Onsite Review: Sister Starwood Properties in the Bahamas

Travel Agent recently took a tour of Starwood sister properties on Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas: the Westin Our Lucaya and the Sheraton Our Lucaya. They offer a 10-percent commission for agents and booking is available through the GDS. The hotels' shared pool

Westin Our Lucaya

Located 55 miles south of Florida, the Westin Grand Bahama Island Our Lucaya Resort sits on 7.5 acres of sandy beach. Its 740 guest rooms and suites are fashioned with its signature Heavenly bed and Heavenly bath. It has three pools, two golf courses, tennis and sandy beaches. Guests can also enjoy the Senses Spa and FitnessCenter. The Kids Club offers a variety of fun activities to keep younger guests entertained.

The best room at the Westin is the Presidential Suite, room 61065. It is a prime five-room, 2,400-square-foot oceanview suite with Caribbean-inspired décor and an enormous balcony. It includes two bedrooms with Westin Heavenly beds and 2.5 bathrooms with a separate shower and a Heavenly bathtub. There's a living and dining room, library, kitchenette with sink, microwave, refrigerator, work desk and two phones with data ports. Rates start at $1,200 a night.

The top room at the Westin: the 2,400-square-foot Presidential Suite

Coming in a close second is the Lucayan Suite, room 70113. It is a three-bedroom, two-floor, apartment-style suite in a semi-private location with a balcony and a patio with excellent views of the ocean. It also has a Westin Heavenly bed and Heavenly bath, a separate shower and Jacuzzi, a double sitting room with a sofa sleeper and chair with an ottoman, a working desk with two phones and a data port. The room is 2,250 square feet. Rates start at $1,500 a night.

It is not, however, an all-inclusive resort, so tell clients to expect to some extra fees tacked onto the room bill.

The property's high season runs from February 1 to April 29, while the off-season is from August 13 to November 11.

The best restaurant on property is Iries, located on the sister property, Sheraton Our Lucaya. It serves Caribbean-style cuisine in a dimly lit dining room. This is a more intimate, romantic setting, while the bar area is a great spot for casual dining, perhaps while watching a flat-screen TV. The pina colada is the café's signature drink and its stuffed jumbo scallops are the most popular meal.

The downsides? The meal proportions are not terribly large and the prices are a little high (the jumbo scallops are about $25). But as far as quality goes, this is the best food on property and the value at the other nearby restaurants is not good enough in comparison to pass on Iries.

Sheraton Our Lucaya

The Sheraton Grand Bahama Island Our Lucaya Resort offers guests full access to combined resort facilities and activities.

The best room at the Sheraton is the Luxury Suite, room 24110; the rate ranges from $789 in low season to $1,200 during high season.

This oceanview two-room suite has 1,125 square feet of space with a balcony, Sheraton Suite Sleeper, efficiency kitchen with microwave and refrigerator, tub-shower combo, sitting room with a sofa and a chair with an ottoman and an entertainment center with a TV, CD player and VCR. Also included are a dining room, a work desk and a phone with a data port. The suite may connect with a Deluxe Pool View room with a king-size bed and/or a Deluxe Ocean View room with two double beds.

The resort was named one of Forbes magazine's "Top 400 Hotels" and one of Child magazine's "Top Ten Best Caribbean Resorts for Families" in 2006.

Isle of Capri Casino

The Isle of Capri casino is a five-minute walk from all rooms. This could be a good or bad feature, depending on how willing guests are to press their luck. It is a small, comfortable setting and has a bar with a TV that can be seen and heard from most tables. Travel Agent found the wait service a bit spotty, with waits up to 30 minutes for simple orders.

The three-bedroom Lucayan Suite at the Westin

The entertainment, especially the blackjack table, comes at a price. The minimum bet at the blackjack table is $15, which could mean either a profitable evening for guests or a short night.

Agents looking for more information or wanting to book one of the Our Lucaya properties should contact reservations agents Apryl Miller (242-350-5466) or Chivonne Fox (242-350-5467).

Taking a Break From Spring Breakers

In an effort to become more couple- and family-oriented, the hotels are dissuading group blocks of Spring Breakers from booking its properties.

The official announcement came in late September. Ty Brassie, director of sales and marketing for the properties, says that both agents and operators have told him that they are losing business from couples and families due to the less-than-favorable reputation that Spring breakers have earned over the years.

Families and couples have opted not to book the hotel because of ongoing stories about Spring breakers' occasionally lewd and vandal-like behavior, Brassie says.

So, in an effort to protect its couples and family clientele, Brassie says that the property has implemented new rules to keep such clients away.

Although its is a major risk for the property (Spring break clientele is a $2 million dollar industry for it), Brassie says it is more than worth it since the long-term damage could far outweigh the profits made from spring breakers.

"The hotel is not restricting anyone from the resort. In fact, individuals can still book the resort directly," Brassie says.

"Ultimately our goal is to create and maintain a sense of quiet enjoyment and tranquility for our guests. Moving forward, we are simply not accepting group room blocks with organized activities for Spring break," Brassie says.

Michael Palmer, executive director of the Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA) says it is a smart move. Palmer says that the stereotypical Spring break traveler, notorious for traveling strictly for party purposes, is slowly disappearing.

So much so, in fact, that many college students are now asking for more advanced, sophisticated and complex travel. This is good news for agents and operators, Palmer says, since package trips usually involve agents and operators, whereas travelers seeking stereotypical Spring break trips often book independently online.


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