It’s been a tough few weeks for cruise lines operating in the Caribbean. The one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria already has forced Royal Caribbean, Carnival and several other big players in the region to re-route dozens of sailings, and more itinerary changes are in the works. The storms knocked two of the region’s busiest cruise ports — Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and Philipsburg, St. Maarten — off cruise schedules for weeks and maybe months. Several other popular cruise destinations including Tortola in the British Virgin Islands also are closed to ships for now.
Still, as big as they were, Irma and Maria only affected a small slice of the vast Caribbean Sea. While they left a trail of destruction across a string of Eastern Caribbean islands, the storms didn’t touch the Western Caribbean — home to more than a dozen cruise ports including Cozumel, Mexico; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Harvest Caye, Belize. Nor did they affect Southern Caribbean cruise destinations such as Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Lucia and Barbados.
Also relatively unaffected were the big ports of The Bahamas, which are among the biggest destinations for cruise ships sailing from Florida.
Which destinations in the Caribbean and The Bahamas are closed to ships for the coming weeks and months? Which remain open? Here, a port-by-port look at the status of significant stops in the region in the wake of Irma and Maria:
► Amber Cove, Dominican Republic. Open.
The Carnival Corp.-operated port along the north coast of the Dominican Republic was relatively unaffected by Irma, and early reports are that it also was relatively unaffected by Maria. The storm on Thursday passed just to the north of Hispaniola — the island the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti. Carnival on Wednesday re-routed several ships that had been scheduled to visit Amber Cove in the coming days to the Western Caribbean. But the re-routings aren’t likely to continue for long. On Friday the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism issued a communique that said the port and all others around the country were back open and operating normally.
► Basseterre, St. Kitts. Open.
St. Kitts received a glancing blow from both Irma and Maria but escaped major damage, according to an official communique released Friday that declared the island open for tourism. The statement, sent to media outlets, said an evaluation found no damage from the storm at the Port Zante cruise pier, and St. Kitts welcomed two vessels on Saturday — Carnival Fascination and Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. Flights to St. Kitts resumed on Thursday.
► Belize City, Belize. Open.
Belize City was unaffected by the storms.
► Bridgetown, Barbados. Open.
Barbados was relatively unaffected by the storms and has been receiving cruise ships since shortly after Irma passed to the north.
► Castries, St. Lucia. Open.
St. Lucia was unaffected by the storms.
► Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Closed.
St. Thomas was devastated by Irma and will be closed to cruise ships for many weeks if not months. Royal Caribbean already has canceled all of its visits to St Thomas through late-October and replaced them with calls at such islands as St. Kitts and Bonaire, and at Labadee, the line’s private beach getaway in Haiti. Two other lines, Norwegian and Celebrity, have canceled St. Thomas stops even further out, into November and beyond. Norwegian is replacing St. Thomas visits through the end of the year with calls in the Western Caribbean; Celebrity has announced plans to shift its ships to places like St. Kitts and St. Croix (although damage to the latter island from Maria on Wednesday calls into question its ability to receive cruise ships — at least in the coming weeks).
► Colon, Panama. Open.
Colon was unaffected by the storms.
► Costa Maya, Mexico. Open.
Costa Maya was unaffected by the storms.
► Cozumel, Mexico. Open.
Cozumel was unaffected by the storms.
► Falmouth, Jamaica. Open.
Falmouth was unaffected by the storms.
► Fort-de-France, Martinique. Open.
Martinique experienced some flooding and power outages last week in the wake of Maria, but its port has reopened. Tours and tourist sites are expected to be up and running this week. No cruise ships are scheduled to call in Martinique until the middle of October.
► Frederiksted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Closed.
St. Croix was relatively unaffected by Irma but early reports are that the island suffered significant damage from Maria, which passed by on Sept. 19. Damage assessments are underway. St. Croix isn’t normally visited by cruise ships at this time of year. Before Irma, the next scheduled cruise call for the island wasn’t set to take place until Nov. 5, when a Celebrity Cruises ship was due to arrive. But in the wake of Irma, several lines had been planning on using St. Croix as a substitute port for nearby St. Thomas and St. Maarten, which were heavily damaged by the storm.
► Freeport, The Bahamas. Open.
Freeport was relatively unaffected by Irma, which passed far to the west, and has been receiving cruise ships for the past three weeks.
► Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Open.
Grand Cayman was unaffected by the storms.
► Grand Turk Island, Turks & Caicos. Closed.
Visited mostly by Carnival cruise ships, Grand Turk suffered damage from Irma and has been closed the past two weeks to vessels. It had been expected to reopen soon but suffered another blow on Friday as Maria passed nearby. Carnival replaced its calls in Grand Turk last week with visits to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and Freeport in The Bahamas, and on Wednesday it dropped more calls at Grand Turk planned for this week with a variety of ports.
► St. Georges, Grenada. Open.
Grenada was unaffected by the storms.
► Gustavia, St. Barts. Closed.
St. Barts was hit hard by Irma and is in no shape to receive cruise ship visitors for now. But there are no ships scheduled to call at the island until late October. There’s been no official word as to whether the overseas collectivity of France will be ready for cruise tourists by then.
► Harvest Caye, Belize. Open.
