USA – Thursday, September 21, 2017, updated as of 5.11 pm ET.
It’s been a tough few weeks for cruise lines operating in the Caribbean. The one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria already have 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. Closed.
The Carnival Corp.-operated port along the north coast of the Dominican Republic was relatively unaffected by Irma, but it’s now in the crosshairs of Maria. As of Thursday morning, the storm was passing 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.
► Bridgetown, Barbados. Open.
Barbados was relatively unaffected by the storms and has been receiving cruise ships since shortly after Irma passed to the north.
► Belize City, Belize. Open.
Belize City was unaffected by the storms.
► 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 cancelled 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 cancelled St. Thomas stops even further out, into November. Norwegian is replacing St. Thomas visits 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). The cancellations of St. Thomas calls might even spread beyond November. The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands has mentioned January as the month by which he hopes to have tourism back up and running on the island.
► 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 this week in the wake of Maria, but its port has reopened. Tours and tourist sites are expected to be up and running next week. No cruise ships are scheduled to call in Martinique until the middle of October.
► Frederiksted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Under evaluation.
St. Croix was relatively unaffected by Irma but early reports are that the island suffered significant damage from Maria, which passed by on Tuesday. 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 was heavily damaged by that 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 two 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 this week to vessels. It had been expected to reopen soon but now is in the crosshairs of Maria. Maria is expected to pass near the island on Friday. Carnival replaced its calls in Grand Turk this 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 the coming week.
► 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.
► Key West, Fla. Closed.
The Florida Keys took a direct hit from Irma, and Key West has been closed to tourists ever since. Officials have said they hoped to have it back up and running for cruisers and other visitors by Oct. 20 — the start of the town’s big Fantasy Fest event. But on Thursday, Royal Caribbean said it had been told its ships could return starting this weekend, and the line now is planning to resume calls at Key West on Sunday. Royal Caribbean previously had cancelled all of its ship visits to Key West through mid-October. As of midday Thursday, frequent Key West-visitor Carnival still planned to skip calls in Key West through the coming week.
► Kralendijk, Bonaire. Open.
Bonaire was unaffected by the storms.
► La Romana, Dominican Republic. Open.
La Romana was relatively unaffected by Irma and is not expected to be significantly impacted by Maria, given the port’s location on the Dominican Republic’s southern coast. As of Thursday morning, Maria was passing to the north of the Dominican Republic. On Wednesday, Carnival said one of its ships, Carnival Vista, would go ahead with a call next week scheduled for La Romana.
► 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 two weeks.
► Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Open.
Ocho Rios was unaffected by the storms.
► Oranjestad, 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 cancelled 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 Monday into early Tuesday, 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.
► Basseterre, St. Kitts. Under evaluation.
St. Kitts received a glancing blow from both Irma and Maria. While Irma didn’t cause damage serious enough to knock the destination off cruise schedules, an evaluation of damage from Maria still is underway.
► Samana, Dominican Republic. Open.
Samana was relatively unaffected by Irma, but as of Thursday morning, Maria was passing just to the north of the destination, which is located in the Dominican Republic’s northeast corner. Even if the port area suffers damage from the storm, it should have little impact on cruise schedules as there are no ships scheduled to visit until November.
► San Juan, Puerto Rico. Closed.
The port of San Juan bounced back quickly after Irma passed nearby, with cruise ships pulling into the historic city just days after the storm’s passing. But it’s been closed since Maria approached the island on Tuesday. Maria 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 across at least parts of the island. Still, on Thursday afternoon, Royal Caribbean said it expected to be able to resume operations out of the port on Wednesday with a shortened sailing of its 3,114-passenger Adventure of the Seas.
Adventures of the Seas is based in San Juan and originally had been scheduled to depart the city on Saturday on a seven-night voyage to the Southern Caribbean. Instead, it will operate a three-night trip to Antigua and St. Kitts. Also based in San Juan is Carnival’s 2,056-passenger Carnival Fascination, which is scheduled to depart the city on Sunday on a voyage to the Southern Caribbean. The line is promising an update on the sailing late Thursday.
► Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Open.
Santo Domingo was relatively unaffected by Irma and is not expected to be significantly impacted by Maria, given the port’s location on the Dominican Republic’s southern coast. As of Thursday morning, Maria was passing to the north of the Dominican Republic.
► 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 cancelled all of its stops at Tortola into November, replacing them with calls in the Western Caribbean.
► Willemstad, Curacao. Open.
Curacao was unaffected by the storms.