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Jamaica: After Ivan, A Jammin' Comeback

There were some exceptions. Several thousand Jamaicans lost their homes and remain homeless. And on this island where begging is unabashed, some are turning to tourists for help. As I walked along the West End Road in Negril, Franklin Pierce stopped me to ask for money.

"My roof was the first thing to go," said the handyman. "The walls collapsed next. And then the bed and other furniture started blowing away. All I could do was stand in a neighbor's house and watch it all go. Now I'm staying with friends. Can't you help me out?"


The dive shop above was just one of several damaged places in Negril. (Gary Lee -- The Washington Post)

From Associated Press at 12:00 AM

Restoration is still incomplete at some well-known Negril locales.

Rick's Cafe, where visitors have gathered for more than 20 years to belt down margaritas, catch the sunset and watch divers jump from the cliffs into the ocean, was demolished by Ivan. Behind a bright orange concrete wall, the splinters of the building are still strewn about. The owners are planning an all-out overhaul, including a swim-up bar. A reopening is tentatively scheduled for February.

A few doors down at Tensing Pen, Ivan left six of its 14 cottages and rooms heavily damaged and trees fallen around the two-acre property. The owners plan not only to restore all of the damaged cottages but to construct an African-style lodge, to be used as a dining area. "We decided to use the occasion to make a few changes," said co-owner Richard Murray. It began accepting guests last Monday and will have a full reopening by mid-December.

At the Caves, an enclave of luxury cottages set around cliffside grottos, the clean-up is in full swing. Boulders blown in from the ocean had destroyed the wall of one cottage, and the thatched roof of another lodge had been swept away.

Here, too, the owners have taken advantage of the occasion to refurbish some of the cottages. "The most heartbreaking loss was the gardens," lamented co-owner Greer-Ann Saulter. "But fortunately, in the Caribbean climate, that should come back in good time."

Other damaged Negril hotels include the Beachcomber, set to reopen Dec. 15, and Merril's Beach Resort III, on Dec. 20. Negril properties that have not yet scheduled reopening dates include Catch a Falling Star, Drumville Cove, Mariner's Inn, Negril Inn and Paradise View hotel.

In Port Antonio, another popular tourist area, Jake's, a beloved boutique property, is partially reopened. Managers at Fern Hill Club and Trident Villas and Hotel said repairs are underway, but they have not set reopening dates. All other hotels there are operating.

Details: Jamaica

GETTING THERE: Air Jamaica flies nonstop from BWI to Montego Bay, Jamaica, for $467 round trip, with restrictions. The drive from "Mobay" to Negril is an hour and a half. Most hotels offer transfers for those bound from the airport to different parts of the island.

DEALS: Rockhouse (West End Road, Negril, 876-957-4373, www.rockhousehotel.com), a hip boutique property with bungalows and rooms along the western end of Negril, has lovely ocean views, a nice pool, a restaurant and complimentary daily yoga classes. Rates are a bargain: Doubles start at $75 until Dec. 14, then go to $100 a night and up.

If you prefer all-inclusives, consider Couples Negril (Norman Manley Boulevard, Hanover, Negril, 800-268-7537, www.couples.com), a well-kept 234-room property on Seven Mile Beach. Rates, starting at $490 a night, include lodging, all meals, golf and some excursions. The hotel is offering up to $175 a night off for early bookers, depending on the room.

In Montego Bay, the Ritz-Carlton (1 Ritz-Carlton Dr., Rose Hall, St. James, 800-241-3333, www.ritzcarlton.com) is a grand option for those celebrating a honeymoon or other special occasion. Sprawling over 5,000 acres, it has tennis courts, a pool, a great health club and several restaurants. A special available until Dec. 19 has doubles going for $375 a night, including all meals and some drinks. After that, doubles start at $375 for rooms only.

INFORMATION: Jamaica Tourist Board, 800-233-4582, www.visitjamaica.com. The Jamaican Embassy Web site, www.emjamusa.org, has hurricane relief updates. -- Gary Lee


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