Airlift: The two main airports in St. Lucia are the Hewanorra International Airport (758-454-6644) and the George F.L. Charles Airport, formerly Vigie Airport (758-452-2596). Hewanorra is in the southern village of Vieux Fort. Airlines that provide service to it include Air Jamaica (www.airjamaica.com), American Airlines (www.aa.com), Delta Air Lines (www.delta.com), US Airways (www.usairways.com), Air Canada (www.aircanada.com), Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) and British Airways (www.britishairways.com. For tourist information at Hewanorra, call 758-454-6644. The George F.L. Charles Airport is located approximately one mile north of Castries, the main tourist area of the island. Airlines that provide service there include American Airlines/American Eagle (www.aa.com Caribbean Star (268-GO1-STAR) and Caribbean Airlines (www.caribbean-airlines.com).
Helicopter service is available at Saint Lucia Helicopters Ltd. (758-453-6950). Helicopter tours are $120 one way to Hewanorra, which is well worth it for clients who get car sick easily. The drive from that airport is a very windy, hour-and-a-half trip.
Tour Operators: The main tour operators in St. Lucia are the usual names associated with Caribbean travel: Funjet Vacations (www.funjet.com, 800-558-3050), Travel Impressions (www.travelimpressions.com), where Barbara Groves is the vice president of sales and can be reached at 632-845-8000, ext. 2110, and Apple Vacations (www.applevacations.com); agents can contact Senior Product Manager Bill Kliot (847-631-2449) for more information. These operators offer agents a minimum of 10 percent commissions with incentives, some of which spike to as much as 16 percent. It should be noted that Air Jamaica Vacations (www.airjamaicavacations.com, 1-800-LOVEBIRD,), which also fielded bookings for St. Lucia, recently handed its tour operations over to The Mark Travel Corporation (www.marktravel.com). As of August 1, Air Jamaica's vacation division, Air Jamaica Vacations, will be outsourced to The Mark Travel Corporation. Headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, Mark Travel currently operates 16 vacation brands.
Hotels: Home-Based Travel Agent was recently on site to see the renovated Smugglers Cove, one of two Almond Resorts properties on the island. Almond Smugglers Cove (www.almondresorts.com/resorts/almondsmugglers), which began a $23 million makeover about five months ago, sits on 60 acres. It is aiming to become a top-notch, all-inclusive resort with the potential to contend with the likes of Caribbean all-inclusive powerhouse Sandals.
In an effort to bring it up to Almond's vision of the property—a four-star, all-inclusive with beautiful beaches, modern restaurants, and quiet, spacious rooms with views of the Caribbean Sea—some improvements had to be made. The makeover included new restaurants, new fitness center, more space and renovated guest rooms.
The number of rooms was downscaled from 360 to 357. The resort consists of 98 standard rooms, 84 deluxe garden view rooms, 60 superior deluxe garden view rooms, 15 superior deluxe beachfront view rooms and 100 one-bedroom garden view rooms. Home-Based Travel Agent stayed in room number 139, a deluxe garden view room, and highly recommends it for its price and size. It has a small living room with a TV, pullout couch and a door separating the living room from the bedroom.
The resort has five swimming pools and its own racquet club with a squash court and seven tennis courts. Three rounds of free golf (fees for transportation on the course are not included) are offered for guests at the nearby Cap Estate Golf Course.
Four gourmet restaurants are on the property, serving everything from continental and casual Italian to fresh seafood and traditional Caribbean.
The resort has a full-scale spa, which offers a variety of treatments, from massages and body wraps to special facials.
Although the beaches aren't made of the postcard-perfect white sands, their natural black sand heats up quicker and in turn makes the water warmer.
Almond's original St. Lucia property, Morgan Bay Beach Resort (www.almondresorts.com) underwent a similar transformation in 2005 when Almond purchased the long-standing property and poured about $25 million into it. Another $15 million addition, which will include 100 new rooms, including 25 deluxe rooms and 75 suites, is scheduled to be complete by July. Currently, the smaller and more intimate facility, in comparison with the 60-acre Smugglers Cove, has 250 rooms, including 75 one-bedroom suites and 25 deluxe rooms. The property, which is a little more than 20 acres, offers tennis courts and an array of water activities, including scuba diving, jet skiing and banana boating. All watersports are included.
Smugglers Cove has attracted more families since it reopened in February, while Morgan Bay tends to attract more couples. Both resorts, however, work for both types of clientele. Morgan Bay, in fact, has facilities for children and romantic beach settings for couples. Morgan Bay has a Mini Club for children up to 24 months old, a nursery for those ages two to four, a Kids Club for children five to 12 and a Teens Club for children 13 and older.
Morgan Bay is about five to 10 minutes from the George F.L. Charles Airport. The fitness center, open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., is small but offers enough options to keep your clients fit during their stay. Home-Based Travel Agent recommends the superior deluxe room. We looked at room number 723 and were impressed, as it had a king-sized bed, floor-to-ceiling window and a small balcony, which overlooked the swimming pools.
Almond Vacations, the in-house tour operator of Almond Resorts, is now being handled by Travel Impressions. Travel agents can book via Almond Vacations, Mark Travel, Apple Vacations or American Express. There is a 10 percent commission.
All Almond Resorts offer a 10 percent commission to agents. To book any Almond Resort, call Reservations Manager Scott Bulger at 800-4ALMOND, ext. 126.
Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Resort (www.sandals.com/main/grande/gl-home.cfm) recently unveiled its ultra-luxury, Rondoval Suites. The Ultra Grande Luxe Beachfront Rondoval Suite and the Ultra Luxury Beach Rondoval Suite are circular suites that offer guests 1,400 square feet of luxury, and have a large flat-screen plasma TV, ceiling fans, and his-and-her sinks. Resources
Other recommended rooms at Sandals include the Lagoon Rooms, in which guests can swim right up to their room. One of the most popular suites, however, is the William Jefferson Clinton Suite, named after the former president who stayed in this room. On the Penthouse level, it has views of the sea and a private rooftop shower. As is the case with all Sandals properties, agents receive a minimum 10 percent commission. For more information, call Executive Assistant Manager Nadia Polius at 758-455-2000.
For another outstanding luxury experience, Home-Based Travel Agent recommends Anse Chastanet's recently completed Jade Mountain (www.jademountainstlucia.com), which is a resort within a resort. We visited the property in April and were stunned at the views provided from room JB5. There are three walls in this suite and the front of the room is open. So, in other words, you are outside without even leaving your room, and it looks like you can reach out and grab the famous Piton mountains. There are 24 such suites in the resort, and they all start at a minimum of about $1,000 a night; all have an infinity pool.
For an even greater view, recommend room GD1. It provides most of the same amenities as the other rooms—with the exception of an incredible view of the Caribbean Sea to go along with the Pitons.
The sea can be seen from the other rooms but not as front-and-center as it can from this room. For that reason, this is the most expensive room, starting at about $1,200 a night. Jade Mountain offers agents a 10 percent commission.
For more information, call Karolin GFCler Troubetzkoy, executive director of marketing and operations, at 758-459-7000, ext. 7977.
Restaurants: When clients feel like venturing off of the resort for some local cuisine, some recommended eateries include The Lime (758-452-0761), a casual bar and restaurant, featuring local and Creole cuisine grills and snacks at inexpensive prices. The Coal Pot (758-452-5566) specializes in French cuisine created with a splash of Caribbean flavor from fresh, local ingredients. The Rainforest Hideaway (758-286-0511) offers dining in the form of Western/Eastern fusion.