Wintertime, when a young man's fancy - heck, everyone's fancy - heads South.
In the Caribbean, Hurricane Hugo is just a year-old memory (although a bad one) in most of the islands that were hit by his vicious winds and rains last September.Puerto Rico is back to normal operations, St. Thomas's airport is to have a "grand reopening" this month, and St. Croix, one of the islands hardest hit by Hugo, "has fully recovered at this point," according to a spokeswoman for the island's tourism department. "Most of the hotels have been refurbished, and all of the electricity and phone lines are working," she said.
And Peter Island, part of the chain of the British Virgin Islands, is to reopen in January following $3 million in extensive renovations. The restoration process necessitated the complete rebuilding of Deadman's Bay Beach.
Some travel-industry observers expect that travelers will make last-minute trips this winter rather that to plan far ahead. "People worried about the economy will decide in December if they can afford a vacation in January or February," said one source.
While airlines may adjust their fares later in the season - depending, in part, on the load factor and on oil price adjustments - expect hotel rates to remain stable throughout the peak season. Many hotels, however, say that they have kept this year's rates at last winter's levels.
And for warm-blooded travelers, a few colder destinations are worth considering as well based on special deals. Here are some ideas:
GUADELOUPE: The Auberge de la Vieille Tour, renovated to the tune of $4 million following the ravages of Hugo, is operating again in French colonial style. A special "honeymoon" package is in effect through Dec. 21, priced at $1,120 per couple for seven nights, without airfare. Included are airport transfers, full breakfast daily, plus one dinner with champagne, and use of water sports equipment. Call (800) 44-UTELL.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The massive (355-room) Jaragua Resort, Casino & Spa has programs that focus on health treatments: the resort's four-day, eight-day and 11-day high-season packages include a variety of massages, facials and scrubs, and the spa itself is stocked with weights, hot-tubs, sauna and steam rooms and a cold pool. The eight-day, seven-night version of "R&R in the D.R." is priced at $1,395 per person, double occupancy, and includes accommodations, three meals daily and spa membership, tax and gratuities and a $100 match-play coupon for the casino. Call (800) 223-9815.
PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico is tour-package heaven in the fall and winter, when the airlines that service San Juan - American, Eastern, Delta, Pan Am, TWA among others - caucus with the hotels - the Condado Beach, El San Juan, the Regency, among others - to assemble some attractively-priced vacations of up to a week.
The Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach and Dorado Beach Hotels are offering Family Getaway plans starting at $525 per person, double, for four days, and including unlimited use of bicycles, windsurfing clinic and water sports equipment, plus one $10 casino chip per room. The package dates are Dec. 20 to April 21, air not included. The toll-free number is (800) 228-9000.
ST. MARTIN: At L'Habitation de Lonvilliers, the beach resort on the French side, guests (except children) receive $25 food credits for each day of their stay. The program is in effect through the end of next year, except during the peak holiday period from Dec. 21 through Jan. 7. Call (212) 719-5750.
GWV International, has several charter-air packages on both the Dutch and French sides of the island, including seven nights at the Anse Margot, a resort on the French side on Nettle Bay, priced at winter rates of $1,299 to $1,499 per person, including air out of Boston. Call a travel agent for information.
PETER ISLAND: Hit hard by Hugo, the Peter Island resort has rebounded: all of the rooms have been rebuilt as has the entire pool area, which was destroyed when winds and rains ripped apart an adjoining seawall. The resort is scheduled to open Jan. 5, and as an incentive, is offering a 10 percent discount from Jan. 5 though Feb. 16. Rates are $425-$525 per couple per night, including all meals and afternoon tea, plus the resort's water sports programs. Airfare is not included; Peter Island-bound guests fly to San Juan or St. Thomas, then go by commuter aircraft to Beef Island airport adjacent to Tortola, then by private launch to Peter Island. Call (800) 346-4451.
ARUBA: Three packages are offered by the newly-opened Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino, for both three-night and seven-night stays. The "Dive Into It" plan is for certified divers, and it is for the serious scuba fan; the rate ranges from $499 to $1,165 per person, double occupancy, plus air. The "Windsurfing Package," including instruction and equipment use, starts at $509 for three nights, per person. And the "Honeymoon Romance" includes the usual bottle of champagne-breakfast in bed, and starts at $919 per couple for three nights. Guests can purchase a modified American plan - breakfast and dinner - for $50 per day per adult, $25 for children, 3-15. Plans are available Dec. 20 through April 6, 1991. Call (800) 233-1234.
CURACAO: Lions Dive Hotel and Marina is designed for those who like their vacations wet. A package available through Dec. 15 ($886 per couple, without air) includes an introductory scuba dive at this "complete dive resort," plus unlimited access to the nearby Curacao Underwater Park and Seaquarium. The seven-night package also features breakfast buffets, a dinner, transfers and shuttle and a half-day island tour. Call (800) 223-9815.
St. LUCIA: A promotional "fly free" offer is available from Le Sport, St. Lucia's spa-resort, through Dec. 31. Guests staying a minimum of seven nights receive $300 toward airfare to the island; daily rates range from $185 to $400 per person, double occupancy, including transfers, gratuities and ocean views, and optional spa therapies. For reservations, (800) 544-2883.
ST. THOMAS: The high-season package at the Frenchman's Reef resort begins at $1,200 per person, double, for a five-night stay, including two meals a day, beverages, a scuba dive, and the usual sports gear. Air not included; (800) 524-2000.
Besides the islands, some other hot (and chilly) spots worth considering for winter holidays:
CANCUN: The Omni Cancun has a special rate through Dec. 20 of $164 per person, double occupancy, for a three-night stay, including breakfast, a bottle of wine, discounts on car rental and health club services, plus a T-shirt. Air not included; call (800) 843-6664.
PARADISE ISLAND: Beverage credits are one of the enticement features added to packages this winter at Club Paradise at the Paradise Island Resort & Casino in the Bahamas. For three-night stays, the credit is $100 per room, and $150 per room for four nights or longer. Guests are also fed thrice daily, allowed one round of golf, free tennis, health club and water sports. Three-night winter rates range from $649 to $699 per person, double, and from $1,439 to $1,559 per person for seven nights, air extra. Call (800) 321-3000.