Current Press Releases for September 21-25, 1998
Call 1-800-372-USVI for more information.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, SEPTEMBER 25, 1998 – With long-distance telephone service fully restored to the U.S. Virgin Islands, good news continues to pour in from St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas after Hurricane Georges. US Airways resumed service into the islands on Thursday, September 24. All three major airlines serving the islands (Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and US Airways) have now resumed their flights into the territory.
While most reports of Hurricane Georges’ effects on the U.S. Virgin Islands have accurately portrayed the storm’s minimal damage to the American territory, a few outlets have, as a result of the temporary loss of long-distance telephone service, misreported the destination’s damage. In an effort to correct this misrepresentation, the USVI Department of Tourism is actively encouraging journalists to visit the territory to see the islands for themselves.
USVI Assistant Commissioner of Tourism Judy Watson and two other USVI representatives are today attending CTO’s Caribbean Tourism Conference so they may meet face-to-face with the media and 450 Caribbean-booking travel agents. The journalists and travel agents will be provided first-hand reports about the islands’ current conditions. The USVI representatives will also show hundreds of photos taken of the territory since the storm passed. The reports and photos will allow these key travel influencers to see for themselves that hotels are fully operational, tourist attractions are open and the islands’ foliage is as beautiful as ever.
Additionally, the destination’s top travel wholesalers will travel from the U.S. to the U.S. Virgin Islands next week to see the territory for themselves. This visit will further ensure the wholesalers’ confidence in their support of the destination.
“The USVI came through safe and sound,” said Richard Doumeng, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association. “The islands did sustain some minor damage, and we are now in the process of cleaning up.”
St. Croix’s top tourist attractions, Estate Whim Plantation and The Lawaetz Museum at Estate Little La Grange, have reopened and welcomed vacationers on Wednesday.
Molly Buckley, owner/operator of new dive shop St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventure, said, “St. Croix is doing very well, and the initial reports about severe damage to Christiansted’s boardwalk were exaggerated. A few of the boards were removed from the concrete pylons by the storm but they were replaced yesterday. Vacationers are still on the island, and yesterday was a busy retail day for our store. Tourists were in to buy snorkel equipment on Tuesday, and we have a dive scheduled to go out Friday.”
As of Friday, September 25, additional property reports were provided by the following USVI hotels and inns:
St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association: Association-president and King’s Alley Hotel-owner Peter Ross said, “The organization, which represents all hotels and small inns on St. Croix, is extremely pleased to announce St. Croix and its hotels incurred mostly landscape damage as a result of Hurricane Georges. All resorts, hotels and attractions will be fully operational and ready to receive tourists by Friday, October 2. Most hotels are open now to receive business guests.”
The Buccaneer: Elizabeth Armstrong, general manager of the self-contained resort, said, “The Buccaneer is intact following Hurricane Georges. We sustained minimal water damage to a few rooms, and by Tuesday evening, our lobby was set with flowers and we were serving dinner in our Terrace restaurant to staff, family and friends. Today, the flags are on the golf course, and the nets are on the tennis courts. We will devote the next week to cleaning the grounds and will open for leisure business on October 1.” Armstrong also reported that the storm brought sand to the resort’s shoreline, creating even wider beaches. The 300-year-old Buccaneer has its own power plant and water supply, so it never lost services during the storm.
Caravelle Hotel: Caravelle Hotel-owner Sid Kalmans reports that his property in Christiansted, St. Croix, received “relatively little damage” from Hurricane Georges. “Only minor water damage was sustained in some guest rooms, and the hotel has full electrical power,” said Kalmans. “The hotel is presently housing Red Cross personnel and is expected to welcome guests again in two days.” Kalmans also reports that power has also been restored in the town of Christiansted where stores are open for business and “life is getting back to normal.”
Hibiscus Beach Hotel: General Manager Wendall Snider reports, “Hibiscus Beach came through with virtually no damage. We are open and operational and currently have guests in-house.”
King’s Alley Hotel: Owner Peter Ross said, “King’s Alley sustained no damage, is fully operational and is enjoying full occupancy.”
Sugar Beach Condominiums: General manager Susan Ivy reports, “The resort is fine and is open for business.”
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas: In addition to yesterday’s update from the resort, The Ritz-Carlton also reports, “Although the task of cleaning up the facility and grounds will take several weeks, there shouldn’t be any concern about the condition of the resort during the busy holiday season. Individuals planning to celebrate Thanksgiving, the holidays and/or the new year at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas can expect to find the resort in excellent condition, with all services and facilities up to Ritz-Carlton standards.
Secret Harbour Beach Resort & Villas: Chief financial officer Mel Borrin reports, “The resort came through the storm without a scratch. The resort and its restaurant, Blue Moon Café, are open and operational.”
