Hurricane Season Cruise Ship Deployments

The severe hurricanes that romped across the Caribbean in September saw numerous cruises cancelled, amended and ships switched to humanitarian and floating accommodation roles. More ships were involved than mentioned here but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) added a second cruise ship on 12th September by chartering the San Juan based 70,538gt/1994 built Carnival Fascination through to January 2018 to help in hurricane relief efforts. The ship is providing housing for relief staff in the United States Virgin Islands and specifically in St. Croix. The vessel is expected to return to year-round service from San Juan on 18th February.

Previously FEMA had announced the charter of the 47,263gt/1987 built Grand Celebration for a three month period, commencing 23rd September based in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to house the National Guard. The ship is due to resume cruises on 23rd December.

On 15th September the 77,104gt/1999 built Norwegian Sky arrived back in Miami with hundreds of evacuees from St. Thomas after Hurricane Irma. Norwegian Cruise Line was the first of a number of cruise operators to offer assistance and sent the empty Norwegian Sky to collect evacuees and deliver supplies. In total, the ship dropped off 35 pallets of supplies ranging from wood to disposable dishes. This also included 15 palettes of personal donations from the crew, with items such as toiletries and clean clothing.

The Majesty of the Seas concluded a 16-day ‘cruise’ on 19th September that began as a 5-day scheduled itinerary. The 77,077gt/1992 built ship was transformed into a rescue and supply ship to help victims of Hurricane Irma, which battered Florida after causing severe damage in the Caribbean. Many passengers stayed onboard the ship even when given a chance to disembark in Florida after a few days. The passengers made the most of it, despite limited resources on the extended trip. Most of the restaurants closed, the casino shut down and guests had to do their own laundry. Most of the drinkers disembarked once the bars ran dry with around 24 passengers remaining for the entire trip. The Majesty of the Seas embarked many people who were stranded in the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma, having waited out the storm off Cuba.

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Hurricane Jose then caused disruption with the 142,714gt 2014 built Regal Princess hurrying to New York a day early on 22nd September to beat the storm. The ship had been on a two-week repositioning cruise that departed Copenhagen on 9th September. On 28th September around 3,800 people lined up at San Juan harbour to board the Adventure of the Seas that took them from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland in one of the largest evacuations since Hurricane Maria had hit the area over a week previously. That storm was the strongest to hit the island in nearly 90 years. Royal Caribbean International provided transport free of charge in an unprecedented humanitarian effort in the hurricane-ravaged U.S. Virgin Islands and other affected areas. The ship’s cruise on 30th September was subsequently cancelled as the vessel had been diverted to St. Croix and St. Thomas to also transport relief supplies and collect evacuees and stranded tourists and take them to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The ship returned to San Juan on 6th October in readiness for her scheduled 7th October departure from St. Croix to Martinique.

Several other cruises, including sailings of the Harmony of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, were rescheduled to dates in October. Ships from Carnival Cruises also delivered supplies, water and food to the Caribbean whilst others, including Oceania Cruises, have been pledging donations. Oceania will donate £350 of every booking of a veranda stateroom and above for Caribbean sailings from December 2017 to April 2018, while Regent Seven Seas announced it will donate £300 per guest for new bookings made until 31st October on eight selected 2018 Caribbean voyages on board the Seven Seas Explorer. Both cruise lines, and their sister brands, pledged to raise a minimum of £1.87 million for relief efforts.

Further afield, the Mediterranean based 49,257gt 2003 built ferry La Suprema has gone to Puerto Rico to provide emergency accommodation whilst ferries Excellent, 39,777gt built 1998 and Moby Otta, 22,528gt built 1976, were earmarked to follow suit at the time of writing.

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