Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: November 7, 2001

HURRICANE MICHELLE brushed South Florida, doing minimal damage. As a precaution, Florida Keys visitors on Saturday were ordered to evacuate, while residents left on Sunday. But on Monday afternoon both were able to return and tourism is back to normal. The American Power Boat Assn. races off Key West were rescheduled for Nov. 16 to 18.

IN DOWNTOWN SARASOTA, the 266-room Ritz-Carlton will open Nov. 16 with a $169 per night introductory rate for stays through Dec. 20. Floridians qualify for a $149 rate, which is commissionable. For stays Jan. 2 to Jan. 13, there is a Welcome to the New Year rate from $195. The property has 18,000 square feet of meeting space, a business center, fitness center, a restaurant, lobby lounge and bar. Club Level rooms will have concierge service. For information, call (800) 241-2222 or (941) 309-2000.

THE FIRST TWO Water Buses began plying Fort Lauderdale's waterways this month. The 42-foot, 70-seat boats (six more are coming by the first quarter of 2002) eventually will replace the smaller Water Taxis operated by Canal Boats Inc., which also runs the Water Bus. The all-day fare on the Water Bus and Water Taxi is $5. For information, call (954) 467-6677.

THE ROYAL PALM Crowne Plaza Resort, with 422 rooms, will open in Miami Beach on Dec. 1 as a project of Peebles Atlantic Development Corp., Washington. It will be the first and largest African-American owned and developed, full-service beachfront resort, according to Six Continent Hotels, parent of Crowne Plaza Hotels. The property will have more than 150 suites and 6,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.

WINGATE INNS, a Cendant brand, opened its 100-room Wingate Inn-Miramar. The $8.5 million, full-service hotel offers rates from $89 per night. Miramar is west of Fort Lauderdale. For information, call (800) 228-1000 or (954) 441-0122.

AMONG THE MANY deals offered by Florida hotels are two from Marriott Vacation Club International properties. For stays through Dec. 13, Marriott's Ocean Pointe Resort, Singer Island, has rooms from $128 per night vs. $140; Marriott's BeachPlace Towers, Fort Lauderdale, has rooms from $182 vs. $209. These properties also have higher-cost villas. For information, call (800) VILLAS-9.

THE RESORT AT Longboat Key Club near Sarasota offers Florida residents a $189 club suite along with use of the fitness center, beach lounges, bikes and tennis courts. The plan is commissionable. For information, call (800) 237-8821.

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