Update on Caribbean islands affected by Hurricanes Irma & Maria

Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the US and the Caribbean, the vast majority of ports in the Caribbean are thankfully open and unaffected by the storms. Across the Caribbean, 43 of the region’s estimated 48 ports are fully operational today, having received no or minimal direct damage from the storms.

It is inspiring to see so many of our guests supporting relief and recovery efforts, and we will continue to look for ways to provide more support.

Ports such as Key West and Grand Turk are strong examples of the Caribbean’s preparation, resilience and recovery.

We are hopeful though that all ports will be operational again before the end of the year for cruises from January onwards.

We have worked with our port agents and have now amended the itineraries to include alternative destinations for any cruises that include ports which have been the most impacted by the hurricanes.

We have partnered with UNICEF to support our friends to rebuild and repair these islands. Any help will be very gratefully received.

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Your questions, answered

How badly have the hurricanes impacted the Caribbean ports?

Overall, the vast majority of Caribbean destinations are open for business and welcoming thousands of cruise passengers every day.

Of the more than 60 ports in the Caribbean, an estimated 80 percent are open and fully operational. This number is expected to rise to over 90 percent in coming weeks.

For perspective, the Caribbean is an extraordinarily immense region that stretches for over one million square miles.

As a result, the vast majority of the islands were not in the paths of the August and September hurricanes and most of the region’s ports incurred minimal or no damage and have been and continue to be in operation.

What ports are still closed?

A small number of destinations are not yet operational, including Dominica, Grand Turk, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Tortola. The port in San Juan reopened the first weekend of October, demonstrating these destinations are recovering quickly and expected to be up and running in the next several weeks.

If I go to the Caribbean now, will I be interfering with recovery efforts?

Most definitely not. Since the vast majority of the islands incurred minimal or no damage, the Caribbean is absolutely open for business, with thousands of cruise passengers visiting some of the world’s most beautiful islands every day – and being welcomed by local businesses and workers who have a deep passion for making sure visitors have a great experience.

In fact, this is a great time to go on a cruise to the Caribbean.

First, it is one of the world’s most popular places to holiday, with spectacular beaches that lead into the Caribbean Sea famous for its crystal-clear, turquoise water, along with the diversity of dozens of island destinations, and vibrant and thriving towns and villages, and the convenience of being easily accessible.

Beyond that, tourism is critical for Caribbean economies – and cruising is a vital part of tourism’s overall economic impact.

During the 2014-2015 cruise season, cruising generated $2.4 billion in direct economic impact for the Caribbean and created nearly 55,000 jobs and $842 million in wages throughout the region. This is in addition to the indirect jobs created in supporting industries, such as providing supplies for shore excursions, ports and restaurants.

To this point, here is perspective from Carolyn Spencer Brown, chief content strategist for the popular website Cruise Critic:

"Seasoned cruisers to the Caribbean understand that most of the islands have been unaffected. They also understand that tourism is a top driver for the islands’ economic well-being, and that cruises are a large part of that equation. Because of that, it’s important for both cruise lines and travelers to continue to support so many of the Caribbean islands that are ready for business, and eager to provide travelers with the incredible vacations they’ve come to expect from the region. In turn, beyond having a great time enjoying the world's most popular region for cruise vacations, they’ll also be able to support the economy and locals who have been through a challenging time."

Is now really a good time to go to the Caribbean, or should I wait?

Now is a perfect time to visit the Caribbean, and a cruise is a great way to experience and enjoy one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations.

For those looking for good deals, P&O Cruises holidays to the Caribbean always provide an exceptional value.

Are cruises being cancelled?

No, not at all. With the vast majority of the Caribbean open for business, there are no plans to cancel any cruises although we have altered some of the Caribbean itineraries. In fact, travel volumes remain strong, with thousands of passengers every day sailing on cruise ships and enjoying one of the most beautiful regions in the world.

Are people still going to the Caribbean after the storms?

