With all of the recent hurricanes and their severe impact and damages to the fragile Caribbean islands, many questions have arrisen regarding cruise travel to these islands and when recovery will be complete and travel will resume. We have had the same concerns and put together a list of the most up-to-date info regarding Caribbean ports for cruise and air travel. Here is the latest from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines:
Royal Caribbean International today announced the cruise line’s return to San Juan, Puerto Rico and Philipsburg, St. Maarten marking a major milestone towards the revival of these Caribbean gems which were impacted by recent hurricanes. On Nov. 30, Freedom of the Seas will be the first ship in the fleet to call on San Juan, Puerto Rico, arriving with approximately 3,782 visitors to the island that is renowned for its passionate, welcoming spirit. Grandeur of the Seas will follow suit on Dec. 17 as the first cruise ship to sail into, St. Maarten since Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas arrived to provide humanitarian relief last month. This announcement comes on the heels of Royal Caribbean’s recent news that Adventure of the Seas will be the first ship to call on St. Thomas on Nov. 10.
“Royal Caribbean is encouraged by the commendable progress that has been made by the governments of Puerto Rico and St. Maarten towards the recovery of these destinations and it means a lot to us that we are heading back home. We have been part of the Caribbean community for almost 50 years, and for all of us it has been paramount that we focus on supporting our long-standing partners – who feel more like family after so many years,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “Supporting these destinations that are so reliant on tourism is key to the future of the islands and the best thing we – as travelers and businesses – can do for the islands.”
Working closely with the governments of Puerto Rico and St. Maarten, and local businesses, Royal Caribbean will be able to offer destination experiences that will allow guests to enjoy the natural beauty, historic landmarks and culture of these idyllic islands. With power and transportation on track to be readily available in San Juan by Nov. 30, guests can tour the city by foot, bike, Segway or bus; explore the epic fortresses of El Morro and San Cristobal in Old San Juan; spend the day on the beach at VIVO Beach Club; or admire the countryside through Cueva Ventana – the Window Cave – which sits atop an 800-foot limestone cliff.
Similarly, the return of power and water to most of St. Maarten means that a majority of the shops, restaurants and bars, and tour operators around Philipsburg will be fully operational for guests to experience a diverse and extensive array of dining, shopping and activities in the area. The sun and vistas of the region’s best beaches, Great Bay Beach and Kimshaw Beach, will be a beacon for guests wanting to dive into the turquoise blue waters and admire the sea life, whether by boat or catamaran, or from the relaxing comfort of a beach lounger.
As of Nov. 30, all scheduled calls to San Juan and St. Thomas across 10 ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet will operate as planned – including calls from the world’s largest cruise ships each sailing with nearly 6,000 new visitors each week – Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas. The scheduled visits to St. Maarten will operate as planned starting on Dec. 17 with the exception of Oasis of the Seas, which will make its first call to the island on January 1 during her New Year’s Eve cruise. Additionally, the global cruise line will return to St. Croix on January 8 with the arrival of Jewel of the Seas, which will sail from San Juan. All calls to Dominica are cancelled through June 2018 and the cruise line is working closely with the local government on a return date to the destination.
Here is an extensive list of what's open and will open soon in the Caribbean:
Cruise Port: St. John's
Antigua escaped much of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Maria, and lines like Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Oceania are making regular calls.
Unfortunately, sister island Barbuda was severely impacted by the storm.
Cruise Ports: Oranjestad
Aruba, in the Southern Caribbean, was not impacted by the recent storms. Some lines are substituting calls on affected itineraries with Aruba.
Cruise Ports: Nassau; Freeport
The Port of Nassau, and other ports around The Bahamas, are open, escaping any effects from Hurricane Maria. Nassau and Paradise Island hotels received no damage from either Irma or Maria. The majority of hotels and resorts throughout The Bahamas are operating as usual or are expected to re-open on their regularly scheduled dates.
Bahamasair resumed service into the United States on September 12.
Cruise Line Private Islands in Bahamas
- Great Stirrup Cay: Norwegian's private island was unaffected by the storms.
- CocoCay: Also known as Little Strirrup Cay, Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas is currently open.
- Castaway Cay: Disney's private island is open.
- Half Moon Cay: The private island used by Carnival and Holland America is open.
- Princess Cays: Princess Cays, located at the southern end of Eleuthera island, is now open for business.
Cruise Port: Bridgetown
The Port of Bridgetown is open and unaffected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Cruise Ports: King's Wharf; Hamilton; St. George's
Bermuda escaped any effects from recent storms and is open to all cruise ships.
