Cruise lines keep shuffling in effort to dodge storms

By Rebecca Tobin

MIAMI -- Cruise lines last week were in their third straight week of repositionings to try to avoid Caribbean hurricanes -- and they were expecting to issue still more changes as Hurricane Jeanne moved through the eastern Caribbean.

Ive been in the business since 1976, and Ive never seen a scenario like this, said Terry Thornton, Carnivals vice president of marketing planning.

Executives were trying to get a handle on damage reports from Grand Cayman, a popular port call on many western Caribbean itineraries.

Its been hard to piece that together, Thornton said.

For now, Thornton said Carnival could shift to an all-Mexico itinerary or, potentially, use La Romana in the Dominican Republic to temporarily take the place of Grand Cayman.

Royal Caribbean International, meanwhile, pointed to alternative calls such as Costa Maya and Labadee, its private beach in Haiti.

Its tough -- its such a key western Caribbean port, said Jamie Haller, Royal Caribbeans director, deployment and itinerary planning.

There was better news from Jamaica. The ports in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios suffered little damage, and the Caribbean Princess was able to call in Montego Bay last week. Carnival and Royal Caribbean planned to resume calls this week. The Grand Princess, meanwhile, replaced storm-torn Grenada with Dominica.

As Hurricane Ivan approached the U.S. last week, Carnival diverted the New Orleans-bound Holiday to Galveston, Texas, and gave passengers the option of taking a bus back to New Orleans or staying on the Holiday for two more days and sailing back to New Orleans for a delayed turnaround on Saturday.

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

MIAMI -- Hurricane Ivans Caribbean rampage brought Grand Cayman and Grenada to their knees, sideswiped Jamaica and clipped the western tip of Cuba before drenching U.S. gulf coast states.

Grenadas ambassador, Dennis Antoine, said the islands damage from Hurricane Ivan, a storm that caused more than 60 deaths overall and prompted urgent appeals for assistance is incalculable. Grenada has been battered and shattered, but we will rebound.

Most resorts on Grenada took major hits. The 32-room Blue Horizons Garden Resort will close for four months for repairs. The 66-room Spice Island Beach Resort will close for at least a year.

On Grand Cayman, storm surges and wind gusts over 160 mph destroyed residences and public buildings and damaged many resorts, although the Hyatt Regency on Seven Mile Beach housed 82 guests after the storm.

We had flooding but no structural damage, said Victor Lopez, divisional vice president of Hyatt Hotels Corp.

At press time, there was no word on the new Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, a $400 million project on Seven Mile Beach, which had been scheduled for a December opening. The Marriott Grand Cayman expects to reopen by the end of October.

Pilar Bush, acting director of tourism for the Cayman Islands, said that resorts on the sister islands of Cayman Brac, including the Divi Tiara Beach Resort, and on Little Cayman are operational and will welcome visitors once flights resume.

Owen Roberts Airport on Grand Cayman is open for daytime operations for relief assistance, and Cayman Airways still plans to launch its previously announced 737 nonstop weekend service from Boston to Grand Cayman Oct. 29.

Jamaica, which was spared a direct hit by Ivan, rebounded quickly, although some smaller hotels on the south and west coasts took a beating.

Ivans impact was not as bad as wed expected, said Godfrey Dyer, president of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourism Association and managing director of the Wexford Court Hotel in Montego Bay.

In Negril, several small hotels -- including Tensing Pen, Mariners Inn, Idle a While and Catch a Falling Star -- are closed, according to the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Among large resorts, SuperClubs Grand Lido Negril, Sandals Negril, Beaches Negril and Beaches Sandy Bay will reopen Oct. 1. Some damage also was reported at luxury Island Outpost property the Caves -- already shut for renovations through October -- and at the cliffside Ricks Cafe bar.

On the south coast in Treasure Beach, Jakes, another Island Outpost resort, is closed; guests are being sent instead to Goldeneye resort near Ocho Rios. The nearby Treasure Beach Hotel, which reportedly lost its roof, also is closed.

Most resorts on Jamaicas north coast in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio weathered the storm well, although Montego Bays 69-villa Tryall Club was closed until further notice. The 524-room Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort reopens Sept. 28. Hotel Mocking Bird Hill in Port Antonio is closed.

Cruise schedules in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios resumed normal schedules. Although airports in Montego Bay and Kingston were open, Air Jamaica extended its penalty-free re-ticketing deadline through Sept. 30. 

The Mexican beach destinations of Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Cozumel were spared Ivans fury; no significant damage to resorts was reported.

Kenneth Kiesnoski and Jorge Sidron contributed to this report.

To contact reporters Gay Nagle Myers, Kenneth Kiesnoski or Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to[email protected],[email protected]or[email protected].

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