by Soo Kim from The Telegraph, September 22, 2017
The aftermath of recent hurricanes, including Hurricane Maria (the fourth named storm since Irma), has seen a string of cruise port closures in the Eastern Caribbean, including in Dominica, St Martin, St John and St Thomas (US Virgin Islands), Tortola (British Virgin Islands), St Barts and Barbuda, which are among the islands that have faced the most extensive damage.
Ports in Florida, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos and Dominican Republic have also closed, while the level of damage in St Kitts is reportedly low but under evaluation. That port remains open, along with others in the Eastern Caribbean, including Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada and Antigua, as well as Freeport in the Bahamas, Labadee in Haiti and Cuba.
The majority of cruise lines calling at affected ports have made changes to future itineraries, according Andy Harmer, director of the Cruise Lines International Association UK & Ireland (CLIA). "Passengers have been notified of these amendments and cruise lines are [updating passengers] and monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis," said Harmer.
Cruise ports in the Western Caribbean, such as Ochos Rios in Jamaica, have not been affected by the hurricanes
The organisation was unable to confirm whether passengers whose cruise journeys have been affected by the hurricanes are entitled to refunds, or able to rebook their cruises from of charge. The policy regarding recent crusie cancellations will differ according to the cruise line, CLIA told Telegraph Travel.
Several major cruise lines have updated their itineraries to affected ports, including late September sailings on board Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas with Royal Caribbean, and October sailings on board Caribbean Princess and Regal Princess with Princess Cruises.
Several cruise ships with Carnival, the Caribbean's largest cruise operator, have also been diverted to unaffected ports, following damage from Hurricane Irma, and the only ports the cruise line is currently unable to visit are St Thomas, St Maarten, Grand Turk and Key West.
"We’ll need to see what the impacts are from Maria as assessments are completed in the coming days. We will adjust itineraries as needed pending storm damage in destinations but are quite adept at rearranging itineraries and providing our guests with a great variety of attractive destinations," the cruise line said in a statement.
Holland America Line has not cancelled any sailings but the cruise line is "currently assessing its itineraries while closely monitoring the effects from Hurricane Maria this week", which could potentially affect its future Eastern Caribbean cruises, the company said in a statement.
Many cruise ships are being redirected to other ports, such to St Croix (US Virgin Islands), which is said to have been relatively unscathed by Hurricane Irma but the damage levels from Maria are yet to be fully determined.
Others are also being sent to alternative ports in the Western Caribbean including in Jamaica (Ochos Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay), Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan, Mexico's Cozumel and Costa Maya, as well as in the Southern Caribbean to Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.
“St Martin and St Thomas are two of the top three most popular destinations in the Caribbean (with the third being Nassau in the Bahamas) and those two islands will inevitably take awhile to bounce back,” Frank J Comito, CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association told Telegraph Travel.
These two hurricanes are “totally different from anything else we’ve experienced previously, in terms of the number of destinations hit, and the extent of the damage is pretty tragic,” he described.
“But 70 per cent of the destinations in the Caribbean have not been affected by the hurricanes,” he added.
Here is a guide to the latest port closures.
The island has faced severe damage from both Irma and Maria and not expected to reopen anytime soon, following damage described to be “mind-boggling” by the island’s prime minister. The next cruise ship currently scheduled to call at the port is in late October.
The Dutch side of the island (St Maarten) has suffered severe damage and the port of Philipsburg is not expected to open for weeks. Several cruise ships, including with Royal Caribbean, have cancelled their visits to St Maarten through late October, redirecting them to St Croix, St Kitts and Labadee, Haiti.
St John and St Thomas (US Virgin Islands)
Several cruise visits have been cancelled through November, with the potential for more cancellations beyond November, on cruises with Norwegian, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean.
Tortola (British Virgin Islands)
The island has faced “devastating” effects from Hurricane Irma, the island’s director of tourism said in a statement. Norwegian Cruise Line has cancelled all of its cruises there.
St Barts (Gustavia)
The island has been heavily impacted and the harbour is only open to relief efforts.
The small island faced catastrophic damage following Irma, with 90 per cent of the island’s homes reportedly destroyed.
Most ports, including La Romana, Samana and Santo Domingo were closed ahead of Hurricane Maria, with Carnival’s Glory cruise ship being the last to have been diverted from the island since September 20.
Puerto Rico (San Juan)
The island experienced a power outage following Hurricane Maria and a state of emergency was declared by the governor, with several parts evacuated since September 20.
The Bahamas (Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays)
Both ports are being evacuated in view of the arrival of Hurricane Maria.
Florida (Key West)
The port is reportedly expecting to reopen by October 20, according to Key West officials, following quicker than anticipated recovery from the effects of Hurricane Irma.
Anguilla (Road Bay)
No cruise ships are scheduled to visit the island until November. The port is currently open only to cargo ships.
The island experienced severe flooding following heavy rainfall and the damage level is yet to be determined.
“Based on our preliminary assessments and reports, St. Croix experienced serious hurricane winds and was significantly impacted, and heavy rainfall and flooding affected our Territory. Communications are limited and our teams are in the process of making an assessment of damage to our infrastructure”, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the island's commissioner of tourism, said in statement.
Turks & Caicos (Grand Turk)
Itineraries on Carnival Magic, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Sensation and Carnival Glory. Magic, Conquest and Glory have been diverted.
The island has experienced several flooding and road destruction. The island’s airport is closed.