Irma Update: Cruise Lines Kept Vacationers Safe & Provided a Haven for Victims, Relief Efforts Underway

(Special to USTimes, September 13, 2017) Alan Fox, Chairman and CEO of Vacations to Go, today issued an update to vacationers who have booked cruises and information on services made available to victims on land, as many itineraries have been forced to cancel because of Hurricane Irma, which “left a trail of death and devastation across the Caribbean last week before slamming into Florida and spreading across the southeastern U.S. At this writing, there have been at least 38 confirmed deaths in the Caribbean and 23 in the U.S. Our hearts and prayers go out to all who have been impacted by this storm, the largest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.”

According to Fox, the hugely popular port of St. Thomas, USVI, was devastated. Power is still out, food is running low and the airport was destroyed. Nearby St. John was hit equally hard but somehow St. Croix was spared significant damage. The British Virgin Islands suffered massive damage. I’ve seen unofficial reports that up to 90% of houses, businesses and boats were destroyed. Up to 70% of the homes in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten have been severely damaged or destroyed and there is also severe damage on the French side of the island, St. Martin.

Also hard hit was the tiny island of Barbuda, where Irma first made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 185 mph. An estimated 95% of the island’s structures were damaged and the island’s prime minister described the scene as ‘total carnage.’ ”

As Irma bore down on Florida, the headquarters of the world’s largest cruise lines–Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line–and many smaller ones, were closed and employees evacuated.

Royal Caribbean opened the Enchantment of the Seas to 2,700 Florida-based employees and families in need of shelter; the ship sailed out to calm, safe seas to wait out the storm.

Florida’s ports were closed. Some cruises were extended, at no additional charge to passengers, while others were canceled, delayed or had their itineraries altered. Here’s a partial list of these changes.

The following sailings were canceled:
9/7 Carnival Liberty
9/8 Carnival Victory
9/9 Carnival Ecstasy
9/9 Carnival Splendor
9/10 Carnival Liberty
9/11 Carnival Paradise
9/11 Carnival Victory
9/8 RCI Enchantment of the Seas
9/8 RCI Majesty of the Seas
9/9 RCI Empress of the Seas
9/11 RCI Enchantment of the Seas
9/13 RCI Empress of the Seas
9/13 RCI Majesty of the Seas
9/8 Norwegian Sky
9/9 Norwegian Escape
9/11 Norwegian Sky
9/8 Disney Dream
9/9 Disney Fantasy
9/11 Disney Dream
9/9 MSC Divina

The following sailings were delayed and modified:
9/9 Carnival Conquest — changed to depart 9/12
9/9 Carnival Glory — changed to depart 9/13
9/9 Carnival Magic — changed to depart 9/13
9/9 Carnival Vista — changed to depart 9/13
9/11 Carnival Sensation — changed to depart 9/13
9/9 RCI Harmony of the Seas — changed to depart 9/12
9/10 RCI Allure of the Seas — changed to depart 9/13
9/10 RCI Oasis of the Seas — changed to depart 9/13

The following sailings in progress were extended until passengers could safely disembark:
9/2 Carnival Conquest
9/2 Carnival Magic
9/2 Carnival Splendor
9/2 Carnival Glory
9/2 Carnival Vista
9/4 Carnival Victory
9/4 Carnival Sensation
9/2 RCI Harmony of the Seas
9/3 RCI Oasis of the Seas
9/3 RCI Allure of the Seas

The following sailings were cut short:
9/4 Carnival Victory
9/3 Carnival Magic
9/2 Disney Fantasy
9/4 Disney Dream
9/2 Norwegian Escape
9/4 Norwegian Sky

As soon as damage reports came trickling in, several cruise lines deployed ships to battered Caribbean islands, to deliver relief supplies and assist in evacuation efforts.

Royal Caribbean International sent the Adventure of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas to St. Maarten and St. Thomas to deliver supplies and to transport evacuees to safety. The Empress of the Seas stands ready to assist in relief efforts in Key West once the impact of the storm is known. For an update on itineraries on Royal Carribbean lines, click HERE.

Norwegian Cruise Line dispatched the Norwegian Sky to St. Thomas to bring supplies and assist in humanitarian efforts. The current plan is to use the vessel to evacuate 2,000 people to Miami. Following is an official message from Norwegian Cruise Lines relative to their schedule as of September 13, 2017 11:00 am ET:

“Our ships sailing from Miami will resume their normal operations this weekend. Norwegian Sky will depart as scheduled on Friday, September 15. Norwegian Escape will depart as scheduled for a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise on Saturday, September 16. We are working with our partners to assess impacts to the ports we visit in the Eastern Caribbean. Currently, we have changed all of our Eastern Caribbean itineraries to Western‎ Caribbean cruises for the next two months. As it’s still early, we will continue to keep in close contact with our partners on the ground and have the flexibility to alter future itineraries to ensure a great guest experience, if needed.”

Carnival Cruise Line is working with officials in Caribbean islands to coordinate the delivery of supplies as part of scheduled port calls on both an immediate and long-term basis. The cruise line is gathering donations to help relief efforts post Irma. Click HERE for more information and to donate.

Fox reiterates, “If you’re holding a Caribbean cruise reservation (booked through Vacations To Go) to any of the affected islands, your VTG cruise counselor can provide the current status of your itinerary and answer any other questions you may have.”  Please call 1-800-338-4962 for information and help.