Bolongo Bay Beach Club & Villas: Owner Richard Doumeng says, “Bolongo was lucky, and our beach now has more sand on it than it has had since 1989. We still do have some guests in-house. The resort will be fully operational by October 3 and is accepting reservations now.”
Pavilions and Pools: “The resort suffered no structural damage,” said sales manager Becca Nelsen. “Once we clean out the pools, we will open for business.”
Best Western Carib Beach Resort: The resort reports that it will welcome guests back in two-to-three weeks.
Windward Passage Hotel: The resort reports that it is open and presently completing pre-scheduled renovations.
Additionally, the St. Thomas/St. John Hotel Association reports that the following properties are open and accepting guests:
- Best Western Emerald Beach ResortIsland Beachcomber
- Renaissance Grand Beach ResortSapphire Beach Resort & Marina
- Elysian Beach ResortBluebeard’s Beach Club & Villas
- Bluebeard’s CastleWyndham Sugar Bay Beach Club & Resort
- Marriott Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Beach Resorts
The Westin Resort, St. John: General manager Ron Olstad reports, “The resort suffered only minimal landscaping damage from the effects of Hurricane Georges. We are expected to open September 30, and phone service to the resort is available.”
Caneel Bay: The resort reports, “There was no damage to any of the guest rooms or public spaces as a result of Hurricane Georges. The resort’s seven pristine beaches remain in perfect shape and there was only light damage to the landscaping on the grounds. Caneel Bay expects to welcome guests back to the resort in mid-October and will announce a firm reopening date early next week.”
Gallows Point Suite Resort: The resort reports that it is currently open and accepting guests.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, SEPTEMBER 23, 1998 – Information received from St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas two days after Hurricane Georges passed the islands continues to be very positive.
Commercial airline service into St. Thomas resumed today, and additional flights are scheduled to fly into the USVI later this week. Ferry service has begun again between St. Thomas and St. John.
Three cruise ships (Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fascination and Inspiration and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian of the Seas) are scheduled to visit St. Thomas on Friday, and cruise ship passengers will be able to enjoy such popular attractions as Paradise Point Tramway, Atlantis Submarine, Ft. Christian, Mahogany Run Golf Course, Tillett Gardens and Mountain Top, all of which are open for business.
Coral World is scheduled to open for business this weekend. The St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce reports that restaurants on the islands are open, and most businesses will be open for cruise ship passengers on Friday.
Although property reports were not received from all USVI hotels and inns as of Wednesday, September 23, reports from the following USVI properties were provided:
St. Thomas Renaissance Grand Beach Resort: General manager John Murphy states, “Renaissance Grand Beach Resort sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Georges and remains open. We received a limited amount of cosmetic damage, which will be easily cleaned up, but no structural damage. We’re open, honoring our current reservations and accepting newones.” The resort also reported that all of its guest rooms, suites and meeting-and-group facilities remain unscathed.
Marriott Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Beach Resorts: Nick Pourzal, president and managing director of the two resorts, reports that both came through the storm in very good condition. Pourzal states, “The recent $52 million redesign included building and facilities reinforcements which withstood the wind and rain remarkably well. Presently Marriott Frenchman’s Reef is enjoying full-occupancy, and all facilities and systems are fully operational. Marriott Frenchman’s Reef looks forward to welcoming its vacationers and groups to the American Island Paradise”.
Wyndham Sugar Bay Beach Club & Resort: The all-inclusive resort announced, “The resort sustained no structural damage, but did report minimal exterior damage. It has running water, and electrical power is on. The resort is open and is currently serving 225 guests, all of whom are safe. The lobby and the restaurant sustained no damage.
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas: The hotel reports, “Although the resort did not suffer significant structural damage, a lengthy `cleanup´ process has begun”. With this, the hotel is not receiving guests until October 5, at the earliest. In addition, no new reservations will be accepted for at least the next three-to-four weeks. Individuals with reservations on or around October 5 are encouraged to call the hotel prior to their arrival, as these dates are subject to change pending management’s assessment of the services and facilities.
Elysian Beach Resort/Bluebeard’s Castle/Bluebeard’s Beach Club & Villas:All three resorts are open for visitors and are accepting reservations now.
Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina: The resort is presently open only for business travelers and will provide the Department of Tourism with an action plan in one week.
St. Croix St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association: Association-president and King’s Alley Hotel-owner Peter Ross said, “The organization, which represents all hotels and small inns on St. Croix, is extremely pleased to announce St. Croix and its hotels incurred mostly landscape damage as a result of Hurricane Georges”. All resorts, hotels and attractions will be fully operational and ready to receive tourists by Friday, October 2. Most hotels are open now to receive business guests.
