PHOTO: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky will help evacuate travelers from St. Thomas. (photo by Jason Leppert)
As Hurricane Irma winds down, the cruise industry looks not only to rebound its business but also aid the regions most devastated by the storm. The big three: Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited and Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited are all in hurricane relief mode.
As of Sunday, Carnival Cruise Line’s latest website update recognizes the continued closure of the Floridian departure points PortMiami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and the Port of Tampa.
In the meantime, the company is already working to support the Caribbean destinations hit hard over the last several days as well as Florida directly and via its charitable Carnival Foundation: “Deliveries will be worked into ships’ cruise itineraries as part of our ongoing operations. And, as we await news of the full impact that Irma will have on Florida, we stand ready to provide support, as needed, to affected ports and communities.”
The plan is to provide immediate and long-term support, and Carnival is in contact with Caribbean officials to best implement a strategy.
Norwegian Cruise Line is also doing its part to help evacuate travelers from St. Thomas, according to a press release.
The Norwegian Sky will come to the aid of those who could not get off the island before the storm arrived. The ship is scheduled to arrive late this evening to help in the effort being organized by the government of St. Thomas. Norwegian Sky is then expected to leave with the rescued and arrive back in its homeport of Miami on Thursday, September 14.
Similar to Carnival, Royal Caribbean International says on its website that the company is mobilizing supplies. It is deploying ships to St. Thomas and St. Maarten in conjunction with U.S. and regional governments. It is standing by to assist Key West and other destinations as well.
READ MORE: If Fathom Could Help Rebuild the Caribbean
Adventure of the Seas headed to help St. Maarten on Sunday while Majesty of the Seas is also calling on St. Thomas and St. Maarten with supplies. The latter ship is additionally charged with safely evacuating people from St. Maarten. The Empress of the Seas is ready to assist Key West as needed too.
No doubt, all of these efforts will be crucially important to the recovery of the Caribbean region. Rather than have ships sit idly in limbo as passenger sailings are necessarily canceled, it’s wonderful to see the cruise lines put their equipment to such admirable use.
How quickly the cruise industry will again become fully operational from Florida is still to be determined, especially seeing how badly flooded the Miami area around its port was during the storm.
The PortMiami website currently reads, “Ports and waterfront facilities shall remain closed to waterfront activities until the passage of tropical storm force winds and the COTP, in conjunction with the SWAT has determined it is safe to reopen the port.”
READ MORE: Post-Irma Guide to Caribbean Vacationing
Once it does, Caribbean destinations themselves will be affected for awhile.
Royal Caribbean’s website indicates, “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.”
This leads me to reiterate my previous idea. Carnival Corporation’s Fathom brand is purpose-built to combine passenger sailings with volunteer opportunities. It may no longer have its own Adonia to dedicate to the Dominican Republic, but it could potentially send one of the ships from its nine other brands to affected areas with hundreds or even thousands of willing participants onboard.
It could be the perfect interim solution for ships gearing back up to full service—from any cruise corporation really—to specifically head to the islands hit hardest during the hurricane. Cruise travelers and volunteers assemble!
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.