Post-Hurricane Update

Post-Hurricane Update
By Damien Martin

The toll taken by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean has been devastating. In addition to the lives lost and billions of dollars worth of damage, the storms have disrupted tourism, the chief industry for just about every Caribbean island.

The port of Galveston, Texas, has reopened for cruises, and ports in Florida are open, with cruise passengers going back to Key West less than two weeks after Irma made landfall as a category 4 storm. Cruise lines such as Carnival and Virtuoso-preferred Royal Caribbean and Norwegian generously used their ships to transport people and supplies to help the affected areas. Carnival Corp., which also owns Virtuoso-preferred Holland America and Princess, was part of a pledge for $10 million in relief.

The port of San Juan in Puerto Rico is open to receive emergency supplies, but it is uncertain when cruise ships will again be able to visit the island after it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria last week. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. John were hit hard by Irma before Maria made landfall on St. Croix less than two weeks later. The airport on St. Thomas is expected to reopen for commercial flights this week, but cruise ships will not be visiting for weeks or even months.

Other islands badly damaged and essentially closed to tourism are Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Barth’s and St. Martin/St. Maarten. Barbuda was leveled and currently has no people living on it for the first time in more than 300 years. These places have a difficult road to recovery and will need tourism dollars to rebuild their economies when they are once again up and running.

Fortunately spared from major damage were Antigua, Barbuda’s sister island and the location of the nation’s beautiful resorts. The Virtuoso-preferred properties there, Carlisle Bay, Curtain Bluff, Jumby Bay and Hermitage Bay, were closed for their annual renovations when Irma came through and plan to reopen on schedule in October. The Turks and Caicos Islands suffered some flooding, and the cruise port on Grand Turk remains closed for repairs, but overall fared better than expected. The Providenciales airport is open, and the resorts on Grace Bay are expected to reopen this fall. Cuba’s already fragile infrastructure suffered wind damage as Irma blew through, but trips are on as scheduled to the island. The Dominican Republic saw heavy rains and flooding in some areas as Maria passed last week, but no major damage to resorts and tourist areas.

Cruise lines have begun altering itineraries to take passengers to areas that were untouched or little affected by the storms, and there are still many places for travelers to experience the beauty of the Caribbean.

While some outlying islands of the Bahamas were hit, the main tourist areas of the Bahamas were unscathed and remain open. Though often confused with Barbuda, the island of Barbados is safe and sound, including Virtuoso-preferred Sandy Lane, Cobblers Cove and Port Ferdinand Marina. St. Kitts & Nevis received minimal damage. Shielded by other islands, Jamaica and the Caymans avoided the storms altogether, as the ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao tucked down by Venezuela. St. Lucia was threatened by Maria but was spared, as were its Southern Caribbean neighbors St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada.

While all this was going on, southern Mexico was experiencing a series of earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 6.1 to 8.1 on the Richter scale. The death toll from those stands at more than 300, including nearly 200 in heavily populated Mexico City, with dozens still missing. The Virtuoso-preferred properties in the capital were undamaged, and the resort areas of Cancun, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta are unaffected.

There are still plenty of places in the Caribbean to enjoy an unspoiled vacation with loved ones while helping out the areas that depend so much on sharing their amazing homes with welcome guests. The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, led by Karolin Troubetzkoy of Anse Chastanet and Virtuoso-preferred Jade Mountain on St. Lucia, is encouraging resorts that are open to donate portions of their proceeds to the affected areas through it's One Caribbean Family initiative. So travelers can still support the islands hardest hit and those that were fortunate to escape disaster this time while savoring some of their favorite places.

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