Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Beach Resort

Following a soft opening in October, Marriott Frenchman's Reef and adjacent Morning Star Beach Resort in St. Thomas re-opened earlier this month with a grand party attracting the island’s glitterati. With 302 rooms and suites, the newly renovated Frenchman’s Reef is a stunning showpiece of architectural splendour with sweeping vistas of Charlotte Amalie, one of the Caribbean’s most majestic yacht harbors.  Next door, Morning Star tempts with ninety-six rooms and sea views to beat the band. Renovations on the beachfront property will start in September 2012 although bookings will not be affected.

Frenchman's Reef is an island icon ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Mornings at Morning Star are sublime ( credit : M. Reffes ) 

“For the last forty years, said Rob Steigerwald, chief operating officer, southern regional Americas, Marriott International “the resort has been the place to go where friends and families gather for a meal, a meeting or a vacation. “

Looking ahead, general manager Jose Gonzalez noted bookings for 2012 look ‘extremely strong’ including queries regarding convention bookings for 2015.  “This is a welcome change from the shorter booking windows we’ve become accustomed to in previous years, “ he added, “ for our continued success, it is vital that the island open up to tourists outside the USA even though at this time more than 90% of our business is from the US. We are starting to open up to a global customer base with Air Canada starting direct nonstop flights from Toronto in December and charters from Denmark also making the trip. “

The Frenchman's lobby is the perfect pit stop ( photo credit: M. Reffes ) 

Serenity in the harbor ( credit: M. Reffes) 

Tropical gardens and a tennis court equal a Caribbean sunny afternoon ( credit:  M. Reffes) 

With an eye to the future, Alex Fiz, VP, sales and marketing, Caribbean and Latin America noted ‘two new properties include the Reserve in Puerto Rico to open next year and a JW Marriott scheduled to open in 2013 in Coco Beach, also in Puerto Rico. ‘
Size Matters

Brand-reliable and fresh from a US$48 million five-month facelift, Frenchman’s Reef is open for business and the shining star in St. Thomas.  Sitting pretty on a hilltop overlooking soft sands and aquamarine waters, the largest property in St. Thomas is making quite a splash with refined Caribbean décor in island colors of sand beige, sunset sage and ocean blue, resort-wide wireless internet, gourmet eateries , funky bars, expansive spa  and the Marriott trademarked and oh-so-comfy Revive brand bedding and fluffer  pillows . “ The renovations have really opened up the resort, said Jose Gonzalez, general manager, “ letting in more sunlight through wide open spaces and our new air  conditioning system uses sea water which is not only good for the environment but provides fresher air for our guests .”

R & R at its finest ( credit: Marriott Resorts) 

New infinity pools with Jacuzzis, water sports galore and sun loungers are relaxation par excellence while a kids-only pool and splash zone is tops with the younger set. “My recommendation for the most romantic room is #5124 with its nighttime lullaby of the waves below, “added Jose Gonzalez, general manager, “f or the best view, check into room #4324 that faces the harbour with the twinkling lights of the cruise ships at night and for singles, a room by the Rum Bar is the hippest part of the hotel.  “

Water fun for the entire family ( credit: M. Reffes) 

The Rum Bar aims to please ( credit: M. Reffes) 

The morning view from Room 1722 at Frenchman's ( credit: M. Reffes) 

Both properties share restaurant and sports facilities and with shuttle service between the two, the complex is a one-stop-shopping vacation.  Ferries make the five-minute run across the harbor to downtown Charlotte Amalie for meandering and dining. “These renovations indicate the commitment of Marriott and the owners of Frenchman’s Reef to keep the Reef as the premier tourist destination resort in the USVI,” added Rob Steigerwald, Marriott International’s COO, Americas, southern region. 

 Whet Your Appetite

Wake up with the sun at the Aqua Terra Oceanfront Grill and an all-American breakfast buffet with an omelette station, creamy grits and delectable waffles along with healthy choices like fresh fruit and platters of smoked salmon. For a cocktail as the sun sets, the Sunset Bar on the beach is the go-to-spot. For a quick bite, grab one of three open-air tables and enjoy a freshly brewed espresso at the Presto Market.  Fresh pastries and sandwiches fit the bill while the view from the high back chairs are the perfect perch to watch the boats gracefully glide in the harbor as the winds breeze through the top of the stately coconut palms. For a nightcap with friends, the Rum Bar showcases fine spirits and picturesque views and for 24/7 balcony dining, room service delivers a wide array of treats from apple cinnamon French toast and a Cuban sandwich to dinner of  grilled snapper with a glass of a superb Italian Pinot Grigio.
At Morning Star, Coco Joe's is a spirited affair with steel drum bands, nachos with grilled jalapenos, juicy burgers and if it’s Saturday night, it must be the seafood buffet chockablock with lobster, shrimp, oysters and a host of sides.

The culinary piece de resistance, Havana Blue is a divine medley of upscale Latin-fusion cuisine in an open air restaurant with billowy blue curtains. Described by the owners Nicole and Eric Horstmeyer as ‘experiential dining’, the menu includes creative cocktails like the Dirty Chica cocktail that mixes vodka with jalapeno-soaked onions and hot pepper-infused olives and a black cherry mojito that aims to please. Appetizers from crispy wonton shells stuffed with lobster, shrimp and roasted corn salsa or the owner’s favorite, Cuban sliders with pulled pork, manchego cheese and blueberry-flavored mustard set the stage for a fabulous dinner.  Sexy sides like creamed spinach with hot peppers add zing to the lemongrass glazed sea bass, chili-blackened tuna and a perfectly prepared steak with cilantro mash.

Medley of Massages

From manicures and massages to pedicures and paraffin wax treatments, the brand new Lazule Sea Spa is a guilty pleasure that delivers. With eleven treatment rooms, sauna and spa pool with cabanas, relaxation never had it this good.

For those preferring the privacy of their own suite,  in- room massages are popular with showstoppers that include a Sea Mud massage for tired muscles, Caribbean Sea Scrub for silky smooth skin and an Island Detox Body Wrap to fix everything else that needs fixing.  “Couples can choose their own treatment and we’ll tailor it for a side-by-side experience, “said Garth Hudson, spa director.

Saying I Do

Five thousand couples over four decades have said “I Do” at the resort and so far in 2011, five hundred couples have taken the plunge. “We can do eight weddings a day on the beach but only two at sunset, “smiles Jessica Klein, wedding coordinator, “the most popular venues range from seafront to our sea cliff gazebo or one of our grand ballrooms.” 

Dreams come true in the wedding gazebo ( credit: M. Reffes) 

Lucky couple on 11/11/11 ( credit: M. Reffes) 

 A sign of the changing times, an increase in ‘second time around’ and ‘third time lucky’ weddings are big business along with a hike in cruise ship weddings with the ceremony performed on land and the reception held on the high seas.   “We arrange every detail, all couples have to do is go to the courthouse in St Thomas to sign their registration papers, relax in one of our day rooms papers and say I Do on the beach, ” adds Jessica Klein.

Relaxation never had it this good ! ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

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