As Florida works to recover from Hurricane Irma, the cruise industry has stepped up with efforts to assist with humanitarian relief. Many home ports and key destinations are affected, and the cruise industry is working to regroup – but it is also dedicating resources to bring relief to hard-hit communities.
Late last week, many lines began curtailing current trips and repositioning their ships away from the approaching hurricane. Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International all worked to reschedule current and future cruises using social media and other outlets. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, which normally operates two-night trips from the Port of Palm Beach, offered a $50 a night evacuation cruise sailing Friday, September 8, for anyone in Florida seeking to escape the storm’s path.
Initially, the industry was criticized for potentially leaving passengers stranded in South Florida as the storm approached. However, both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean offered passengers who had no transportation or safe shelter the opportunity to stay aboard their respective ships -- the Norwegian Escape and the Enchantment of the Seas -- free of charge while the ships were positioned to the west away from the storm. Royal Caribbean also announced it would evacuate up to 1,500 of its South Florida employees aboard the Enchantment of the Seas. Ultimately, the ship spent three days alongside in Cozumel, Mexico before departing on Monday for PortMiami.
As the full extent of the damage in the Eastern Caribbean became apparent, the cruise industry launched humanitarian efforts. Norwegian, which had positioned the Norwegian Sky off Cancun, deployed the vessel to St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. to deliver much-needed supplies. In addition, Royal Caribbean’s Adventurer of the Seas made a humanitarian call in St. Maarten, and the Majesty of the Seas is making humanitarian calls in both St. Thomas and St. Maarten. They are providing supplies and transporting evacuees to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Royal Caribbean has announced that its Empress of the Seas is ready to assist in Key West at the request of local officials.
Carnival is also participating in the relief effort for Hurricane Irma. The line announced in a social media post that it has “activated a plan to begin delivery of supplies on both an immediate and sustained, longer-term basis. These deliveries will be worked into ships’ cruise itineraries as part of our ongoing operations.” In addition, Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation have pledged a minimum of $2 million in support of relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey.
Ports in Fort Lauderdale, Canaveral and Tampa have all reopened, providing the cruise industry the ability to resume normal operations in the coming days. However, the impact of the hurricanes will continue to be felt. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, has announced that its Norwegian Escape will substitute Western Caribbean sailings until at least November for its scheduled eastern Caribbean itineraries while the other cruise lines continue to evaluate alternative itineraries. Despite these changes to commercial operations, the cruise industry will play an important part in the effort to assist damaged areas in the Caribbean, providing support and tourism revenue for long-term reconstruction.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.