Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: May 1, 2002

AFTER MONTHS OF NEGOTIATIONS, Sonesta signed a management pact with Dezer Properties, Miami Beach, and Donald Trump for the 398-room Trump Int'l Sonesta Beach Resort, Sunny Isles. The property could open as early as mid-October, according to a Dezer official. However, at this time, only reservations for stays Dec. 1 and later will be accepted by Sonesta and that will begin in late May, Call (800) SONESTA. Peak winter rates will average about $300 per night; off-peak, $180. All units will be placed into a rental pool; the hotel will have 21,000 square feet of meeting space capable of handling up to 350 people. Unrelated to the Trump project are three other hotels that Dezer owns and operates -- the Thunderbird and Monaco, both in Sunny Isles and the Dezerland Beach Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach.

MEANWHILE, the new Sonesta Hotel & Suites Coconut Grove extended its offer of 15% commission to include all travel booked for May 1 to Sept.15. The original offer was for May and June. The 22-story hotel has 300 rooms plus one- and two-bedroom suites. For information, call (800) SONESTA or check the Web site at www.sonesta.com.

AS FOR THE 115-room Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, which was to have opened last spring, and then in midsummer -- the hotel was obliged to postpone the event once more because of construction delays. The property will be opening in late August, but reservations will not be accepted for dates earlier than Sept. 2. Rack rates will begin at $250, but reduced introductory rates are planned, a spokesman said. For information call (800) 241-3333.

IN OTHER RITZ-CARLTON news, Michael Carsch was named general manager of the 402-room Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, which opened last July. He came from the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in McLean, Va., where he held a similar post.

PAN AM affiliate Boston-Maine Airways inaugurated service between Orlando/Sanford and Naples, using 19-seat J-31 turbo-prop planes. Two flights, one nonstop and one direct, operate daily except on Tuesdays. Flights depart Orlando/Sanford at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. while departures from Naples are at 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Dave Fink, Pan Am's president, said that additional intra-Florida service is under consideration. The ability to offer U.K. tour operators that fly groups into Orlando/Sanford the opportunity to insert two-center vacations (Orlando and Naples), is a plus for the new service, Fink said. For information, call (800) FLYPANAM or check the Web site www.flypanam.com.

FOR DUFFER BUFFS: A 192-page soft-cover book, 52 Great Florida Golf Getaways, is off the press. It was designed, according to author Ed Schmidt Jr., as a source of information for all types of golfers as well as travel agents, meeting planners and others interested in the state's top resorts and golf courses. It also has data on resort meeting space and there is a list of useful Web sites. Also, suggestions are provided for finding alternative activities at the resort or in the area for nongolfing spouses and children. The cover price is $14.95. For information, contact Pineapple Press, (800) 746-3275 or check the Web site www.pineapplepress.com.

AN EXPANSION of the Best Western Pink Shell Beach Resort, Fort Myers Beach, calls for construction to begin this fall on 90 one- and two-bedroom villas in a complex called White Sand Villas. The completion date is not yet available. Last November, the property completed a major renovation of the existing 300 Sanibel View Villas studio units. The Best Western, owned by Boykin Lodging and operated by MeriStar Resorts, is one of the participating properties in MeriStar's Shell Island Rewards agent incentive offering commissions of up to 15%. For information, call (866) 47-SHELL or check the Web site, www.shellislandrewards.com.

THE ADAM'S MARK Florida Mall, Orlando, will add 15,000 square feet of meetings space in 2003, bringing its total to 35,000 square feet. The property has 510 rooms.

THE SOUTHEAST TOURISM SOCIETY, Atlanta, selected two Florida events among the top 20 in the Southeast USA for May. Both will be held May 3 to 5:
• The Pensacola Crawfish Creole Festival takes place in Bartram Park. It will include steamed crawfish, spicy chicken and other foods plus Louisiana entertainment. For information, call (850) 433-6542 or check the Web site www.fiestaoffiveflags.org.
• The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival will be held in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Fine arts and crafts, antiques, music (jazz, rock, folk, country, big band), and food events will be among activities. For information, call (866) 4-AMELIA or go to the Web site www.shrimpfestival.com.

RESORTQUEST INT'L and its local operating company in Pensacola, Fla., Abbott Resorts, were tapped to manage Portofino, an upscale Mediterranean-style condo resort and spa on Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola. Owned by Island Resorts Development, the Portofino complex over the next three years will be opening 765 two- and three-bedroom luxury vacation rental condos and a 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness center. The first 21-story tower of 153 units will open this December.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO will be expanding its dining services with the opening in early June of the 260-seat Dine With Shamu buffet overlooking Shamu Stadium. The tab will be $28 for adults defined as ages 10 and older, and $16 for children ages 3 to 9. Park trainers supply commentary while the restaurant provides the food. Opening in August will be the 240-seat Sharks Underwater Grill inside the Terrors of the Deep shark complex. For individual and group reservations for Dine With Shamu, call (407) 351-3600; for Sharks Underwater Grill (table service), only group reservations are required, (800) 327-2424.

QE2 CEREMONY: Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau president Nicki E. Grossman officially welcomed Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 to Port Everglades, its Florida home base, after the liner's 2002 World Cruise. The festivities included the loading of a 2,000-pound "whistle" on the QE2 for transport to the sister ship, the Queen Mary 2, which is under construction in France. The whistle is the same one that helped guide the legendary Queen Mary through fog-shrouded waters for more than 30 years.

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