Captiva’s South Seas Resort is Back
Normalcy is returning to South Seas Island Resort.
A year after reopening on a limited basis, the Captiva resort pummeled by Hurricane Charley in 2004 has undergone an estimated $140 million makeover.
“It’s a rebirth,” said managing director Craig Schwan. His biggest challenge, Schwan said, “is really getting the word out that we’ve reopened.”
To that end, owner LXR Luxury Resorts will throw a grand reopening celebration tonight for about 250 local movers and shakers. A separate party and open house for neighboring Captiva residents is planned for April or May. After the VIP party, Schwan will go to New York City to meet with key travel publications.
Schwan estimated 1,600 to 1,800 people will stay at the resort this week. That’s about half the population Schwan’s predecessor said filled the resort during a weekend in the high winter season before Charley. Schwan said the pre-Charley estimate probably included non-overnight guests who used to be permitted on the property to shop and dine. With weather up north still chilly, this week is one of the most desirable and pricey.
Accommodations range from about $300 a day at the Harborside Hotel to $1,300 for a three-bedroom condo at Seabreeze overlooking Pine Island Sound on the resort’s north end.
About 529 out of 579 lodging units in the resort rental pool are restored and ready for use, Schwan said. The rest, all privately owned condos, are close to completion, he said.
With about 700 workers on the 330-acre property, the resort is close to pre-Charley staffing.
New owners, new look
Owner LXR is an affiliate of The Blackstone Group, which bought South Seas and nine other Florida properties in early 2005 for $367 million.
LXR took over South Seas in the middle of post-hurricane repairs and injected its ideas into the evolving plans. Choice property along Pine Island Sound was stripped of damaged and outdated meeting spaces and a couple of older pools.
In their place: The Pointe Restaurant & Grill and two pools ringed with cabanas that are soon to have LCD and plasma TVs as well as high-speed wireless Internet access.
With the exception of the clubby old King’s Crown restaurant — now reserved for private social functions such as weddings — group meeting space is concentrated away from the water and closer to the public Captiva Drive. In January, LXR “privatized” South Seas. That means only overnight guests and community members of the resort’s club are able to dine and shop behind the security gate.
Schwan said privatization is working out better than he expected.
“It provides exclusivity, and allows us to provide the best service possible,” he said.
Memberships for people who aren’t property owners start at $500 a year for access to all restaurants and shops and the on-resort trolley service.
A second level at $2,000 adds use of the fitness center and golf course. A $3,000 premium membership includes all available amenities such as a private stretch of beach with comfy chairs and beach toys.
Michigan resident Edward Thomas said he doesn’t mind privatization, but noted there aren’t as many dining options as before and “the food prices are high.” “Four dollars for one scoop of ice cream, $10 for a hamburger. I can afford it, but I don’t need to pay $10 for a hamburger.”
As he watched his 21Ú2-year-old grandson, Carsten Melbye, play in one of the new swimming pools, Thomas said he’s most impressed with the new landscaping.
On the golf course alone, that included adding about 200 coconut palms, 330 sabal palms and 7,000 shrubs, along with 5,000 aquatic and dune plants.
Thomas has been coming to South Seas for more than 30 years and especially prizes “the relaxed atmosphere, the weather and meeting good people who have become friends.”
This is Thomas’ first visit since Hurricane Charley because he couldn’t bear to see the resort in tatters. Plus he had health problems to overcome.
Now, he said, he’s well and the resort is, too.
“Some things have a different flavor, but that’s all right,” Thomas said. “I just hope the prices don’t drive away the families.”
From the News-Press, March 2007