Tropical storms and hurricanes can easily disrupt a cruise vacation, and while altered itineraries, canceled ports, and rough seas may be disappointing, these consequences are nothing compared to the life-changing and deadly devastation these storms can cause to cruise port destinations. After a storm hits, how can cruise travelers help ravaged areas recover? The answer is as simple as taking a cruise!
Hurricane Dorian and the Bahamas
Hurricane Dorian made history in early September, 2019, as it made landfall on Elbow Cay, the Abaco Islands, and Grand Bahama Island from September 1-3 as a Category 5 storm, the strongest storm in modern tracking to strike the northwestern islands of the Bahamas.
As Dorian stalled over the islands it brought storm surge of 20-25 feet that washed away homes and businesses, flooded the airport, and devastated beaches.
Wind gusts higher than 220 miles per hour were recorded, and after the storm had passed, more than 50 fatalities were noted – a number expected to rise in the weeks and months of cleanup following the storm. More than 13,000 homes were damaged, more than 70,000 people left homeless, and a total of more than $7 billion in damage was estimated.
The Bahamas is one of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean, with more than two million cruise passengers visiting the islands each year.
The capital city of Nassau, along with the popular destination of Freeport and multiple private islands leased by different cruise lines, are all popular ports of call that charm and delight cruisers of all ages from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney, Princess, Celebrity, Aida, Costa, and many other cruise lines. Yet in a span of 72 hours, Hurricane Dorian devastated the islands and brought the country’s cruise industry to a halt.
Other Devastating Storms
Many storms threaten different Caribbean ports of call each year, and other strong storms have done significant damage to favorite cruise ports. In 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and numerous other ports along its massive track, adding up a total of 134 fatalities and more than $77 billion in damage.
Also in 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and other ports, causing more than 3,000 deaths and $91 billion in damage. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma tore a swath through the western Caribbean, devastating Cozumel, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Haiti, Cuba, and other ports with 87 fatalities and more than $27 billion in damage.
During any hurricane season, a tropical storm or hurricane might cause severe damage to port facilities, resort areas, shopping districts, private homes, and entire communities. While certain storms are long remembered as dramatic monsters, even smaller storms can have long-lasting impacts on ports that rely so heavily on a tourism economy, including cruise travel.
The Lasting Impacts of Hurricanes
While the immediate impacts of a hurricane are obvious, the long-term effects go far beyond storm surge, piles of rubble, and cluttered beaches. When ports of call are closed after a storm, many people may lose jobs or face weeks without pay until their workplaces recover.
Tour guides have no tours to lead, and there is no need for drivers. Street artisans and craftsman cannot sell their merchandise, and store owners have lost inventory and business. Wait staff at restaurants will have no one to serve, and local attractions remain empty if tourists stay away. Dock workers are not needed when ships do not call on the ports, and other support staff, including tender operators, port employees, and even taxi drivers cannot work as much.
Emergency Aid After a Storm
Immediately after a storm passes, emergency aid is critical to save lives and help a port community begin to rebuild. During the first days and weeks after the storm, even while overall damages are still being assessed, monetary and material donations are critical to help alleviate suffering and discomfort and help the community recover. These donations focus on survival and getting rescue efforts underway.
Anyone interested in donating to relief efforts should contact reputable organizations for instructions and guidelines to be sure their donations are used appropriately. Monetary donations are always appreciated and can help provide emergency relief as well as begin rebuilding communities, evacuating survivors, and providing medical care.
Material donations such as non-perishable food, matches, trash bags, tarps, nails, batteries, bandages, and hygiene products can also be welcome, but check with relief organizations first to determine what supplies are in the greatest need.
Volunteers may also be useful in helping storm-ravaged communities recover. Skilled contractors or anyone with building experience are especially welcome, as are individuals with experience in nursing, first aid, electrical work, childcare, and counseling. Different organizations will offer different volunteer opportunities in impacted areas, and individuals interested in becoming involved should contact those organizations about their needs and requirements.
Cruising to Recovery
One of the very best ways to help storm-damaged ports recover from terrible weather is by booking a cruise. Because many economies in the Caribbean rely so heavily on tourism dollars, the more tourists that visit the area, the quicker it can recover from devastating storms. Furthermore, you can make your cruise fare go even further in helping local economies when you…
- Visit ports as close to the devastation as possible. Cruise ships will return to the ports as soon as they can safely do so.
- Take a shore tour or two while in port to bring visibility and income to local attractions and locally employed guides, drivers, and other residents.
- Enjoy a meal of local tastes at a portside restaurant, or grab a drink or dessert while you’re out enjoying the port.
- Purchase souvenirs in port, not just for yourself, but also gifts for coworkers, neighbors, teachers, family members, and friends.
- Do not haggle over pricing on souvenir items, guide services, or taxi rides, and instead be willing to pay the full rate to support the local economy.
- Tip generously for any services you receive in port, such as taxi rides, guide advice, hair braiding, directions, or other services.
The more cruises you book, the more helpful you will be to the local economies – not only by the money you spend on your vacation, but also by letting cruise lines know that you enjoy visiting these ports and want to return.
As cruise ports grow more popular, cruise lines will create more itineraries, spend more time docked in ports, and upgrade their local infrastructure to support even more visits. All of these steps will help ports recover from devastating storms and grow even stronger to provide more enjoyment and relaxation to millions of cruise passengers every year.