October 11, 2017, 10:15 A.M. EDT
Eastern Caribbean cruise ship ports were beaten badly in early fall (September) of 2017 from a pair of powerful hurricanes. Cruise lines that ply the Caribbean waters for the winter season had to make dramatic changes to their real-time itineraries.
Hurricane Irma smashed through St. Maarten/St. Martin, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S.V.I., Grand Turk in Turks & Caicos and St. Bart's. In less than a week, Hurricane Maria inflicted more extensive damage to Dominica and Puerto Rico.
Fortunately the Caribbean has lots of ocean and many islands with alternative ports for the cruise lines to re-direct their ships to. These include the islands of the Southern Caribbean: Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, three ports in Jamaica (Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay), Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan, Mexico's Cozumel and Costa Maya.
St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada and Antigua in the Eastern Caribbean remain open for the cruise business. The Bahamas, private islands, such as Labadee and Haiti and Cuban ports were less affected by the hurricanes and remain open.
Following is a breakdown of which cruise lines are now going where.
Royal Caribbean has cancelled Adventure of the Seas' September 30th cruise. The ship is being used for a relief mission in San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix. Some of the other ships schedules have been adjusted:
Celebrity has been diverting its year-round Caribbean ship, Celebrity Equinox, from St. Thomas, Tortola, Punta Cana, Key West and San Juan to southern Caribbean ports such as Curacao and Eastern Caribbean ports such as St. Croix, St. Kitts, Martinique and Antigua, as well as Falmouth, Jamaica. Itineraries have been adjusted through December 23.
Celebrity Summit's first Caribbean cruise will start in late-October. Celebrity Summit will replace St. Thomas and St. Maarten with St. Kitts and Antigua. It will still begin its winter sailings embarking out of San Juan on October 28, replacing a stop in St. Thomas with St. Croix.
Three other Celebrity ships have changed their ports in Punta Cana through December. Celebrity Eclipse and Reflection will be substituting St. Croix and Celebrity Silhouette will now call in at the port of San Juan.
Norwegian was the first line to announce long-term changes to its Eastern Caribbean cruise schedules. Norwegian Escape, which is the line's main ship in the area, will make Western Caribbean sailings through until the end of 2017. Changes for other Norwegian ships arriving in the region later in the year have not been announced as yet.
Western Caribbean ports will replace MSC Divina's Eastern Caribbean ports of St. Maarten and San Juan. These changes will affect the ship's October 30, October 14 and October 28 departures. The new ports of call include George Town, Montego Bay, Nassau and Costa Maya.
Beginning November 11, MSC Divina's weeklong Caribbean cruises will call at St. John instead of St. Maarten. In January and February 2018, the ship's long cruises will continue to replace affected ports. The January 3 departure will visit Aruba and Curacao instead of Tortola and St. Kitts; the January 25 departure will replace St. Maarten with San Juan; and the February 15 departure will call at San Juan, Barbados and Guadeloupe in lieu of St. Maarten, Tortola and St. John.
MSC Seaside, the line's new ship slated to launch December 2017, also will replace St. Maarten calls with St. John through mid-March.
Meanwhile, MSC Fantasia's seven-night cruises from Martinique and Guadeloupe will now visit the Dominican Republic's La Romana in place of Tortola and St. Kitts instead of Dominica; it will replace St. Maarten calls with a sea day. The changes will be in effect November 2017 through March 2018.
Holland America's Caribbean season begins in mid-October; the line's private island, Half Moon Cay, is fully operational. Several Caribbean itineraries through December 2017 have been modified. The following sailings are affected:
Disney Fantasy's October 7 and October 21 Eastern Caribbean sailings are now being adjusted to include some ports of call in the Western Caribbean. These revised sailings will now visit Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Falmouth and Castaway Cay. Fantasy's November 4, November 18 and December 2 sailings will call on the same itinerary with Costa Maya instead of Falmouth.
Oceania Cruise Line has made several changes to 12 Caribbean itineraries that depart from October 2017 to May 2018. They have canceled calls on St. Maarten and San Juan, and replaced them with the ports of St. Kitts, Antigua and Punta Cana. Other slight changes had to be made to accommodate the new ports in the ships' schedules. A major change to note is Sirena's May 28 cruise, which was changed from an Eastern to a Western Caribbean itinerary. Marina's December 3 transatlantic cruise also added the extra port Cadiz, Spain and pushed back visits to Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Santa Cruz de la Palma to break up the run of sea days once San Juan was dropped. Affected schedules include:
Crystal Esprit planned to sail alternating schedules round-trip from St. Martin for the 2017-2018 winter season. All of these itineraries have been switched to the seven-night West Indies Yachting Explorer itinerary, because many of the islands on its weeklong British Virgin Islands itinerary are not ready for visitors. All of the West Indies cruises will also swap an overnight in St. Martin with a call at Moskito Island.
