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The first phase of the Boatswains Beach development opens in May across the road from the existing Turtle Farm. Phase II will feature:

  • A 1.3-million-gallon Saltwater Snorkel Lagoon, where visitors can swim with turtles and other marine life.
  • A predator tank (which is viewable by snorkelers), an aviary, an iguana sanctuary and a nature trail and a sunken cave.
  • A Caymanian heritage street with porch-side artisans, crafts dealers and restaurants serving typical food.
  • The Royal Watler cruise complex in George Town plans to open in May near the present cargo facility, according to McKeeva Bush, the Cayman Islands minister of tourism. Components will include:

  • A tourist information center, a retail and restaurant complex and a 32,000-square-foot plaza where cruise groups will gather.
  • Seven kiosks on the plazas edge for souvenir vendors.
  • A finger pier allowing secure access for passengers and crew, which will be separate from the retail area and plaza.
  • NEW YORK -- Available room inventory on Grand Cayman stands at approximately 1,180 rooms out of a total of more than 3,380 rooms in hotels, resorts, condominiums and guesthouses, according to the Department of Tourism.

    Tourism officials anticipate that room inventory will top the 50% mark by next month and reach pre-Ivan levels by early next year. 

    McKeeva Bush, leader of business and minister of tourism, said that the travel industry accounted for 50% of the destinations gross domestic product and 27% of all employment.

    These figures demonstrate that it is more critical than ever that our hurricane recovery efforts proceed quickly and efficiently to keep our tourism project vibrant, he said.

    Bush hosted the recent Cayman Islands Looking Forward media conference in New York to update the destinations status six months after Ivan.

    Although some hotels have run into reopening delays because of insurance snags and construction delays -- including the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort (reopening in June), the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman (reopening in early 2006) and Treasure Island -- others are back to normal operations.

    These include the Westin Casuarena Resort & Spa, the Courtyard by Marriott, the Beach Suites at the Hyatt, Cobalt Coast, the Reef Resort and a number of condominiums and smaller hotels.

    The new, 365-room Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman is on target for an October opening.

    Reopenings planned include Comfort Suites in late March; Sunshine Suites Resort by Wyndham in April; Seven Mile Beach Resort in May; and Grand Caymanian in June.

    All major attractions on Grand Cayman are open as are 135 restaurants in George Town, Seven Mile Beach and West Bay.

    Red Sail Sports is in operation at Hyatts Beach Suites as well as at the Westin and Courtyard.

    Rod McDowall, Red Sail Sports operations manager on Grand Cayman, said that great weather and good prices make the Cayman Islands a bargain right now.

    Bush said that 55 flights now serve Grand Cayman weekly from 13 U.S. cities on seven carriers.

    Once our guests arrive, they can choose among 45 watersports operators and 250 dive sites in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, he said.

    Current programs for the family market include the Cayman Islands Sea School with SpongeBob SquarePants during Cayman Brac Family Week July 10 to 17; and Kids Sea Camp at Cobalt Coast Resort & Suites, July 23 to 30 or July 30 to Aug. 6.

    Rates for the sea camp start at  $1,412 per adult and at $650 for kids ages 4 to 9.

    While the parents dive Grand Caymans reefs and walls, their kids are enrolled in learn-to-dive programs taught by certified dive instructors.

    For details, visit www.cobaltcoast.com or www.kidseacamp.com.

    Hyatt Beach Suites Sunshine on Sale package, valid through August and from Oct. 1 to Dec. 18, gives the fifth night free when four are booked in a one-bedroom oceanview suite. The fourth night is free throughout September.

    To make a reservation, call (800) 55 HYATT.

    Upcoming events include Cayfest on Grand Cayman, from April 15 to 23; Earth Day Reef Watch and Beach Clean Ups on Grand Cayman on April 23; and the annual Cook-Off on Little Cayman on May 14.

    Cayman Airways is expected to launch a program of off-season packages and fares from its U.S. gateways this spring.

    To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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