Following the destruction in the Caribbean caused by Hurricane ’Irma’ last week, cruise lines are sending ships to aid the relief effort, taking supplies and picking up stranded tourists.
Speaking from Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) ‘Enchantment of the Seas’, president and CEO Michael Bayley told the Miami Herald on Saturday that four ships will be used for ‘Irma’ relief efforts. Norwegian Cruise Line, also based in Miami, announced Friday that it will deploy one ship to pick up stranded tourists in the Caribbean.
RCI’s ships, several of which are sailing empty, due to storm-induced cancellations, are fully stocked and staffed, Bayley told the newspaper.
The 2,767 pax ‘Majesty of the Seas’ is sailing to St Thomas and St John in the US Virgin Islands to drop off water, ice, food and other provisions on Tuesday. The ship will offer meals to first responders before sailing with displaced tourists to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the airport is operational and from where people can catch flights home, Bayley said.
He said that RCI was working closely with authorities in the US Virgin Islands to determine which tourists are in most need of transport. The number is estimated to be between 1,500 and 3,000 people.
‘Adventure of the Seas’, which sailed from San Juan (PR) on Saturday on a seven-night Caribbean itinerary, will divert to St Maarten and was due to arrive on the Dutch and French island on Sunday morningto discharge supplies.
Bayley also said that RCI was working with the US State Department to co-ordinate an evacuation of 200 to 300 American tourists remaining on the island. Due to cancellations, the ship has several hundred empty cabins available.
‘Empress of the Seas’ and ‘Enchantment of the Seas’ were due to help in Florida.
Over the weekend, ‘Empress of the Seas’ was in the Gulf of Mexico standing by to assist Florida residents once ‘Irma’ clears the area. The ship will probably sail to Key West or the Tampa Bay area, depending on the hurricane’s path, to drop off provisions or pick up people, as needed.
‘Enchantment of the Seas’ will sail back to South Florida after the storm and also drop off provisions in Key West. It has some room to accommodate additional passengers if need be, Bayley said.
“It’s a very emotional time for everybody, being on ‘Enchantment of the Seas’ with 2,700 of my co-workers and colleagues. We are all anxious about our homes in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Broward and Miami-Dade County,” he said.
Also helping the relief effort is Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).
‘Norwegian Sky’ was en route from Cancun, Mexico, to St Thomas to pick up about 2,000 tourists stranded on the island before Hurricane ‘Irma’ hit last Wednesday. The ship is expected to arrive in St Thomas Monday evening.
“Norwegian Cruise Line is working closely with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association and the governor of St Thomas to execute this rescue mission,” the cruise line said in a statement on Friday. “Acting as a responsible corporate citizen and supporting the destinations that our ships operate in is a core value of Norwegian Cruise Line.”
Hurricane was due to hit South Florida at the time of writing (Sunday). Weather forecasters predict the storm will continue through this week, possibly hitting Georgia and South Carolina.
Miami, Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Orlando (Port Canaveral), Palm Beach, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville (JaxPort) all ceased operations last Friday. Key West is also closed and evacuated, one report said.
NCL’s larger ‘Norwegian Escape’ was in Cozumel, Mexico,with 4,000 displaced guests who were unable to secure a flight home after the ‘Escape’ and the ‘Sky’ docked in Miami last Thursday. The ship was due to leave Cozumel on Sunday morning.
Due to devastation, the ‘Norwegian Escape’ will sail only on western Caribbean itineraries until November.
Carnival Cruise Line’s spokeswoman, Jennifer De La Cruz, said the line was investigating how best to help, and “active conversations and planning” were underway, she told the local media.