Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: April 24, 2002

AMTRAK was set to resume Auto Train service yesterday between the southern terminus of Sanford, Fla., and the northern terminus, Lorton, Va., outside Washington. Service was suspended after the derailment April 18 of an Auto Train near Crescent City, Fla., 44 miles north of Sanford. Temporary tracks are being used near the crash site. The accident, now being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, left four dead and 159 injured. Amtrak reported that 14 passenger cars derailed. In all 418 passengers and 34 Amtrak employees were on board, along with 200 vehicles.

AMERICA WEST VACATIONS added Orlando packages to its North American roster. For information, call (800) 356-6611 or check the Web site,

RECRUITMENT of more than 4,000 permanent and seasonal workers was begun by Florida's major theme park operators: Disney, Universal and Busch Entertainment (SeaWorld). All anticipate a normal influx of summer vacationers.

ROYAL CROWN PALM PLAZA officials decided to wait a little longer before opening the 442-room Miami Beach hotel to guests. While May 1 was the projection reported in TW's Florida E-Letter last week, the opening has been reset for May 15. For information, call (305) 604-5700 or check the new Web site

FAMILY ACTIVITIES will be underscored by The Breakers, Palm Beach, when it introduces a modified version of its Coconut Crew Interactive Camp. In the past, activities were designed for children only. Now the activities are for adults as well, with the expectation of interaction. The revised camp program meets demands for more family activities, a hotel official said. The camp program is in session May 24 to Sept. 22. Available over those dates is a $150 credit per room on two-night stays and a $200 credit on three-night stays during major holidays. Funds from the credit can be applied to the camp and other hotel activities. For information, call (888) BREAKERS.

CYPRESS GARDENS, near Haines City, will hold its annual Mum Festival from Oct. 1 to Nov. 3. In past years, it has been held in November. For information, call (800) 282-2123.

THE IMAX DOME THEATRE at the Museum of Science and Industry, Tampa, offers these films: "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" through May 20; "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure" through June 27, and "Space Station," May 18 to Nov. 21. Also, "*NSYNC: Bigger Than Live," the giant screen version of the popular group's "No Strings Attached" concert, opens June 15 and continues through July 14. Also coming is "Australia: Land Beyond Time," June 28 to Dec. 31. Group rates are available for the Imax Theater. Check for more information.

DOLLY PARTON'S previously announced Dixie Stampede dinner show, to be run in the Orlando area by a subsidiary of Pigeon Forge, Tenn.-based Dollywood Productions, postponed its opening from this November to early 2003 or later. The downturn in tourism to central Florida since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks led to the postponement. A site off Interstate 4 was selected for the 1,200-seat attraction, which has yet to break ground.

CHARLTON HINES took over as managing director of the 740-room Loews Miami Beach Hotel. He came from The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, where he was general manager. In related news, the Loews property introduced a 10% commissionable $169 nightly room rate for June 1 to Sept. 15, when its SummerFest activities will be available for children, teens and adults. These include sandcastle contests, table tennis, scuba-diving lessons (ages 13 and older), beach power walks, Latin dance classes and poolside movies. For information, call (800) 23-LOEWS or check the Web site

MEETING DEAL: The 1,014-room Wyndham Palace Resort & Spa in the Walt Disney World Resort offers meeting planners a value-added incentive called the Exceptional Meetings credit. Under the plan, a new group booking will qualify for a 5% to 7% credit to the master account for room, food and beverage purchases when at least 100 room nights are paid. New meetings must be booked by June 30, for qualified dates between September and December. For 100 to 500 total room nights, there is a 5% credit; for 501 to 1,000, it is 6%; for 1,001 or more, it is 7%. For information, call (407) 827-3364.

JONATHAN TISCH, CEO of Loews Hotels, New York, will be the luncheon keynote speaker Thursday at the Revisiting the Visitor Industry tourism seminar set for the Turnberry Isle Resort in Aventura. The seminar was organized by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau acting as a co-sponsor. For information, call (305) 350-7700 or check the Web site

OPENING AROUND May 1 will be the 110-room tower addition to the historic Riverside Hotel in downtown Fort Lauderdale, bringing its inventory to 217 units. The high-rise, with 7,400 square feet of meeting space, will allow the property to go after corporate and group guests. Group rates for 10 or more can be quoted on either a commissionable or net basis. Room rates for the new wing are from $169 per night, corporate; $189 rack. For information, call (954) 467-0671.

CARDEL HOSPITALITY Group, Miami, with seven hotels in Florida and one in Costa Rica, launched a Web site at

TO BOLSTER TOUR operator business, the landmark, 585-unit Roney Palace in Miami Beach, retained Muzii & Associates, Miami, to negotiate contracts on its behalf. Led by industry veteran Ron Muzii, the firm can be reached at (305) 670-2288.

THE 80-UNIT Comfort Suites Sawgrass, Tamarac, held its grand opening. Nightly rates are from $80 per room. The property, at 8301 W. Commercial Blvd., is owned by Dilip Patel of Hollywood, Fla. For information, call (800) 4-CHOICE.

LOYALTY HONORS: The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, Destin, received the Hilton chain's 2001 Customer Loyalty Award, beating out all other Hiltons with 500 or more rooms. Guests' written comments were tabulated to determine which hotel was the recipient.

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