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U.S. Virgin Islands

September 8, 2010 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
 


 

Buck Island National Reef Monument

The waters of Buck Island National Reef Monument on St. Croix are popular for snorkeling and diving.

 

While travel was dropping to alarming rates in destinations all over the world, a mere 2.5 percent decline in arrivals in the U.S. Virgin Islands last year came as no surprise.

 

 Agent Advice

“With the three islands being in such close proximity to each other, it is easy to vacation at and sample the variety offered by each,” says Marge Yoder of Frosch Travel in Fort Collins, CO. “St. Thomas and St. John are connected by an easy ferry ride and St. Croix is only a 20-minute flight from St.Thomas. So whether vacationers want nightlife, shopping opportunities, large resort hotels, or a small island resort with local charm; endless snorkeling and diving opportunities; and quiet, pristine beaches, the U.S. Virgin Islands has something to please everyone.”
 

After all, the destination’s proximity to the U.S., its good airlift, affordable prices and no visa requirements all helped make it easier for cost-conscious travelers to head to the islands for a last-minute vacation. And those are advantages most Caribbean islands don’t have.

Not that the U.S. Virgin Islands is taking it for granted. In fact, the destination is looking to maintain the momentum through 2010 and beyond. Cruise figures have shot up, new and rebranded hotels have appeared, and at the helm is a commissioner of tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, who knows how to juggle between deals and no-deals. The destination has been secured from the tides of the downturn, ready for takeoff the day it ends.

Travel Agent met with Nicholson-Doty last month. The conversation touched on a range of issues, from Oasis of the Seas’ impact on the destination’s 2010 cruising numbers to the upcoming opening of the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa on St. Croix.

“Last year when everyone was looking at every single dollar being spent, the fact that no passport was needed here definitely helped,” she says. “When you have a family of four traveling, it definitely can be a significant amount, and I think they saw us as a more affordable destination.”

And that seems to be the case for this year as well.

Nicholson-Doty told us that as of June, the U.S. Virgin Islands has seen an 8.2 percent increase in overnight arrivals compared to that same period in 2009, but it’s the cruise numbers that stand out as highly impressive. During the same period, cruising figures have leaped roughly 16 percent, something that did not surprise her—the Oasis of the Seas called on the islands every week from December 2009 to the middle of May this year before going bi-weekly. More good news will likely be on the way from the rebranded Carambola Beach Resort & Spa.

And if that’s not enough, here are still more selling points:

New Resort Developments

On July 1, the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa became St. Thomas’ only true all- inclusive resort. Driven by a growing demand from budget-conscious travelers for an all-inclusive resort, Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa now offers its guests unlimited food and beverages, entertainment, half-day access to the supervised Kid’s Club and a comprehensive activities program that includes snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, scuba lessons, miniature golf and family movie nights.

See more of the resort in the video below:

 

Agents should contact Director of Revenue and Reservations Linda Maratea (340-777-7100, lmaratea@wyndham.com) for special requests.

Built around a 250-year-old Danish-inspired main house—once the home of Alexander HamiltonClub Comanche Hotel has finally reopened after extensive renovations.

 

Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort

Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort is St. Thomas’ only true all-inclusive resort.

 

The famous colonial-style inn is conveniently situated on the Christiansted waterfront. Large groups can reserve the entire property.

Agents should contact Reservations Supervisor Avril Thomas (340-719-4487, ext. 100, info@caribbean- reservations.com) with queries.

The Westin St. John Resort & Villas recently celebrated the opening of its newest fine-dining restaurant, Cruz Bay Prime, in a luxurious open-air setting above the main lobby. Cruz Bay Prime serves a menu of steak and seafood, classically prepared with a modern twist. In addition to prime, aged grass-fed Angus steaks and some of the region’s freshest seafood, diners can opt for lamb and chicken along with extravagant desserts and fine coffees.

The property also launched a new Island Hopper Experience, allowing guests to explore the open waters through a range of personalized boating adventures planned by its onsite Boating Butler. For more information, visit www.westinresortstjohn.com/island-hopper or call 800-734-7345.

Island Dining

Hubbly Bubbly Hookah Lounge (340-774-6652), a Middle Eastern-themed lounge and restaurant, located at Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas, is the newest addition to the island’s nightlife portfolio. The colorful space boasts romantic silk drapes across the ceiling, traditional low seating, Middle Eastern music and belly-dancing videos.

An intimate VIP area with curtains can be reserved on weekends. Hubbly Bubbly has imported tobaccos in flavors such as rose, apple, banana and honey, and also produces customized tobacco blends.

The Old Stone Farmhouse (340-777-6277), a 200-year-old restored field house-cum-restaurant, has long been known for its native stone walls, original hardwood floors, brick arches and a charming covered courtyard. New at the restaurant are the landscaping, onsite cooking classes and a new owner and executive chef, Charles Mereday.

Galangal Restaurant (340-777-6277) opened in early 2009 and has quickly made its mark on St. Croix’s culinary community. Most recently, Galangal’s soups and stews won the Taste of St. Croix competition during the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience.

The Buddhism-inspired decor that uses black and white, and accents of gold creates a luxurious dining experience. Guests have a comprehensive wine list to choose from and a menu consisting of Southeast Asian dishes such as fresh green papaya salad and coconut-crusted tilapia wrapped in a banana leaf accompanied by a spicy dipping sauce.


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