Meet in the US Vir­gin Is­lands

Is the Caribbean call­ing? Now is a great time to visit USVI with its ideal year round cli­mate and con­stant trade winds

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By El­iz­a­beth Atkin­son

Is the Caribbean call­ing your next event? The USVI has easy ac­cess, ideal year round cli­mate and con­stant trade winds

St. Thomas is an is­land only 32 square miles in size, but filled with a mil­lion miles worth of things to do: shop­ping, sail­ing, snor­kel­ing, sight­see­ing, nightlife, his­tory, un­der­wa­ter sub­ma­rine tours, cata­ma­ran ex­cur­sions, zip line tours. For the bold, there are ‘Jetrid­ers’ tours via the Ad­ven­ture Center (ad­ven­ture­cen­, while golfers can chal­lenge them­selves on Ma­hogany Run (ma­hoganyrun­, one of the world’s top rated cour­ses de­signed by golf course ar­chi­tects Ge­orge and Tom Fazio.

Of course, beach lovers can re­lax on Ma­gens Bay – ranked by Na­tional Ge­o­graphic as one of the best on the globe – and it’s just the start of a seem­ingly end­less string of stun­ning beaches where you can sit back, re­lax and get lost in the clear turquoise blue waters.

The beauty of the is­land is, ev­ery­thing is within reach. Since tourism is the chief in­dus­try, the abil­ity to plan and do al­most any­thing on the is­land is right at hand. St. Thomas has one of the high­est stan­dards of liv­ing in the Caribbean. A solid in­fra­struc­ture is in place

in­clud­ing qual­ity roads, ve­hi­cles, hos­pi­tals and health ser­vices. That be­ing said, ar­riv­ing at a few of the more ad­ven­tur­ous sites, es­pe­cially the first plat­form of the Tree Limin’ Ex­treme zi­pline tour, was quite the white-knuckle ex­pe­ri­ence. Still, once you climbed the slope, the views of Me­gans Bay were sim­ply breath­tak­ing. This is when you first re­al­ize get­ting to the desti­na­tion on this moun­tain­ous is­land is part of the ad­ven­ture.

For US cit­i­zens, the US Vir­gin Is­lands is a do­mes­tic desti­na­tion, which makes get­ting there eas­ier. The US Vir­gin Is­lands has daily, non­stop flights from New York, Ne­wark, Bal­ti­more, At­lanta, Mi­ami, Philadel­phia, Bos­ton, Char­lotte, Detroit, Chicago and Fort Laud­erdale. Con­nect­ing flights are avail­able to and from Los An­ge­les, Dal­las, NewYork, Mi­ami and At­lanta via the San Juan hub.

Many re­sorts have re­cently fin­ished or are cur­rently go­ing through ren­o­va­tions. The French­man’s Reef & Morn­ing Star Mar­riott Beach Re­sort fin­ished a $48 mil­lion up­grade in 2011. The Ritz Carl­ton is mod­ern­iz­ing the rooms and color palate to cre­ate a more re­lax­ing en­vi­ron­ment. The Westin on St. John’s is un­der­go­ing a $12 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment of ex­ist­ing ho­tel space sched­uled for com­ple­tion in the Spring of 2014.

St. John

With 60 per­cent of its land area com­pris­ing a pris­tine na­tional park, St. John is as far away as you can get from civ­i­liza­tion, al­low­ing hik­ing and wa­ter adventures to dom­i­nate your days. But still you’re just a short dis­tance from up­scale jew­elry stores and bou­tiques. A visit to St. John is a must for those seek­ing true es­cape.

For those of you who want to es­cape the cos­mopoli­tan world, St. John’s may be the is­land for you.

The Westin St. John Re­sort & Vil­las

When we ar­rived at The Westin in St. John the staff greeted us on the dock with a round of ap­plause and wel­come cheers – an ex­pe­ri­ence one will al­ways re­mem­ber.

This stun­ning fa­cil­ity takes ad­van­tage of its trop­i­cal lo­ca­tion on Great Cruz Bay. Tucked into the hibis­cus and bougainvil­lea, the re­sort’s 47 acres of­fers 175 guest rooms and 146 vil­las and 6 meet­ing spa­ces. The re­sort’s $12 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion is sched­uled for com­ple­tion in the spring of 2014, which will en­hance the al­ready ex­quis­ite lo­ca­tion. The ex­cel­lent sales teams are cre­ative with their ap­proach to meet­ings and in­cor­po­rat­ing your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s needs. It’s a true trop­i­cal re­treat with­out the slower pace of the Caribbean.