Cruise Ports: Kralendijk
Bonaire, a tiny island in the Southern Caribbean, was unaffected by recent hurricanes.
Cruise Ports: Havana; Cienfuegos; Santiago de Cuba
Havana's port facilities were not impacted by Irma and the port re-opened to cruise passengers on September 18, as scheduled, for a four-day Norwegian Sky cruise.
Cruise Ports: Willemstad
Curacao, one of the ABC Islands in the Southern Caribbean along with Aruba and Bonaire, was unaffected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Cruise Port: Amber Cove; La Romana; Samana; Santo Domingo
After Maria, La Romana welcomed Carnival Vista on September 26, and Amber Cove in Puerto Plata received Carnival Conquest and Carnival Magic on September 27, as well as Carnival Splendor on September 28.
The ports of the Dominican Republic emerged from Irma without major damage. Punta Cana International Airport resumed normal operations and the area's hotel sector reported no major damage. Ships began sailing back to Amber Cove shortly after the first storm.
The Florida Keys
Cruise Ports: Key West
On September 24, Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas called on Key West — just two weeks after Irma made landfall there. The Florida Keys sustained serious damage and flooding as a result of Hurricane Irma, but the Port of Key West recovered sooner than expected. Originally, Key West officials had stated that the port wouldn't be open for tourism until October 20.
On September 25, Royal Caribbean announced that Key West was officially back on itineraries (specifically beginning with the October 2 and 9 sailings on Enchantment of the Seas). According to an official with Royal Caribbean, most shore excursion in Key West are available. The only four from their normal tour program that remain closed are Snuba, Hemingway's House, Taste of Key West and Butterfly Conservatory.
Carnival also announced Carnival Victory's return to Key West on September 26, followed by Carnival Paradise on September 27.
Cruise Port: St. George's
Grenada was unaffected by the September storms and is open to cruise ships and visitors.
Cruise Port: Labadee
Haiti was relatively unscathed by Irma. All services remain in operation and the country continues to welcome visitors. Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas called on Labadee, Royal's private island, beginning on September 14.
Cruise Port: Fort de France
Hurricane Maria passed over Martinique on September 18, and the port re-opened on September 20.
Cruise Port: Little Bay
Montserrat, like Grenada, is part of the British West Indies and was not affected by the hurricanes.
Cruise Port: Charlestown
The port in Charlestown and Nevis' Vance W. Amory International Airport are currently open.
Cruise Port: San Juan
Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas resumed homeporting from San Juan on October 7. The vessel played a crucial role in aiding evacuations and delivering supplies.
On November 30, Carnival Cruise Line will return to San Juan with a call from Carnival Conquest and Royal Caribbean will call with Freedom of the Seas.
Carnival Fascination will resume its year-round weekly departures from San Juan on February 18, 2018.
Carnival had originally confirmed a return to homeporting its cruise ship Carnival Fascination there, beginning October 15. However, due to humanitarian needs, the line has instead allowed FEMA to charter the ship until the end of January. In an October 9 statement the line said: "Our team's visit this past week confirmed the Old San Juan area is ready to receive tourists. Many shops and businesses have returned to their normal business operations with more opening up every day."
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on September 20 with winds of up to 155 mph, knocking out power to the entire island. Prior to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico served as a staging ground for evacuees from other islands affected by Hurricane Irma.
A September 26 letter to passengers on the October 28 Celebrity Summit sailing states "while several facilities in San Juan suffered significant damage, we remain confident that the airport and cruise terminals will be functional at the time of your sailing, and we continue to work closely with local officials to provide food, water, and generators to those in need."
Cruise Port: Basseterre
The Port Zante cruise pier did not sustain storm damage and St. Kitts welcomed cruise ships — Carnival Fascination and Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas — beginning on September 23.
All hotels in St. Kitts are fully operational and St. Kitts' Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport re-opened and began welcoming flights on September 20.
The port of Basseterre was one of the first cruise ports to re-open following Hurricane Irma; Carnival Fascination called on September 8. St. Kitts & Nevis sustained minimal damage from Irma.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Cruise Port: Kingstown
St. Vincent and the Grenadines are open and unaffected.
Cruise Port: Port Castries
St. Lucia has not been affected by hurricanes so far this season.
(source: Cruise Critic)
For other islands opening soon, or specific itineraries and sailing news, our MEI-Travel team is ready and willing to help answer any questions, concerns and assist with plans for your next cruise!