Harvest Caye was unaffected by the storms.
► Havana, Cuba. Open.
Havana suffered damage from Hurricane Irma, but the Cuban capital’s port is back open and cruise lines already have begun returning. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky, which sails to Havana weekly from Miami, resumed calls at the city on Tuesday, and Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas pulled in on Wednesday. In a post visit update on Facebook, Royal Caribbean Thursday said Havana’s terminal, port and transportation were ready for Empress, and all tours ran as scheduled.
► Key West, Fla. Open.
The Florida Keys still is recovering from Irma, and the archipelago officially remains closed to tourists arriving by car. But cruise ships began returning to Key West on Sunday with the arrival of Royal Caribbean’s 1,840 passenger Empress of the Seas. Key West was less affected by Irma than areas of the Keys to the east, where the eye of the storm came ashore, and it has opened to ships more quickly than expected. Royal Caribbean originally had canceled all of its visits to Key West through mid-October, but on Thursday the line put many of the calls back on its schedule. Carnival on Monday also put Key West back on its schedule starting with a Tuesday call by the 2,758-passenger Carnival Victory.
► Kralendijk, Bonaire. Open.
Bonaire was unaffected by the storms.
► La Romana, Dominican Republic. Open.
Located on the Dominican Republic’s southern coast, La Romana was relatively unaffected by Irma and Maria. On Friday, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism issued a communique that said the port and all others around the country were back open and operating normally, and Carnival has said one of its ships, Carnival Vista, will be calling at La Romana this week.
► Montego Bay, Jamaica. Open.
Montego Bay was unaffected by the storms.
► Nassau, The Bahamas. Open
Nassau was relatively unaffected by Irma, which passed far to the west and has been receiving cruise ships for the past three weeks.
► Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Open.
Ocho Rios was unaffected by the storms.
► Orenjestad, Aruba. Open.
Aruba was unaffected by the storms.
► Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Closed.
St. Maarten — the Dutch side of the island of St. Martin — was devastated by Irma and is not expected to reopen to cruise ships for many weeks if not months. Royal Caribbean already has canceled all of its visits to St. Maarten through late-October, replacing them with calls at the islands of St. Kitts and St. Croix, and at Labadee, the line’s private beach getaway in Haiti. But the cancellations could extend far beyond October. Already one small line, Windstar Cruises, has removed St. Maarten from its schedule through March 2018. St. Maarten is one of the most visited cruise ports in the Caribbean, drawing over 1.6 million cruisers a year. Notably, it’s a key call for all three of the world’s biggest cruise ships — Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.
► Progreso, Mexico. Open.
Progreso was unaffected by the storms.
► Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Open.
Puerto Limon was unaffected by the storms.
► Road Bay, Anguilla. Open.
The port at Road Bay has reopened since Irma passed nearby, but no cruise calls are scheduled at the island until late November.
► Roatan Island, Honduras. Open.
Roatan was unaffected by the storms.
► Roseau, Dominica. Closed.
Dominica was hit hard by Maria late on Sept. 18 through the morning of Sept. 19, with the island’s prime minister saying there was “mind-boggling” damage, and it’s not expected to reopen to cruise ships for some time. The good news for cruise operators: No ships are scheduled to call at the island until late October.
► Samana, Dominican Republic. Open.
Samana was relatively unaffected by Irma and Maria. On Friday, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism issued a communique that said the port and all others around the country were back open and operating normally. Even if the port area had suffered damage from the storm, it would have had little impact on cruise schedules as there are no ships set to visit Samana until November.
► San Juan, Puerto Rico. Closed.
The port of San Juan bounced back quickly after Irma passed nearby, but it may take longer to resume its place as a major cruise destination in the wake of Maria. The storm made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane — the first hurricane of that strength or higher to directly hit the island in 85 years — and early reports are of significant damage in many locations. Both of the major lines that operate cruises out of San Juan, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, have canceled this week’s sailings ouftot he city. Carnival also has canceled trips out of San Juan scheduled to start on Oct. 1 and Oct. 8. In addition, three Florida-based ships that were scheduled to visit San Juan this week have been re-routed to other ports.
Carnival said late Friday that its terminal in San Juan sustained extensive damage from Maria that will takes weeks to repair.
► Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Open.
Santo Domingo was relatively unaffected by Irma and Maria. On Friday, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism issued a communique that said the port and all others around the country were back open and operating normally.
► St. John’s, Antigua. Open.
Antigua suffered a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma, which passed to the north along a path that devastated sister island Barbuda. Antigua still is on cruise schedules for the fall, with the next scheduled ship visit set for Oct. 3 — a call by Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Equinox. The Equinox call originally was set for Sept. 30 but was pushed back as part of a larger shuffling of the ship’s schedule due to the closures of St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Tortola.
► Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Closed.
The British Virgin Islands were hard hit by Irma and could be closed to cruise ships for many weeks if not months. Norwegian Cruise Line already has canceled all of its stops at Tortola through the end of the year, replacing them with calls in the Western Caribbean.
► Willemstad, Curacao. Open.
Curacao was unaffected by the storms.
Our heart goes out to all the beautiful Caribbean Islands that have been impacted by recent storms. Contact me for the most up to date information on these islands.
(Excerpt USA today)