The revised West Indies Yachting Explorer itinerary is now St. Martin, Moskito Island, Saba, St. Barts, Antigua, Basseterre (morning) and South Friars Bay (afternoon) in St. Kitts and Nevis, Pinney's Beach in St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin.
The six-night version of the West Indies itinerary replaces Rendezvous Bay with Moskito Island. The 11-night Christmas itinerary also replaces the Marigot overnight with a call on Moskito Island. In addition, it removes calls at Plymouth, Montserrat, and Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla, and adds an overnight in Iles de Saintes, Guadeloupe. The first January 2018 itinerary, also 11 nights, also cancels the Marigot overnight and calls in Plymouth, Montserrat; Coconut Grove, Nevis; and Sandy Ground, Anguilla. Replacement ports include Moskito Island; Iles de Saintes, Guadeloupe; and Pinney’s Beach, St. Kitts & Nevis.
The hotel Crystal uses for its pre/post hotel stays, Belmond La Samanna in St. Martin, is closed for the duration of Crystal Esprit's Caribbean cruise season due to hurricane damage. This has forced Crystal to cancel its pre/post program for Esprit passengers.
Certain Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Quest cruise schedules have been affected by the 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean, but no cruises will be canceled. Most notably, any cruise scheduled to embark or disembark in St. Maarten will now embark or disembark in Barbados, through April 2018. This means that one-way sailings from St. Maarten to Barbados, or vice versa, are now roundtrip Barbados sailings. (For cruisers booked on these itineraries, Seabourn is assisting with flight arrangements and change fees.)
In addition, Seabourn will not call at the following ports through January 2018:
Seabourn will substitute scheduled port calls to those islands with calls to the following alternative ports:
Seabourn still plans to call on San Juan, Puerto Rico, but will continue to monitor the situation there.
Queen Victoria's November 18 departure -- 24 nights from Southampton -- will call at Martinique in lieu of St Maarten. Queen Mary 2's November 26 departure will replace calls at St Maarten and St Thomas with St Lucia and Amber Cove. As yet, no changes have been made beyond mid-December 2017.
Azamara confirms that it will operate its itineraries out of San Juan as planned. At our publishing time no other itinerary changes have been announced. Stay tuned...
Regent Seven Seas Cruises has altered nine itineraries in 2017 and 2018 to replace the ports of Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and Dominica with visits to other Caribbean islands. Following are the changes:
Seven Seas Navigator
Seven Seas Mariner
Seven Seas Explorer
Some of Windstar's winter and spring Caribbean cruises had been scheduled to embark in St. Maarten; Wind Surf and Star Breeze will now use Bridgetown, Barbados. Its ships will arrive early and depart late on turn-around days in Barbados to facilitate travel to and from the island. Some Caribbean itineraries will go to St. Lucia, Bequia and Mayreau in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Martinique instead of affected islands.
Windstar plans to operate cruises out of San Juan as scheduled. (The line's first cruise out of San Juan is November 25.) However, the line is still assessing ports of call for Star Pride's sailings out of Puerto Rico, and indicates that itinerary changes are likely. It will contact passengers and travel agents as soon as definitive plans are made.
SeaDream will embark/disembark passengers in Antigua instead of St. Martin/St. Maarten on their cruises from November 2017 to mid-April 2018. This change affects the following departure dates on its SeaDream I cruise ship:
SeaDream II's March 17, March 24, March 31 and April 14 also departures have been altered; no changes have been made to the ship's San Juan turnaround days.
P&O Cruises currently has no ships in the Caribbean, but towards the end of the month a number will be repositioning from Europe to the Caribbean for the winter season. These include Azura, Britannia and Adonia.
In addition, Arcadia will be making a 28-day Southampton round-trip cruise with calls at a number of affected Caribbean ports. P&O Cruises has confirmed a number of port changes for these cruises including:
P&O Cruises is gradually informing passengers of further itinerary changes nearer to their sail dates.
The 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean has dealt blows, both minor and major, to the cruise industry. Long-term changes to itineraries from Silversea, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises and Viking Ocean have not been announced at this time.
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