Key West reports that it is ready to welcome cruise ships this weekend following the damage the destination sustained during Hurricane Irma, but a full tourism recovery is still a ways off.
“We’ll be welcoming visitors as soon as we get the full go-ahead from Monroe County officials and cities within our five distinct tourism districts,” said Harold Wheeler, the Keys tourism council’s director, in a written release.
Royal Caribbean reports that the cruise line has received confirmation that its ships can return to Key West starting this weekend. The first ship will call in the destination Sunday, September 24.
As a result, Empress of the Seas’ September 23 and 27, as well as its October 2, 7 and 11 cruises to Cuba are no longer modified. Havana welcomed a call from Empress of the Seas on September 20. The terminal, port and transportation were ready and all tours ran as scheduled, Royal Caribbean said.
Because both destinations are ready to welcome cruise guests, Royal Caribbean’s offer for guests to cancel and receive a future cruise credit will end by close of business Sunday, September 24. All cancellations to receive a cruise credit must be completed by this time so the line can offer the stateroom to another traveler, Royal Caribbean said.
According to the latest update, as previously reported the island chain’s official targeted reopening date remains October 20, the beginning of Key West’s Fantasy Fest. However, that date may be advanced.
American Airlines, Delta and Silver Airways have resumed commercial air service into Key West International Airport. Still, overnight visitors are asked to postpone immediate vacation plans throughout the island chain and contact their airlines and hotels for further details.
The Port of Key West has reopened for daytime operations ahead of Royal Caribbean’s call.
All bridges on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway are safe for travel. A few breaches in the roadbed caused by storm surge were quickly repaired, according to Florida Department of Transportation officials. At the same time, a local state of emergency is still in effect, and officials continue to discourage visitors from traveling to the Keys via the Overseas Highway in order to avoid hindering recovery efforts.
In terms of hotels, Key Largo and Key West suffered the fewest impacts, and properties there have returned or are returning to regular operations. Islamorada’s bayside and Marathon’s gulfside facilities have substantially fewer effects than oceanside. Some oceanside resorts and facilities will require weeks or months of repairs to reopen for business.
Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key reports that its team is still assessing damage, and a reopening date is yet to be determined. The Resort will waive the cancellation policy for any upcoming reservations. Guests are asked to please be patient while the Resort processes any deposit refunds.
95 percent of the power has been restored from Key West to Crane Boulevard on Sugarloaf Key, and all islands except Cudjoe Key and Summerland Key now have water 24/7.
The Lower Keys, located between Marathon and Key West, received the brunt of the storm, and recovery there is likely to take the longest.