The first ship to return to Key West after the destruction left by Hurricane ‘Irma’ was ‘Empress of the Seas’ on 24th September.
The first Carnival cruise ship to return to Key West was the ‘Carnival Victory’ on 26th September. ‘Carnival Paradise’ was due in on the following day and the cruise line was due to resume normally scheduled stops at the port by the middle of this week.
Key West had announced late last week that the island was officially re-opened to tourists, Cruise Critic reported.
However, several popular ports in the Caribbean remain closed due to hurricane damage, including St Thomas, St Maarten (St Martin), Grand Turk, and San Juan (PR).
San Juan was tentatively scheduled to reopen this week for cruises that originate out of the port but this plan was pushed back by at least another week.
While a handful of Caribbean cruise ports re-emerged from Hurricane ‘Irma’ to welcome cruise ships in the weeks following the storm, many others still recovering from damage to their islands were put back on alert as Hurricane ‘Maria’ made its devastating way through, Cruise Critic said.
More than 30 Caribbean cruise ports have been affected by either ‘Irma’ or ‘Maria’. Over a dozen ports have re-opened to cruise passengers since ‘Irma’, some faster than expected. For example, Key West had originally expected to be closed to cruise ships through 20th October, but reopened to Royal Caribbean’s ‘Empress of the Seas’ on 24th September.
Seven ports are officially closed, due to damage from Hurricane ‘Irma’; others — such as Dominica — were equally devastated by Maria. Other ports are still are pending further assessment.
Hurricane ‘Maria’ made landfall in Dominica on 18th September, as a Category 5 storm with winds of nearly 160 mph. The island suffered severe damage. ‘Maria’ also passed by the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. While Martinique escaped the brunt of the storm and its airport reopened 19th September, Guadeloupe received flooding and debris. The airport in Pointe-a-Pitre remains closed.‘Maria’ touched down in St Croix on the evening of 19th September with winds reportedly in the 100 mph range. On the following morning, ‘Maria’ made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, knocking out power across the entire island. ‘Maria’ passed close to the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic on the morning of 21st September as a Category 3 storm.
As for some of the other ports, Nassau, and other Bahamian ports, are open, escaping any effects from ‘Maria’.
St Kitts welcomed two vessels on 23rd September- ‘Carnival Fascination’ and Royal Caribbean’s ‘Adventure of the Seas’.
Bridgetown, Barbados is also open, while Antigua escaped much of the damage caused by ‘Irma’. The scheduled call at St John’s of the ‘Adventure of the Seas’ on 19th September was diverted to Aruba due to ‘Maria’.
Sister island of Barbuda suffered severe damage in the storm.
Haiti was relatively unscathed by ‘Irma’. Royal Caribbean’s ‘Harmony of the Seas’ called on Labadee, RCCL’s private island, on 14th September.
According to a statement from Norwegian Cruise Line, “We have received confirmation that the port facilities in Havana were not impacted by the storm [Irma] and our tour operators are ready to receive cruise guests.”
Norwegian Sky’s four-day cruise to Cuba departed on 18th September as scheduled. ‘Irma’ passed over the northern part of Cuba, and it was been reported that Havana experienced major flooding, with widespread power outages and wind damage.
‘Maria’ passed over Martinique on 18th September. The port re-opened on 20th September, Cruise Critic said in its roundup.
By the middle of this week, ‘Maria’ was heading for North Carolina as a Category 1 Hurricane but was weakening, according to the AccuWeather centre.