The Caribbean is absolutely open for business, with thousands of people sailing on cruise ships every day and having great holidays.

In terms of bookings to the Caribbean – the world’s most popular region for cruising – occupancy numbers are running strong.

Are all shore excursions operating in ports that are open? If guests don't participate in shore excursions from their cruise line, can they still leave the ship/explore on their own?

Since the vast majority of destinations realised no impact, it is business as usual for their shore excursions.

For the handful of destinations that were temporarily closed and have re-opened or will be re-opening soon, it is expected that most of the shore excursions available prior to the storms will be in operation.

However, some shore excursions will be delayed in welcoming guests back due to lead times for equipment and repairs. There are a wide variety of shore excursions offered at destinations called on by cruise lines, enabling cruise passengers to choose from plenty of activities they can enjoy during their days ashore.

Cruise lines have deep and long-standing relationships with local experts and tour operators, so excursions from cruise lines are popular choices for guests. As always, though, guests are welcome to explore on their own and shipboard teams can guide guests to areas recommended for self-touring.

If my destination is one of the affected ports, will my itinerary change?

For the small handful of affected islands, it will take some time for those communities to get back up and running. Each of the island communities impacted rely heavily on tourism – and especially cruise passengers – for their economic well-being, so there is a tremendous amount of effort being made in these few destinations.

P&O Cruises is in constant communication with each of the islands to understand their specific situation so decisions can be made on future itineraries. Everyone is optimistic that the handful of impacted ports will reopen in the coming weeks.

As a result, slight itinerary modifications have been made that will include visiting other great Caribbean destinations. Any adjustments will be posted as soon as they are finalised. P&O Cruises is also in touch with guests individually or through their travel agent.

Itineraries for 2018 trips are currently being reviewed and will be updated shortly.

If I have booked shore excursions in cancelled ports, will these be cancelled?

If any ports of call are cancelled from an itinerary, then a full refund will be given on shore excursions booked directly through a cruise line. Guests who book shore excursions through an independent service provider are encouraged to directly contact their provider.

How can guests be assured a good experience in each Caribbean port?

The Caribbean is the world’s most popular region for cruise vacations for a reason: stunning beaches, the legendary crystal-clear, turquoise beauty of the Caribbean Sea, the diversity of the island destinations, and vibrant and thriving towns and villages, along with being easily accessible.

Cruise lines have been sailing tens of millions of guests to the Caribbean for decades and guests consistently enjoy great vacations, with many of them returning time and time again to explore new and different aspects of the vast Caribbean region. That has been the situation for nearly 50 years, and it remains the same today.

How will guests be notified of any changes?

We are in touch with guests individually and through travel agents with details of amended itineraries.

Can I bring items to donate on board?

It requires infrastructure to receive and distribute supplies and the needs of each destination vary, so the organisations responding to the recovery and rebuilding efforts are requesting monetary donations. As a result, guests so inclined can make donations either on board or through the Unicef link.

Donate here >

How are you helping those islands most badly affected?

The Carnival Foundation, the charitable arm of Carnival Corporation, is working with organizations including the Miami HEAT Charitable Fund and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Foundation to provide funds and resources to the organizations having a direct impact in these communities. We are working with organizations on the ground in areas of need, including Direct Relief, UNICEF and the United Way.

Together, we have pledged a minimum of $2 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, and up to $10 million for recovery from hurricanes Irma and Maria, including donations that will directly support efforts in Puerto Rico. Our brands have also developed other ways for employees and guests to directly support recovery efforts.

P&O Cruises is also working with Unicef for donations which will go directly to the impacted islands.

Donate here >

In addition to donations, we are supporting humanitarian efforts. P&O Cruises is looking to provide affected ports in the region with crucial supplies and the most immediate necessities, including food, water, clothing, diapers, medical supplies and generators once we have ships in the region. We continue to work with local authorities in affected areas to help address the most pressing recovery needs.

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