Last week when I wrote about Hurricane Harvey and how the cruise lines responded, I never thought I would be writing about hurricanes the following week. I considered writing about something else cruise-related, but it all seems so unimportant right now.
Last week I said that calling Hurricane Harvey a major hurricane seemed like an understatement, and I was right. But Hurricane Irma is giving Harvey a run for his money. She’s bound and determined to make Hurricane Harvey look like an April shower in comparison. News outlets have referred to Hurricane Irma as possibly the worst recorded Atlantic hurricane in history.
The damage she has left in her wake has been nothing short of devastating. The island of Barbuda was demolished for all intents and purposes. Antigua didn’t fare much better. And the devastation in St Maarten is beyond heart breaking. It may be days before we have a full assessment of the devastation on those islands, as well as Hispaniola, the Bahamas, and Florida.
In the cruise industry, itineraries may be impacted for months to come as ports of call take months to recover and rebuild. Immediately, they are literally operating day by day, or even hour by hour, monitoring the storm and making changes to itineraries on the fly. Are they perfect? Of course not. But they are trying to do their level best under these circumstances.
One cruise line had a ship depart Florida on Monday, September 4th, and two days later they posted a revised itinerary. I guarantee it will be changed again, because the revised itinerary had them calling on St Maarten and Antigua next week. It was obvious before this revision that these two islands are not in any shape to accept cruise ships next week. Why the cruise line kept them on the revised itinerary, I don’t know. I do know it will change, again. But in the grand scheme of storm management, flubbing up a revised itinerary for a ship already out at sea is a pretty minor mistake.
For upcoming sailings, all of the cruise lines have shown that they are being vigilant. It’s a delicate balance between not providing enough information, and over-inundating passengers and travel agents with too many updates. Some have skirted that line, by posting updates that literally were re-postings of past updates, because they didn’t have new information to provide.
As travel agents, we also have the frustration of dealing with the clients wanting updates, but they aren’t departing for months. We’re getting calls asking if a particular port of call will be accepting ships nine months from now. The temptation to strangle some of them may be strong, but we have to resist. We will probably be telling clients for several weeks that they’ll need to be patient, and assure them that we will pass on pertinent information once it’s available. There is no way that these islands know yet when they’ll be accepting tourists again (by ship or plane).
The damage of Hurricane Irma isn’t over yet. We have several more days before we’ll have any idea of what happens to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Keys, Florida, or the eastern seaboard of the U.S. But even once Irma dissipates we’re not done; Jose will be close on her tail. And hurricane season won’t be officially over for another two and a half months.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.