The Buccaneer: Elizabeth Armstrong, general manager of the self-contained resort, said, The Buccaneer is intact following Hurricane Georges. We sustained minimal water damage to a few rooms, and by Tuesday evening, our lobby was set with flowers and we were serving dinner in our Terrace restaurant to staff, family and friends. Today, the flags are on the golf course, and the nets are on the tennis courts. We will devote the next week to cleaning the grounds and will open for leisure business on October 1. Armstrong also reported that the storm brought sand to the resort’s shoreline, creating even wider beaches. The 300-year-old Buccaneer has its own power plant and water supply, so it never lost services during the storm.
Caravelle Hotel: Caravelle Hotel-owner Sid Kalmans reports that his property in Christiansted, St. Croix, received “relatively little damage” from Hurricane Georges. Only minor water damage was sustained in some guest rooms, and the hotel has full electrical power,” said Kalmans. “The hotel is presently housing Red Cross personnel and is expected to welcome guests again in two days.” Kalmans also reports that power has also been restored in the town of Christiansted where stores are open for business and “life is getting back to normal.”
St. John St. John Accommodations Council: Council-president Mary Hildebrand reports that St. John looks fine and is doing well after the storm. According to Hildebrand, no flooding resulted from the storm, and the island is ready to receive guests now.
Additional hotel and destination information will continue to be released from the USVI Department of Tourism as reports are received from each of the islands.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, SEPTEMBER 22, 1998 – Preliminary reports about the effects of Hurricane Georges were received today from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
USVI Congresswoman Donna Christian-Green met with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, D.C., earlier today and was able to secure what information is presently available.
Early reports indicate that St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas received fairly light damage from Hurricane Georges. No deaths have been reported in the USVI, but a few minor injuries did result from the storm. Roads on the islands are passable, and hospitals and grocery stores are open despite having received some damage.
As a precautionary measure, electricity was intentionally shut down on the islands early Monday before the storm affected the islands, and it has not been restored. Some local inter-island communication is available, but long-distance and cellular telephone service is presently not operable.
USVI radio stations were transmitting throughout the entire night. The airports on St. Croix and St. Thomas are scheduled to open at noon today. Commercial travel should resume tomorrow. Additional information will be received from FEMA this afternoon, and airport will follow when this information is available.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, SEPTEMBER 21, 1998 – Preparations for a possible encounter with Hurricane Georges began in the U.S. Virgin Islands late last week when USVI Gov. Roy L. Schneider began implementing the territory´s hurricane preparedness plan as early as practical. U.S. Virgin Islands residents are encouraged by the recent downgrading of the hurricane´s intensity level.
A one-time Category IV storm, Hurricane Georges has been downgraded to a present Category II storm. The territory should be in good shape to withstand the storm, having undergone preparations during the last four-to-five days for a stronger hurricane than what is now anticipated.
The residents, under the direction of Gov. Schneider who has conducted several press conferences during the past few days, have taken this storm very seriously and have taken the necessary precautions to ensure protection of their personal property and safety. Residents stocked up on batteries, water, flashlights and other necessities to make sure that if the storm does hit the islands, they are as prepared as possible. Gov. Schneider has been in direct communication with FEMA, Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), the Red Cross, the National Guard and U.S. Marshals to prepare for any potential needs resulting from Hurricane Georges.
Emergency operation centers have been established on each of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas) and Gov. Schneider personally visited each island to inspect the facilities this weekend. Col. Gene Walker (Ret.), executive director of VITEMA, has reported that emergency shelters have been set up on all of the three islands: St. Croix has nine, St. John has six and St. Thomas has 14 shelters. The shelters are sturdy buildings “mostly schools and churches” that have proven to be capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds should that be necessary. All residents who live in potentially dangerous, low-lying waterfront areas were encouraged to move to safer, higher areas of the islands either to stay with members of their families orient the designated hurricane shelters.
Most vacationing hotel guests were able to leave the island of St. Croix this weekend as reports that the storm was approaching the islands were widely broadcast. The management of the individual hotels and the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association implemented their specific hurricane preparedness plans and assisted guests in early departures from the island as a precautionary measure. There are still some visitors remaining on the island of St. Thomas.
In preparation for the possible storm, the St. Thomas/St. John Hotel Association this weekend coordinated the move of all hotel guests remaining in the territory to the designated hotels built to successfully sustain strong hurricane winds. Most of the guests on the island of St. John were moved to the designated St. Thomas hotels so if departure from the island after the storm were desired, transfer to the St. Thomas airport would be easier. St. Thomas/St. John Hotel Association Executive Director Beverly Nicholson has made all the appropriate arrangements to facilitate the quick transfer of all visitors back to the continental United States should that be necessary after the storm passes.