Ritz-Carlton on track

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman is on schedule for a 31 October opening of all phases of the project, developer Michael Ryan said last week.

After consideration of opening some of the oceanfront Residences at the end of June, Mr. Ryan said it was decided to open everything in October.

”There was not a strong enough response or demand (to open some Residences in June) so it makes more sense for us to open everything at the same time,’ he said.

Everything includes the hotel, the Residences, and the Seven Wonders on Seven Mile Beach, which feature La Prairie Spa, a Greg Norman-designed golf course, two restaurants by renowned Chef Eric Ripert, a Nick Bollettieri tennis facility and Jean Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment programme for children.

Although The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, structure suffered little damage as a result of Hurricane Ivan, it did experience some setbacks.

‘The hotel held up great,’ said Mr. Ryan. ‘We did not even lose one window or incur any structural damage. But with eight weeks without power, we got mould.’

There followed several months of damage assessment, during which specialised teams were flown to the island to inspect the building down to the last screw, Mr. Ryan said.

‘In order to make sure we delivered on our promise of a perfect building, we gutted it and took (all of the mould-affected materials) out,’ said Mr. Ryan. ‘Everything not 100 per cent perfect came out, including hardware, marble, millwork, carpet, etcetera; all this, after having been 65 days away from opening.’

The insurance claim adjustment process for the damage resulting from Hurricane Ivan is on-going Mr. Ryan said, noting that some interim payments have been received.

‘It’s a big job,’ he said. ‘We are working with the claims adjusters who are situated right here on site.

Mr. Ryan said there are more than 650 men working on site and that the project would get back to the previous peak of 950 employees on site within the next 60 days.

The workforce is multi-national.

‘We have the United Nations out there,’ said Mr Ryan. ‘Caymanians, Turkish, French Canadians, Americans, Philippinos, Europeans, Columbians, just to name a few.’

The main group of workers are working 10 hours per day, six days per week.

Mr. Ryan said the key players of the Seven Wonders were all supportive after Hurricane Ivan.

‘They were terrific,’ he said. ‘Their first question was ‘what can we do to help?”

Eric Ripert, the Executive Chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin, Zagat’s No. One ranked restaurant in New York City, will open two fine dining restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton.

‘He’ll be announcing all of our menus in New York on May 10 at a major press conference lunch,’ said Mr. Ryan.

The Courts at the Ritz-Carlton will feature three clay courts and one grass court.

Noted tennis coach Nick Bollettieri will custom design the tennis instruction programme for residents and guests.

‘Our tennis event, usually held in May, will be moving to December so Nick can attend and bring in his tennis professionals,’ said Mr. Ryan, adding that the grass and clay courts will help attract top professionals for tune-ups before major events.

The golf course will be nine holes, but by no means a normal nine-hole course.

‘Greg Norman is very keen to deliver the best nine-hole course in the world,’ Mr. Ryan said. ‘The longest hole will be 600 yards. Every hole has water. We’ll be able to hold tournaments and TV events.’

Mr. Ryan promised a grand opening of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, although some of the details are still secret. M. Silver Public Relations in New York, which did the Atlantis opening in the Bahamas, is handling the arrangements and promotion of the opening here, Mr. Ryan said.

‘We have some big names that will ensure everyone in the world knows about the resort and the island,’ said Mr. Ryan.