Prevue March-April 2014 - (Page 100)

St. Croix Welcome home [ON LOCATION] JOHNALEE JOHNSTON E very view from my second-floor guest room at The Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa grants the sensation of being tucked away in a treehouse. An interesting blend of deep Spanish Colonial mahogany woodwork, angular vaulted ceilings, marble bathrooms and stainless steel appliances carry this vibe indoors with a modern twist. Like all of the resorts I experienced on a recent trip to the island, the hotel is a reminder that St. Croix is a place for groups to slow down and connect with their surroundings. RENAISSANCE ST. CROIX CARAMBOLA The 151-room hotel is enveloped by lush landscaping and architectural symmetry reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. After a morning of heavenly banana rum pancakes and coffee in a cozy, well-cushioned screened-in porch, it's easy to see why the resort holds such allure for incentive groups. "You can credit Laurance Rockefeller and his passion for conservation for the way the Carambola blends seamlessly with its surroundings," says Shelli Brin, our jovial guide, and the resort's catering sales manager. Brin, who also helps run Ridge2Reef, the only certified organic farm on the island, says the present Carambola began to take shape in the '60s after Rockefeller purchased what was then a Rock Resort in need of a little TLC. Multiple renovations have been completed since that time, including furniture, bathroom and kitchenette revamps in 2013. During our tour, Brin points to a rum shack that has been transformed into a raw food bar and mentions as a sidenote that on-site cooking classes can be arranged. The resort's Sweet Bottom Dive Shop allows planners to charge any number of activities on one bill. With a 3,000-foot wall dive nearby, it's a bonus for diving enthusiasts in the group to just grab scuba gear and go. "We arrange rainforest tours, dine-arounds at some of St. Croix's farm-to-table restaurants and dives right off our shore," says Nancy Williams, director of sales/marketing. Off-site, planners can arrange tastings and tours of the Captain Morgan Rum Distillery, where the rum "tells" its keepers when it is ready. Our group soon settles in after the jaunt at Saman restaurant for a meal that contains one of the most complex desserts I've ever eaten-rum cake, chocolate sticks, strawberry cream, lime wedge, berry glaze, pineapple, coconut, jalapeño and cream, all in a tortilla shell. Rina Walton, CMP/account executive of Carlson Wagonlit, sums up my enthusaism in a nutshell. "The Carambola does a good job of creating upscale cuisines from local fare, which is great for groups." The Saman is one of four on-site restaurants at the resort, offering up to 310 guests palate-seducing dishes inside and on its sea-facing terrace. THE BUCCANEER HOTEL Draped over 340 acres along the Caribbean Sea, The Buccaneer hotel looks like a pretty pink fortress as our group inches closer to the main house for the first time. The main building keeps watch on a hilltop, with 138 rooms scattered around expansive slopes. We arrive to plenty of smiles and rum punch-this was a highlight given that many in our group had traveled from as far as Canada to explore the historic property. After a breezy check-in, we're taken down the hill to our rooms and I'm greeted by contemporary and comfortable accommodations that include a regal four-poster king bed and private patio overlooking the pool, beach and sea. An evening cocktail reception filled with wine and Mocko Jumbie stilt dancers is held at the 18th century Sugar Mill, officially welcoming us to the property before we're whisked away to dinner at the Luxury Beach House. We're told the stilts are in our future tomorrow morning, which inspires laughter and shouts for more wine from our group. 92 | prevue magazine 92-93_St Croix.indd 92 3/3/14 12:22 PM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Prevue March-April 2014

Planner's Pick: Dallas
Fresh Meets: Marriott Hotels
Bureau Buzz: Montreal
Good Business: Sandals Foundation
Sea Shores: State of the Cruise Industry
Incentives, Golf + Spa
Special Section: California
On Location: Loews Don CeSar St. Pete
On Location: Chic Outlets
On Location: New Zealand
On Location: Los Cabos
On Location: Scottsdale
On Location: Aruba Hyatt Regency
On Location: Dolce Silverado
On Location: St. Croix
On Location: Hilton Bomonti Turkey
On Location: Aruba Marriott
Checkout: Conrad Pune, India
Meetings, incentives and Corporate Events, Club Med 2014 Edition

Prevue March-April 2014