“Tour Group Arrives by Personal Watercraft” published in The News-Press, Ft. Myers, Fla.- October 19, 2004

Tour group arrives by personal watercraft

Published by news-press.com on October 19, 2004
Winyah Hotel & Suites, a boutique hotel near downtown Fort Myers, got some unusual group business on Saturday.

The tourists arrived not in a motorcoach, but on personal watercraft down the Caloosahatchee River, from Indiantown on Florida’s east coast.

This was the first time Atlanta-based Discovery River Tours brought a group into the City of Palms. Judging from remarks by co-owner Vicki Williams on Monday, it won’t be the last time

“Everybody said what a beautiful, relaxing ride it was. They loved their stay in Fort Myers,” said Williams, who joined the on-road support team.

On Saturday morning, 18 tourists and two company river guides began their three-day, 335-mile journey on the St. Lucie Canal, traveled west on the lower rim canal of Lake Okeechobee, and then down the Caloosahatchee. They docked at Centennial Harbour Marina, next door to the Winyah.
Their luggage was waiting for them in their rooms at the Winyah. After freshening up, the tourists walked to Moretti’s Italian Grill for dinner.

On Sunday, they took the same set of waterways back to Indiantown, where they stayed at the historic Seminole Inn. The tour concluded Monday, with a canal-and-river run to Port St. Lucie.

The tourists brought their own personal watercraft. Discovery River Tours provided or arranged for gasoline, ice, lunches, lodging, luggage shuttle and dinner. Total cost: $925 per person.

“We hope to bring some smiles, and an economic boost to some of the towns along our route,” Williams said.

Paul Faulise, Winyah Hotel & Suites manager, was excited for the opportunity. “Although we’re a Superior Small Lodging, we don’t get the opportunity often to host groups.”

Superior Small Lodging is a designation awarded to smaller hotels, bed and breakfasts and inns that meet certain standards for cleanliness, safety, security, comfort, service level and property condition.

But the Winyah, with 27 units, just isn’t big enough for most bus-based groups. That doesn’t mean the Winyah hasn’t been busy. After Hurricane Charley, “we were ready for business right away. There was not a drop of water in the suites or rooms,” Faulise said.