Hurricane ‘Irma’ finally came ashore along the west coast of Florida last weekend.
If the hurricane had passed just 100 miles to the east, it could have devastated the world’s three biggest cruise hubs — PortMiami, Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades and Port Canaveral, local sources said.
However, as port operations were returning to normal this week, the cruise lines are facing months of disruptions to itineraries to their scheduled calls on the devastated Eastern Caribbean islands.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced it is replacing all Eastern Caribbean sailings with Western Caribbean sailings at least through November.
Royal Caribbean also has said its ships would not call at St Thomas, as well as the severely damaged island of St Martin (St Maarten) and Key West, Fla, for some time.
“Given Hurricane Irma’s impact to St Maarten, St Thomas and Key West, we will be working on alternative ports for future sailings until these islands have fully recovered,” RCCL said on its website last Monday.
PortMiami’s navigational channels revealed four submerged sailing boats and a floating dock in the turning basin. The storm also knocked two navigational buoys out of position into the middle of the channel.
All had to be removed or repositioned before the port could reopen to shipping. The US Coast Guard (USCG) finally gave the go-ahead to re-open sections of the port at 6:30 pm local time last Tuesday, allowing four cruise ships that had been waiting off Government Cut to come into port, the Miami Herald reported.
Port Tampa Bay also re-opened on the same day.
The partial reopening of Port Canaveral this week came after the USCG’s Port Captain approved restricted commercial vessel transits through the port.
RCCL’s Port Canaveral-based ‘Oasis of the Seas’ was scheduled to return last Sunday, but extended her cruise because of the storm. She was due to berth on Wednesday of this week, as was the ‘Carnival Magic’.
The port said that Carnival Cruises ‘Carnival Liberty’ will board passengers for a scheduled cruise on Thursday and on Friday and Saturday, Disney Cruise Lines will take passengers for ‘Disney Dream’ and ‘Disney Fantasy’ scheduled cruises, respectively.
Port Canaveral is the world’s second-busiest cruise port in terms of passenger numbers. It was hit by damaged power plants and a lack of fuel.