Ivan pounds southern Caribbean, heads for Jamaica, Florida

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Hurricane Ivan causes ships to alter itineraries

MIAMI -- Cruise lines, which spent a better part of this week rerouting ships around Hurricane Frances, began concentrating on avoiding Hurricane Ivan.

Royal Caribbean International will alter its Sept. 11 calls on the Grandeur of the Seas, staying at sea instead calling at Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas, and the Enchantment of the Seas will head to Nassau, Bahamas, instead of Cozumel, Mexico. The Adventure of the Seas called in St. Lucia Thursday instead of spending the day at sea.

Also, the Majesty of the Seas will a call at CocoCay in Nassau, Bahamas on Sept. 10. The Explorer of the Seas will spend Sept. 9 at sea instead of calling in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Royal Caribbean said the Mariner of the Seas itinerary was "subject to change."

Carnival Cruise Lines altered the Carnival Destinys Sept. 5 cruise from San Juan, sailing a modified itinerary.

Princess Cruises switched the Caribbean Princess' seven-day cruise departing Sept. 11 from a western Caribbean itinerary to an eastern Caribbean itinerary. In addition, Princess revised its southern Caribbean itenerary of the Golden Princess.

Celebrity Cruises altered the Century's itinerary by extending its call in Cozumel on Sept. 9 and spending Sept. 10 at sea rather than calling in Key West.

Check the cruise lines' Web sites for updates as the storm progresses.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Rebecca Tobin at [email protected].

NEW YORK -- As damage reports continued to roll in from several southeastern Caribbean islands buffeted by Hurricane Ivan earlier this week, Jamaica, Cuba and the Florida Keys were bracing to be next in line for the full brunt of the deadly storm.

Ivan, with winds of up to 160 miles per hour, tore a path through the small Windward Islands Monday and Tuesday -- killing up to 16 people across the region and leveling 90% of the homes in Grenada -- before skirting Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles, which suffered little or no damage according to island officials, on Wednesday.

In Jamaica -- which lies directly in Ivans projected path and could be struck by late Friday afternoon -- residents and hoteliers were busy Thursday battening down the hatches.

According to the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), efforts were under way in cooperation with hotels, tour operators and airlines to facilitate the safe evacuation and shelter of visitors currently on the island.

We have a clear set of precautions laid down and hoteliers and other operators have been advised to follow these procedures immediately, said Paul Pennicook, director of tourism at the JTB, in an official statement.

In Montego Bay, the 427-room Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort Rose Hall -- which had evacuated most paying guests to the mainland by Thursday afternoon -- was sheltering guests from older and more vulnerable area hotels who hadnt yet left the island, according to spokeswoman Verona Carter.

Being relatively brand new, our hotel is considered one of the safest on Jamaica, she said, adding, hotel staff were securing the property and putting all necessary safety measures in place.

Although most Montego Bay residents were busy protecting their homes and stocking up on water, gasoline, medicines and cooking fuels, a mood of calm prevailed, noted Carter.

Jamaicans tend to be a bit laidback, so were going with the flow, she said. Right now, everybodys being their brothers keeper and looking out for one another.

Jamaican hoteliers were also looking out for guests longer-term well-being: According to the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), all clients with confirmed bookings at most member properties from Sept. 9 through Sept. 16 will be able to reschedule stays without penalty for up to one year.

Sandals and Beaches Resorts -- while also offering the 12-month rebooking deal -- said it was working with airlines to relocate guests to its resorts in Antigua and St. Lucia, already out of harms way. In addition, the chain said it chartered several planes to transport guests from Jamaica to Miami Thursday afternoon.

Montego Bays Daniel Sangster International Airport was still open at press time and likely will remain so until six hours before Ivan hits, said sources.

No word was available on storm preparations in Cuba, but in the low-lying Florida Keys all residents and visitors were ordered evacuated on Thursday; the hurricane could make landfall in southernmost Florida by Sunday.

Meanwhile, residents in Grenada began assessing the widespread, severe devastation from Ivan, the worst storm to hit since Hurricane Luis in 1995.

According to reports, nine Grenadians died and structures across the tiny island, including its decrepit 17th century prison, were flattened; islandwide looting was also reported and many prison detainees had escaped.

U.S.-based spokespeople for the Grenada Board of Tourism said downed phone lines made communication with the island -- where the airport remains closed -- nearly impossible, but unconfirmed reports of severe damage to some area resorts had been received.

The Coyaba Beach Resort, the Blue Orchid Hotel and the Spice Island Beach Resort were rumored to have suffered extensive structural damage, while the Mariposa Beach Resort, the Flamboyant Hotel and the Rex Grenadian Resort reportedly lost some facility roofs.

But the LaSource resort in St. George, with 128 guests still on site, sustained no major structural damage and only minimal damage to the roof and was operating with emergency generator power, according to a statement.

Meanwhile, reports from Barbados, Martinique and St. Lucia confirmed limited structural damage and some beach erosion. The hotel plant appears intact on all islands with minimal damage reported at three small hotels reported in Barbados. Most services are operating and all airports are reopened. In Trinidad and Tobago, many areas are without electricity or telephone service but structural damage was minimal and the airport is open.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister, reported millions of dollars in damages even as the assessments continued. Gonsalves did not report significant damage to the hotel plant or tourism infrastructure, although boats were damaged in the southern Grenadines. The airport on St. Vincent reopened Sept. 8.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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