Travel Weekly's Caribbean E-letter: Oct. 30, 2003

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES expects five inaugural cruise visits and a 42% rise in cruise passengers this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism & Culture. Princess Cruises' Sun Princess got the ball rolling in October with its first of eight calls through April. Four European ships also will drop anchor in Kingstown, St. Vincent, for the first time this year. In all, more than 120,000 cruise travelers on 226 port calls are scheduled to visit St. Vincent as well as the islands of Bequia, Tobago Cays, Mayreau and Canouan. The Ministry of Tourism & Culture has actively courted cruise business since opening its new terminal in 2000. Last year, cruse passengers accounted for 28% of visitor arrivals, which totaled 247,458. Rene Baptiste, minister, cited a report by the Cruise Lines International Association which stated that St. Vincent and the Grenadines "resonate well with cruise passengers because of the diversity of activities and historical sites offered."

ARUBA'S visitor figures, although down 1% compared to last year, "are finally showing positive signs," according to Edison Briesen, minister of tourism. New Royal Aruban Airways flights begin Nov. 14 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Aruba and will later expand to other Caribbean points. The airline plans to add service from Newark at a later date as well.

SUPERCLUBS extended its cruise boarding pass promotion through the end of 2004. Under the program, cruise-ship passengers can cash in a boarding pass for a free night's stay when booking a SuperClubs holiday. Promotion participants can choose from 11 Grand Lido, Breezes and Hedonism resorts in the Bahamas, Brazil, Curacao, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Travel must be completed by Dec. 31, 2004, and within 12 months of the cruise for which the boarding pass was issued. A minimum stay of four paid nights is required to redeem the free night, and SuperClubs requires copies of the boarding pass (or a receipt from a recent cruise) to confirm. SuperClubs vacations are commissionable to agents at 13%. For details or to book, call (800) 467-8737, ext. 6190. Further commission information is available at www.superclubs.com/Travel_Agents/ta_pr-13.asp.

LODGEPODGE
• La Cabana All Suite Beach Resort claims to be the first resort in Aruba to offer wireless Internet access, a move done to enhance its position as a meetings' choice, according to Adwina Arends, director of sales and marketing. Wireless access is available 24/7 throughout the resort for fees of $15 to $18 per 24 hours. Guests can also rent laptops for $25 a day. For details, visit www.lacabana.com/resort.
• Wyndham's El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico -- an hour east of San Juan -- snagged the Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo-shoot locale for the upcoming February issue -- the magazine's biggest issue of the year. Palomino Island, Wyndham's private island 20 minutes by ferry from the main resort, will provide the backdrop for the not-so-sporty photos.
• Sandals Resorts International signed a deal to provide its inventory to Sabre, marking Sandals' entry into the GDS era. Kenneth R. Krams, senior vice president of operations for Unique Vacations, the worldwide marketing arm of Sandals and Beaches resorts, said the move "will open up unlimited sales opportunities." Until now, agents booked Sandals direct via telephone or through tour operator inventory. The implementation with Sabre is slated for mid-November.

CUBA OR BUST? Defying a threatened presidential veto, the U.S. Senate voted 59-36 Oct. 23 to end four decades of U.S. restrictions on Americans' travel to Cuba. The measure, similar to one passed last month in the House, bars the use of government money to enforce the travel restrictions. However, the measure is part of a $90 billion Transportation and Treasury departments' bill [H.R.2989] that President Bush has said he will veto if it contains the Cuba amendment. Stay tuned.

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