Ca­neel Bay

Ca­neel Bay pro­vides a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for the fast paced mod­ern world – no tele­vi­sion in pris­tine sur­round­ings and low-key lux­ury. The beach va­ca­tion re­sort, nes­tled within the Vir­gin Is­lands Na­tional Park on St. John, re­mains faith­ful to the vi­sion of founder Lau­rance Rock­e­feller and his rev­er­ence for the en­vi­ron­ment. Seven se­cluded beaches bor­der 170 lush Caribbean acres where rooms have been built to blend into the land­scape. The re­sort re­mains pur­pose­fully ab­sent of mod­ern glitz and dig­i­tal dis­trac­tions. The re­sort rooms are in need of some mod­ern­iza­tion; how­ever, if you want to un­plug this is a great place to go.

If you aren’t in­ter­ested in the “un­plugged” ex­pe­ri­ence, take the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy a meal at Ca­neel Bay. The re­sort’s ex­ec­u­tive chef has cre­ated dishes that in­tro­duce restau­rant guests to the herbs, spices and nat­u­ral re­sources na­tive to St. John and the Vir­gin Is­lands. The Su­gar Mill restau­rant fea­tures del­i­ca­cies of the Caribbean for din­ner. Even in a rain­storm, the open-air restau­rant is a bliss­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

Note that Ca­neel Bay closes sea­son­ally, this year be­tween Aug. 26 and Nov. 1. Dur­ing this pe­riod, there are no fa­cil­i­ties avail­able for guest use.

The Ritz Carl­ton St. Thomas

This 30-acre water­front es­tate along the stun­ning Great Bay boasts 180 lux­u­ri­ous guest rooms in­clud­ing 55 Ritz-Carl­ton Club Level rooms. The Ritz does it right. Their goal is to pro­vide im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice, a unique lo­ca­tion and lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tions. The pools, spa, fit­ness

fa­cil­i­ties and restau­rants are what you ex­pect when you stay at a Ritz prop­erty. A walk around the prop­erty can pro­vide a great work­out in a mag­nif­i­cent set­ting. Pad­dle boats, snorkels, Ho­bie Cats, Wind­surfers are all avail­able at the beach for out­ings in the crys­talline Great Bay. There are two coral reefs in the bay that pro­vide easy ac­cess to many species of fish and coral, which is a liv­ing or­gan­ism that grows with time. St. Thomas is the fourth Ritz prop­erty to team with JeanMichel Cousteau’s Am­bas­sadors of the En­vi­ron­ment pro­gram to in­tro­duce quests – chil­dren, adults and groups – to the nat­u­ral won­ders and rich cul­tural tra­di­tions of St. Thomas.

With 10,000 square feet of in­door and out­door con­fer­ence and event space, the staff at this lo­ca­tion are equipped to at­tend to your meet­ing needs. Great-Bay Ball­room with 2,500-square-feet can ac­com­mo­date 200 guests and has breath­tak­ing views of Great Bay and St. John. A 53-foot lux­ury cata­ma­ran, Lady Lynsey is avail­able for cus­tom events.

Per­son­ally, I found even a rainy day at this re­sort to be a charm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The room ren­o­va­tions sched­uled for com­ple­tion in Novem­ber 2013, with a new or­ganic color palate and con­tem­po­rary feel will take this re­sort to the next level.

Note the Club Level Lounge will be closed Aug. 19 through Nov. 18.

French­man’s Reef & Morn­ing Star Mar­riott Beach Re­sort

When you en­ter the French­man’s Reef open air lobby you feel the Caribbean en­velop you. The view of Char­lotte Amalie Har­bor is daz­zling and the breeze is de­light­ful. The re­sort of­fers 478 rooms and 28 suites for its guests. Beach­front Morn­ing Star lo­ca­tions are ideal for those who want a qui­eter beach ex­pe­ri­ence.

This prop­erty of­fers by far the largest group meet­ing space in St. Thomas, pro­vid­ing 19 meet­ing rooms with a to­tal of 60,000 square feet. With six restau­rants and three bars there’s no short­age of food and bev­er­age op­tions at the re­sort. The Aqua Terra Ocean­front Grill takes ad­van­tage of its beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion and cli­mate; it was com­pletely re­designed in 2011 and boasts a awe-in­spir­ing view of Char­lotte Amalie Har­bor. Serv­ing clas­sic Amer­i­can fare and of­fer­ing a daily break­fast buf­fet, Sun­day brunch and din­ner, it of­fers choices for ev­ery palate.

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