CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas -- For several days in mid-October,
the U.S. Virgin Islands will be in the spotlight as never before.
As host destination for the 26th annual Caribbean Tourism
Conference, the territory has a "golden" chance to showcase its
product line, according to a tourism official.
"This is both a challenge and an amazing opportunity for the
destination, and we're running with it," he said.
In fact, agents and conference delegates may run out of time
before running out of places to see, shop, swim, sail, stay, wine
and dine in the U.S. Virgin Islands -- all sandwiched in during,
before or after the conference itself at Frenchman's Reef on St.
Those with some time to spare might want to check out some of
the newer attractions and developments on each of the islands.
• Carambola Beach Resort, on the island's north shore, is
scheduled for a $40 million expansion plan, thanks to its
U.S.-based owners and a local firm that will oversee the
Plans call for the 151-room property -- the island's largest --
to add 100 more guest units, a conference center, a spa and casino.
Work begins next year.
• Delegates traveling between St. Croix and St. Thomas will have
a choice of several transportation options.
Mermaid Fast Ferries returns in October with two boats slated to
run between St. Croix and St. Thomas twice a day year round. The
company suspended its service last January due to financial and
equipment problems. This time, according to its owners, new
financing, new partners and newer and faster boats are in
The 55-minute ferry crossings -- from downtown Christian-sted,
St. Croix, to downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas -- are priced
at $50 for adults and $40 for children, roundtrip.
Another ferry line, Caribbean Maritime Excursion, also plans
daily year-round service between St. Croix and St. Thomas, starting
Seaborne Airlines, with a fleet of amphibious aircraft that land
on the water in downtown Christiansted and Charlotte Amalie,
expanded its schedule with service to Frederiksted, St. Croix, from
St. Thomas and will add 10 daily roundtrips this fall. The Twin
Otter aircraft cover the 40 miles between the islands in 18
• The 19-room Sand Castle on the Beach -- on Dorsch Beach, to be
precise -- in Frederiksted, St. Croix, completed phase one of a
renovation program, thanks to new owners who renamed the property
(formerly called On the Beach). The renovation added a waterfront
restaurant, a beach cafe and a fitness center.
• Fall Into America's Caribbean off-season promotion, valid
through mid-December, offers package deals on all three islands but
targets St. Croix with room credits and discounted hotel rates for
visitors who book this fall and return in 2004.
• Although St. Croix's cruise season is not particularly bright
due to the pullout last winter of two major lines, several smaller
vessels plan to call regularly in Christiansted from November
through mid-March. The Virgin Islands Port Authority supports a
plan to beautify the Frederiksted cruise ship pier and waterfront
• The St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association launched a new Web
site earlier this year at www.stcroixhotelandtourism.com that features not only
the usual travel information but also an island directory with
links and contact information on topics from airlines to wedding
• Highlights of historical and cultural sites included along the
St. Croix Heritage Trail are featured in a new Web site at www.stcroixheritagetrail.com.
• New to the island is the St. Croix Archeological Museum on
Company Street in Christiansted. Displays include artifacts found
on the island that date to 2000 B.C.
Also new is the East End Marine Park with an interpretative
center and a turtle wildlife preserve.
• New, small, commissionable properties include the Shoreline
Inn in Coral Bay and Tradewinds Guesthouse near Cruz Bay.
• Visitor activities in the V.I. National Park now include
eco-adventure tours with guided hikes and kayak and snorkeling
excursions to out-of-the-way spots.
• New restaurants in Cruz Bay include Asian-inspired Hatsumana
and a vegetarian deli and grocery store called KatiLady Deli.
• Tourism officials warned that conference week also will be "a
busy cruise ship week, so delegates will experience heavy crowds
downtown when up to five large ships are in port at one time."
Hint: Mondays and Saturdays are the least-busy cruise ship days,
when downtown shops are less crowded.
More than 750 ships will call at St. Thomas between October and
April, up from the 620 ships last winter. The schedule includes
Cunard's new 2,620-passenger Queen Mary II, making its first call
on Jan. 24.
Several ships plan to remain in port in St. Thomas until
midnight this year, a move that will put wind in merchants' sails
by allowing cruise passengers and land visitors opportunities for
late shopping and dining.
• St. Thomas is expanding its Crown Bay Marina to take some of
the burden off the piers at Havensight Mall, maintained by the West
Indian Co. However, that project is not targeted for completion
until next June.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].
For more details on this article, see CTO sets annual confab in U.S.V.I. for first