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December 9, 2008
  • Award for Tortuga Bay
  • ABTA award for Roco Ki
  • The Chocolate Tour
  • Non-stop from Fort Lauderdale
Award for Tortuga Bay
Leading Hotels of the World has granted Tortuga Bay of the Puntacana Resort & Club its Commitment to Quality Award for excellence in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America. This is the first time this award has been won by a Dominican resort. To win the award, the boutique hotel achieved the highest score during the most recent Leading Hotels' anonymous inspections. It is important to note that Tortuga Bay is a Leading Small Hotel and competed with all hotels in the Leading Hotels of the World group.
Upon receiving the award in Boston during the group's international convention, Frank Rainieri, president of the Puntacana Group said, "We are proud of this achievement that shows that in our country we can offer quality service at international standards."
He highlighted the fact that the winning of the award coincides with the Puntacana Group's 40th anniversary celebrations. "This reaffirms our passion and commitment to excellence and is an achievement that consolidates the Dominican Republic with a portfolio of luxury hotels," he said.
ABTA award for Roco Ki
The Campo Alto Verde Nick Faldo signature championship course (18-hole, par-72 golf course) that winds along the beach through a tropical mangrove forest and stretches across the property's headland with stunning cliff-top views of the sea, is just opening to the general public this month but has already won several awards. The most recent came from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) that chose the course second best in the world, only behind St. Andrews in Scotland. This is the third recognition that the newest course in the Punta Cana area has received. Travel & Leisure Golf had already voted it one of the top 10 best new golf courses in the world for 2008, and Golfweek has selected the new course among its top 20 of the 50 best courses in the Caribbean for 2008.
"Roco Ki is every golf course designer's dream come true," says Nick Faldo. He explains that the variety of landscaping along the 18 holes comes to an impressive finale. Lodging will soon also be available on site. The Westin Roco Ki Beach & Golf Resort is preparing for opening in the first half of 2009.
The Chocolate Tour
Dona Mercedes Rosario Sosa leaves her house early every morning, dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and with a machete at her waist, ready to go to the farm and harvest cacao. Cutting the pod to take out the beans is a job she has been doing for the last eight years, ever since she and her husband, Jose Antonio Perez, began producing cacao on an eight-acre plot of land. Although not directly related to this work, she grew up in the cacao plantations, since this was her father's and her grandfather's work.
Now her five children, two boys and three girls, take on part of her duties alongside their mother on the farm. The traditional division of labor is evident: men knock down the pods and women open them to take out the cacao seeds. The job that Dona Mercedes does is one that few people will ever experience, but in a few months time Dominicans and foreigners who take the Chocolate Tour can try. This eco-tourism project is being run by the Association of Cacao Producers in the East, an affiliate of the National Confederation of Dominican Cacao Farmers (Conacado).
The idea is to attract tourists to the area, and the project has the support of the First Lady's Office and the El Seibo Ecological Agency. The tour consists of three official stops, but along the 22 kilometers between El Seibo and Hato Mayor there are other stops that are almost obligatory due to the attractions.
The tour starts at Luis Mejia's farm, where all the processes in the production of cacao are demonstrated for the visitors. Dona Mercedes shows visitors how to open a cacao pod. Visitors learn that it takes three or four years for a tree to begin to produce pods and a cacao tree can last as long as 150 years, but the most abundant crops come after 40 years. A curious note is that a tree might have as many as 6,000 flowers but it will only produce about 20 pods.
Another stop is the egret sanctuary at El Rancho near the Cibao River. While the egrets make a lot of noise and emit bad odors, farmers consider them their friends because they eat insects and other pests. The second official stop is the center for gathering the seeds at San Francisco Vicentillo in El Seibo. Here is where the cacao seeds begin to change their flavor and start smelling like chocolate. Severino Vilorio explains the fermentation process. He is a youthful 74-year old who grew up farming cacao. Of his seven children, only one has followed in his footsteps. The third stop is filled with the aroma of chocolate, and the visitors can taste all the products made from the bean: liquors, wine, preserves and candy. This is the Women's United Hope Association's Fermentation Center in Yabon, El Seibo.
Non-stop from Fort Lauderdale
JetBlue Airways have announced plans to fly non-stop from Santo Domingo to Fort Lauderdale in May 2009, subject to receiving the go-ahead from the government operating authority. JetBlue plans to operate its Santo Domingo service with 150-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. JetBlue inaugurated its Santo Domingo-San Juan, Puerto Rico connection on 3 December, flying an E1980. The route has had such great demand that on 18 December an additional flight will be added, to be operated by the Airbus A320.

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