Hurricane Aftermath: What to Know If You've Booked a Caribbean Cruise
Last month, two catastrophic hurricanes hit the Caribbean and Florida. As Travel + Leisure previously reported, cruise lines have been forced to drastically change their itineraries to avoid damaged ports of call.
While the skies have cleared, hard-hit destinations like Puerto Rico and St. Martin are just beginning a long and difficult recovery.
If you have a Caribbean cruise coming up, don’t panic — if your port of call has been impacted by the storm, cruise lines have plenty of other options to choose from. Either way, however, travelers should confirm itinerary details with the cruise in advance.
What Cruise Ports Are Closed?
According to Cruise Critic, more than 30 cruise ports were damaged by the hurricanes, though many have already reopened. Key West, for example, welcomed Royal Caribbean cruisers on September 24. Shortly thereafter, Carnival announced its return to the region.
Unfortunately, not every destination was spared. The Turks and Caicos port, Grand Turk, is not expected to be in operation until November. And in St. Martin, ports will remain closed until November 11, while the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John could see cruise ships as early as October 15.
The British Virgin Islands, which were ravaged by Hurricane Irma, are hoping to reopen the port of Tortola by November 1.
What Cruise Ports are Open?
Travelers may be surprised at the number of Caribbean cruise ports that were entirely unaffected by the storms. In fact, both Irma and Maria avoided altogether the port cities of the Western Caribbean (which includes Mexican ports of call and Belize) and the Southern Caribbean (the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao).
Additionally, the Bahamas are virtually unscathed and open for business. And the St. Kitts port Basseterre opened almost immediately after Hurricane Irma.
Many other ports, including Gustavia on St. Bart’s, are open, but only for relief efforts — one of the reasons it's important to confirm itinerary details for your individual sailing.
Puerto Rico Cruises
Travelers with plans to embark from San Juan or call at Puerto Rico on a cruise should be in touch with their cruise line. The U.S. territory was devastated by Hurricane Maria when it barreled across the island as a category 4 storm on September 20.
Carnival has canceled six of its forthcoming itineraries heading to and from San Juan, Cruise Critic reported. It’s quite possible additional sailings will be rerouted or canceled.
Other islands that sustained maximum damage, including Barbuda and Dominica, are closed indefinitely.
Many cruise lines based in the area are — instead of accommodating vacationers — assisting with relief efforts. Royal Caribbean, for example, is using its Puerto Rico-based ship, the Adventure of the Seas, to rescue locals and deliver much-needed provisions.