Arguably one of the most attractive of all the Caribbean islands, Grenada has long been a magnet for cruise ships and their passengers. There's never been a better time to visit Grenada as a cruise ship passenger, thanks to the recent opening of a thoroughly modern cruise ship terminal alongside a spacious Welcome Centre and Duty Free Mall. The terminal is designed so that passengers may pass through the mall before disembarking or embarking their ship. The mall part of the terminal is open to the general public as well.
This complex has been developed alongside the modern cruise ship berths to welcome passengers ashore with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of fun. After passing through the Immigration & Welcome Centre, passengers may enter a light and spacious duty free complex with a wide range of kiosks and outlets. Outside the terminal building there is a landscaped public square giving easy access to the bustling market and city of St George's, just a few steps across Melville Street.
The new terminal is equipped to handle - simultaneously - either four small cruise ships or two mega ships and one medium sized ship. This excellent facility is seen as the ideal starting point from which to boost the cruise industry of Grenada. The main jetty at the Melville Street Cruise Terminal was completed at the end of 2003 and the Welcome Centre and Duty Free Hall were completed in 2005. The Duty Free Mall - officially opened in December 2005 - provides 35 units for retail outlets along with 10 positions for kiosks. The units include many well known names in electronics, fashion, jewellery, perfumes and watches. In addition, there are many outlets offering local crafts, souvenirs and snacks.
The first cruise ship was berthed at Melville Street on 21 December 2004. Grenada Ports Authority is working closely with the island's Board of Tourism to establish Grenada as a cruise destination of first choice in the southern Caribbean.
For many years, cruise ships used to berth in St George's Harbour, one of the prettiest in the Caribbean. But this changed with the opening of the new terminal in 2005. Located on the western shoreline of the city, the new terminal offers much easier access to berths, while passengers can disembark closer to the city's main shopping areas as well as enjoying the delights of the duty free mall inside the terminal complex.
The new terminal is part of Grenada's US$80 million Melville Street Development project - the largest private/public joint venture ever seen on the island and its biggest generator of income to date.
The initial phase costing US$42 million involved a lot of land reclamation in the Melville Street area together with construction of the berths and Welcome Centre and Shopping Mall. In the second phase, another 10 acres of land will be reclaimed and developed to accommodate a mix of commercial and retail lots.
The seabed has been dredged to a depth of 10.5 metres to allow the world's largest cruise ships to call at the port. Dredged material was used to reclaim the 10 acres of land. Piles ranging in length from 26 metres to 40 metres were driven into the seabed to allow construction of the 375 metre jetty. The North Berth has 9.8 metres depth alongside, while the South Berth has 10.5 metres.
Outside the terminal buildings there are parking lots and pick-up and drop-off points for taxis. Just a few steps north of the terminal is the new Melville Street Bus Terminus.
The cruise ship terminal was developed by St George's Newport Property Development Company Ltd, which is an 80-20 partnership between Zublin Grenada Ltd and the Grenada Ports Authority.
Cruise lines calling Grenada include some of the best known operators in the Caribbean including Aida Cruise, Celebrity Cruises, Club Med Cruises, Cunard Line Ltd, EasyCruise, Fred. Olsen, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises USA, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Ocean Village Cruises, P&O Cruises, Carnival and Princess Cruises.
The Caribbean cruise season runs from October to April and during the 2005-2006 season Grenada attracted 225 ship calls and handled some 225,000 passengers. It is not uncommon for St George's to handle three or more vessels a day in high season, with up to 10,000 passengers coming ashore for shopping, sightseeing and leisure activities. Cruise ships continue to call intermittently outside the main season.
On their arrival in Grenada, passengers have a wide choice of excursions and tours. Buses and taxis are right outside the terminal building and the Welcome Centre can assist with bookings. Many tour operators employ multilingual staff to help non-English-speaking visitors.
St George's is a small town, so most areas can be easily reached on foot. Once outside the duty free mall, it is only a few steps to the main shopping areas, where duty free outlets, handicraft shops and local produce can be found as well as cafes.
The beautiful Carenage area of St George's, just a 10-minute walk from the cruise terminal, is full of historical buildings and monuments. Most of St George's can be seen from the Carenage, although many buildings and churches still show signs of the hurricane damage caused by Ivan in 2004. Places not to be missed are the Market Square, Fort George, the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Grenada National Museum.
A short climb from the cruise terminal will reward the visitor with wonderful views of the Carenage and the Lagoon from Fort George, with its splendid hilltop location between the harbour and the open sea.