and hers robes. On the same date, Sandals Antigua Resort & Spa will launch 24-hour room service in its honeymoon suites and beach cottages. For information, visit the Web site at www.sandals.com.

VILLA HAPPENINGS on St. Barts include six renovated properties and 15 new additions to the inventory of Wimco, a luxury villa rental firm at www.wimco.com. Four hotels have been gussied up for 2002: Eden Roc, a Relais & Chateaux property, has added a new suite, renovated two cottages and opened its spa to the public; Fialao Beach, which redid its guest rooms, ranked first in the French Caribbean and ninth in the Caribbean in Travel & Leisure's World's Best Awards 2001; Carl Gustav spruced up its guest rooms with new furniture and air conditioning, and Francois Plantation added a fitness area, expanded its wine selection and introduced a new chef.

AVALON REEF CLUB is under construction on Ambergris Caye off the north coast of Belize. The first phase is set to open in mid-December with 40 one- and two-bedroom villas, a dive academy, a restaurant and two bars. The second phase, opening next fall, will include 210 more villas, two more restaurants, eco-trails, a yacht club and marina. Winter rates range from $240 to $285 per night. Avalon Resorts Group, which owns Avalon Reef Club, also has properties in Panama and in Mexico in Cancun and Isla Mujeres.

ISLAND DESTINATIONS' Caribbean offerings for 2002 include two new resort additions and the debut of a villa category. The resorts are Pink Sands on Harbour Island in the Bahamas and Las Casitas in Puerto Rico. Villas include Altamer in Anguilla and seven new two- to four-bedroom units at Four Seasons Resort in Nevis. To view the 2002 brochure, visit www.islanddestinations.com.

TRAVEL AGENTS polled by Island Destinations selected their top resorts from the operator's offerings of 35 hotels, resorts and villas in the Caribbean, Mexico, Fiji and French Polynesia. Caribbean properties won in five of the six categories:
• Most Outstanding Resort: Cap Juluca, Anguilla.
• Most Guest-Focused Resort: Guanahani, St. Barts.
• Best Spa Resort: Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos.
• Best Overall Facilities: Four Seasons Resort Nevis.
• Most Suitable for Families: Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic.

THE TURKS AND CAICOS Tourist Board relaunched its Web site at www.turksandcaicostourism.com. The site now features details on the latest specials, an interactive map and a calendar of events. Surfers also can send an e-postcard from the site.

AGENTS can earn an $8 per night bonus on rack rates by booking any of four Elegant Hotels properties in Barbados by Dec. 11. Travel must be completed by Dec. 18. The participating hotels are Colony Club, Tamarind Cove, Crystal Cove and Turtle Beach. For details, call (800) 326-6898.

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