ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada - When Grenada welcomed its first megaship since Hurricane Ivan with the arrival of Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Spirit earlier this month, tourism and cruise line officials already had carried out inspection certification tours to determine Grenada's readiness.

Licensed vendors, taxi drivers and other providers had gone through service orientation workshops before the ships arrived. They wore T-shirts and badges identifying them as certified to do business with visitors. Sites and attractions that could be revitalized in the short run were identified for the inspections.

Edwin Frank of the Grenada Board of Tourism said cruise passengers were handed information sheets that described Ivan's path over the island and the damage left in its wake.

"We told our vendors, store clerks, taxi drivers and restaurant workers that they had to know how to respond to visitors' questions regarding the storm," Frank said. "Many visitors coming to our island now had never before seen what a hurricane can do."

He said cruise ship arrivals "effectively ushered in the winter season."

Radio messages were broadcast throughout Grenada before ships arrived to "let the locals know to be their wonderful selves," Frank said.

Cruise passengers were welcomed with steel bands and a chorus of students from St. George's Anglican Senior School. The pier was festively decorated with bunting and balloons.

Tourism officials also printed descriptions of sites to be visited on the island tours. Frank explained that Ivan's winds had ripped many of the permanent plaques and markers from the sites.

Before departing Grenada, passengers were asked to participate in a survey to gauge their reactions to various aspects of their island visit.

Several nutmeg-processing plants, a rum distillery, parts of the rain forest, the national park and a couple of beaches were visited on the island tours.

Because Ivan did not create a big surge or high seas, Grenada's reefs and wrecks were not disturbed by the storm, according to Frank.

Snorkel and dive tours can be arranged through Aquanauts Grenada dive shop at True Blue Bay Resort near St. George's.

Dive Grenada at the Flamboyant Hotel will open next month. Eco Dive & Trek, with locations at Coyaba Beach Resort and Allamanda Beach Resort, is closed, as is ScubaTech at the Calabash Hotel.

Grenada hotels that are open or soon will open include Bel Air Plantation, the Calabash Hotel, Grenada Grand Beach Resort (its conference center is closed), Allamanda Beach Resort (some rooms open), True Blue Bay Resort (fully operational by Dec. 1), the Mariposa Hotel and the Monmot Hotel.

The Laluna reopens on Nov. 25, the Flamboyant Hotel will reopen on Dec. 20 with 36 of its 61 units and Blue Horizons Garden Resort plans a mid-January reopening.

Closed until further notice are Almost Paradise Cottages, the Grand View Inn, Mamma's Lodge, the Palm Court Apartments, the Palm Grove Guest House, the Pelican Inn, South Winds Holiday Cottages & Apartments and Villamar Holiday Resort.

The Coyaba, which plans to be back in operation in November 2005, begins reconstruction next month and will upgrade "from a three-star hotel to a five-star hotel," according to Richard Cherman, the resort's general manager.

Spice Island Beach Resort plans to open its doors on Dec. 1, 2005.

Rex Grenadian will be closed until September, and the Siesta Hotel hopes to open in March.

At LaSource, owner Leon Taylor said that although Ivan's powerful winds damaged the resort's roofs, windows, tiles, glass and doors, and the sea blasts corroded much of the hardware, "the structure survived because it was built to South Florida codes."

Taylor said he plans to "redo and upgrade the whole resort."

"We will reopen next December better than ever," he said.

Many on Taylor's staff have temporarily moved to other resorts in the Caribbean, although Taylor maintains a core group to operate the resort and grounds until reconstruction begins.

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

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI