Status Update on Puerto Rico After Hurricane

Nestor Serrano walks on the upstairs floor of his home, where the walls were blown off, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. // Photo by AP Photo/Gerald Herbert via Newscred

The news coming out of Puerto Rico since it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria is getting grimmer by the day, with reports of locals now running out of drinkable water and still without power for the foreseeable future.

In fact, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told CBS News, “People are really dying."

Cruz told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud that two people who were on life support in a hospital died on Monday because the hospital ran out of diesel fuel that was powering its generators.

From a tourism standpoint, however, many hotels are currently open, although not accepting reservations. Many carriers have resumed flights to San Juan, although most are being used for relief efforts. 

Travel Agent breaks down the latest hotel damage assessments, as well as other news from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. 

Hotel Damage Assessments

International Hospitality Enterprises (IHE), which operates six hotels and resorts in San Juan, Puerto Rico, issued a statement Thursday morning announcing that its hotels “safely withstood Hurricane Maria.”

The six hotels continue to operate with a few changes to daily functions and expect to be fully operational within the next 30 days.  

The IHE properties are Hotel El Convento, Condado Vanderbilt, La Concha Hotel, A Renaissance Resort, Doubletree by Hilton San Juan, Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort and Condado Palm Inn and Suites

According to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Hotel El Convento, Condado Vanderbilt, Hotel Miramar, Hotel Villa Montana, the Coral Princess Inn, Holiday Inn Express San Juan, the Intercontinental San Juan, La Concha Hotel, A Renaissance Resort, San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, The Wave and the Verdanza Hotel are all open but are not taking reservations prior to October 22. The Condado Plaza Hilton is expected to re-open on October 15, according to the CHTA.

According to the CHTA, Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort is open, but not taking new reservations prior to September 30.

Hyatt House San Juan and Hyatt Place Bayamon are both open but are not taking new reservations prior to October 15.

The Hilton Condado Lagoon Villa is open, but is not taking new reservations prior to October 31, according to the CHTA. 

Ritz-Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach, El San Juan Resort & Casino and Coral by the Sea are all closed and are not taking new reservations until further notice, according to the CHTA. 

In an official statement, Caribe Hilton announced it will not be taking new reservations until October 31. 

According to a statement issued by El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, the hotel is “no longer taking new reservations or accepting arrivals through December 15. Guests can rest assured cancellation fees will be waived for reservations from September 19 through these dates. We encourage guests with reservations to contact 1-800-HILTONS for the most up-to-date information."

The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort will remain closed through the end of the year, according to a statement issued by the hotel. 

“We have relaxed our cancellation policies so guests with future reservations may cancel or rebook for a later date without penalty,” according to the Wyndham statement. 

The hotels will continue to take care of guests (travelers and locals) already in-house until they are able to safely return home, according to the release. 
 
“The immediate priority continues to be the rebuilding effort in Puerto Rico. Several of the properties are hosting various federal groups, relief agencies and corporations that are assisting on re-establishing the regular services on the island,” according to the CHTA statement. “Room reservations are temporarily being managed by each property directly to ensure direct communication with our customers.”

Costa Bahia Hotel & Convention Center issued a statement announcing it is open and currently operating with an electric generator and a water tank system.

According to a statement issued by the Hyatt Residence Club Dorado, “We do know that the resort sustained damage, but ask for your patience while we evaluate the extent of the damage. We understand your concerns and assure you our goal is to keep you informed with the latest and most accurate information. We will share details as they become available.”

Flight Updates

The latest flight schedule for flights to and from Luis Munoz Marín International Airport, according to the airport's official Facebook page

Although United Airlines is now operating flights to and from San Juan, Puerto Rico, the carrier is still recommending clients postpone their Puerto Rico trips until conditions improve, according to an official United statement issued Thursday morning.

“The island is still experiencing a lack of power, limited transportation options and no hotel room availability,” according to the United statement. “Road conditions near the airport and around the island are also very poor, making it difficult to get around.”

But if clients are still planning on going through with a trip to San Juan, the carrier urges that all travelers flying United should continuously check the United app or website for flight updates.

United customers flying through Puerto Rico through October 12 can rebook through October 15 between the same city pair. For rebooked travel after October 15, or for a change in departure or destination city, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. Rescheduled travel must be completed within one year from the date when the ticket was issued.

Southwest Airlines issued a similar statement, noting that “Airport conditions at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) remain poor and authority to operate flights into/out of SJU is heavily restricted, following the impact of Hurricane Maria.”

According to the statement, Southwest plans to resume scheduled flights to and from San Juan (SJU) with a reduced schedule starting today, September 28.  The statement also noted that seat availability is extremely limited due to high demand.

Southwest Airlines is offering customers with reservations for flights through San Juan through October 15, as well as Punta Cana through September 30, the ability to rebook in the original class of service or travel standby within 14 days of their original date of travel.

JetBlue Airways announced on its website that it is operating daily relief flights into Puerto Rico, filled with much needed supplies such as food, water, tarps, cots, batteries, and generators donated by JetBlue, and will be offering remaining seats to customers. 

“As these relief flights return from San Juan, we will also be utilizing all available seats to accommodate those in need,” according to a statement posted by the carrier. “Additional relief flights will be operating to the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Flights departing from September 29 through October 1 were made available Tuesday to customers with previously cancelled reservations. Customers should call 1-800-JETBLUE to rebook. The reservations line is available from Puerto Rico.

JetBlue customers scheduled to fly through Puerto Rico through December 15 can rebook new flights by November 1, with rebooked travel to be completed by December 15. 

American Airlines resumed partial operations to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU), Friday, September 22. The carrier is operating five roundtrip flights, including four roundtrips from/to Miami (MIA) operating on Boeing 737-800 and one roundtrip from/to Philadelphia (PHL) operating on an Airbus A330-200

The planes are also delivering supplies and transporting additional American team members who are traveling to the island to assist Puerto Rico-based colleagues in restarting operation at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.

For American Airlines customers scheduled to fly through San Juan, Puerto Rico, through November 30, they can rebook through March 31, 2018. 

According to a statement made on Delta's website, “When rescheduled travel occurs beyond October 7, 2017, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity, one year from date of original issue. If travel is not able to be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance. Applicable change fee and fare difference will apply for new travel dates. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity.”

Cruise News

Carnival Sensation
Carnival Cruise Line has had to cancel several itineraries out of San Juan due to damage to its pier. 

According to Carnival Cruise Line, port officials in Puerto Rico have informed the cruise line that its terminal in San Juan sustained extensive damage as a result of Hurricane Maria, and that repairs could take several weeks, according to Carnival brand ambassador John Heald. Full damage assessments are still ongoing. Due to the damage sustained by the Port of San Juan, San Juan sailings have been cancelled for October 1 and October 8.

Royal Caribbean has cancelled Adventure of the Seas’ September 30 cruise out of San Juan in order to use the ship for evacuation and humanitarian efforts. The ship arrived Wednesday, September 27 and will operate humanitarian calls in San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix to aid in the evacuation and donate critical supplies to each destination. The ship will bring evacuees to Fort Lauderdale before returning to San Juan October 6 to prepare for the October 7 cruise.

MSC Cruises said that it will continue to operate four ships in the Caribbean over the next few months – including MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia and MSC Opera – with the introduction of a fifth, the new MSC Seaside, in December.

Norwegian Cruise Line reports it is working with local partners to assess any potential damages in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships have otherwise resumed normal operations.

Princess Cruises reports that it will have no ships in the Caribbean until Caribbean Princess’ departure from Fort Lauderdale on October 7. That sailing had been modified to replace its call at St Thomas with a call at San Juan. While repairs at the port are still ongoing, the cruise line says that it intends to keep this call on October 10, although it will keep guests advised of any changes. 

For a complete breakdown of all hurricane-related cruise changes, click here

Trump Waives Jones Act to Speed Up Aid to Puerto Rico

According to Bloomberg and other media outlets, President Donald Trump has ordered the Jones Act to be waived for shipments to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico immediately.

According to the Bloomberg report, the decision, which was made at the request of Governor Ricardo Rossello, will now allow non-U.S. ships to provide aid to the U.S. territory. 

According to the Bloomberg report, the waiver will be in effect for 10 days and cover all products being shipped to Puerto Rico, Department of Homeland Security Spokesman David Lapan said in an email.

Drinking Water Crisis

According to AOL and several other media outlets, roughly half of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents still lack drinkable water one week after Hurricane Maria. About 44 percent of the Puerto Rican population remains without drinking water, the Department of Defense said in a statement Wednesday.

Visit www.seepuertorico.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260

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