Marriott resort a big player on a small island in St. Kitts

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

ST. KITTS, West Indies — Right now, the Marriott Resort and Royal Beach Casino is the only game in town on St. Kitts, as far as big-name, branded Caribbean resorts go.

Royal St. Kitts - Ocean View
Royal St. Kitts has plenty of ocean and sea views.
Royal St. Kitts - Ocean ViewMarriott Resort - Swimming PoolEmerald Mist Spa - Pedicure Station
If you go

As the island transforms from a sugar-based, agricultural economy to one based on tourism, the bigger resorts are expected to come. Auberge Resorts and Ritz-Carlton are looking at properties here, and many people expect high-end villas to dominate the tourist scene in the future.

But, that's OK, because on an island only 68 square miles, the Marriott is plenty big enough for everyone.

To start with, it has five floors with 523 rooms and 113 suites. For the business traveler, the resort has nine meeting rooms and 38,000 square feet of meeting space.

There are three pools, each with its own Jacuzzi, including two quiet pools, with the main pool having a swim-up bar.

The resort is also offering time-share units, which are officially opening in January, converting 60 two- and three-bedroom suites into time-share units.

"Lots of expansion, lots of growth, lots of things happening," said Randall Doty, a sportsman for the resort.

One of the big advantages of the resort is its on-site casino. The Royal Beach Casino is one of the largest in this part of the Caribbean with 34 gaming tables, slots and an Italian decor.

It's a family resort, with plenty of things to do for the kids, including a kids play area, an expansive computer center, arts and crafts, a pirate program, tiered media room with bean bags, a big- screen TV and arcade.

"This is what I call the training ground for the casino," Doty said.

Of course, the star is the resort's golf course, managed by Marriott, which has the biggest resort golf management company in the world.

Everywhere you look, from nearly any vantage point on Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, you see either distant, cloud-shrouded mountains and volcanoes or the deep blue sea.

Take your pick: the turquoise Caribbean Sea or the aquamarine Atlantic Ocean. Here, you get two for the price of one: Two full holes on the Caribbean and three on the Atlantic.

With the opening of nine new holes, Royal St. Kitts has become one of the more scenic Caribbean courses in a region where scenery is so abundant it is often taken for granted.

Royal St. Kitts opened in 1976, making it one of the older courses in the Caribbean, but really came into being with the re-design by Canadian architect Thomas McBroom in 2004.

Nos. 1, 14, 15, 16 and 18 are all new holes — and many of the others have been altered. The first nine and the new clubhouse opened in November of 2003 and the whole shebang opened the next year.

Royal St. Kitts is all about water, just as its neighbor, the Four Seasons course on the island of Nevis, a short ferry ride away, is all about the volcano that dominates the island.

Royal St. Kitts doesn't have only two of the world's great bodies of water for your viewing pleasure; the inland section features a series of interconnected lakes, which are starting to lure back some marine life after the sprawling resort completed its desalination plant.

The whole darn course is a picture postcard, but the show seriously starts on the back nine, at No. 11, where you climb up from the relative flatness of the front nine, up to an elevated tee with a nice view.

All of the rooms at the resort have CD players, cable and satellite television, reliable high-speed Internet access, including free wireless in public areas, and two excellent, fully stocked fitness centers.

There is also the Emerald Mist Spa, a 15,000-square-foot spa that includes men's and women's saunas, massage, hot and cold tubs and relaxation lounges.

You may want to venture out to sample some island restaurants, but if you're too lazy or just don't feel like leaving the well-manicured grounds, the place is overflowing with restaurants.

There is Blu, a terraced, oceanfront eatery serving fresh seafood; the
Royal Grille Steakhouse; La Cucina, an Italian restaurant specializing in the dishes of Northern Italy; the Calypso Restaurant, serving American food both a la carte and buffet-style; more informal dining at Café Calypso; the
Bohemia Beach Bar and Grille; Pizza Shack, serving pizza and ice cream on the outdoor patio; the Clubhouse Grille at the golf club; the Keys Cigar and Rum Bar and the Tigers Night Spot.

You'll need to eat for energy if you decide to get out of the pool and get some exercise: the resort offers activities like hiking, horseback riding, sailing, jet-skiing, scuba, snorkel, tennis and volleyball.

Another nice touch is that the resort has a craft market downstairs, a sampling of what you'll find at the downtown market. There are also several nice shops in the lobby.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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