Hurricane Irma Upgraded to Category 5 Storm as It Heads Toward the Caribbean

by Daniel McCarthy
Hurricane Irma Upgraded to Category 5 Storm as It Heads Toward the Caribbean

Photo: Shutterstock.com


The travel industry is bracing for yet another week of worry and delays as the second major storm in the two weeks heads toward Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall in the Caribbean by late Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center, which upgraded the storm to an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 storm. It comes just a week after Hurricane Harvey—the first Category 4 storm to hit the United States in the past dozen years—devastated Houston.

Irma is heading toward the northeastern Leeward Islands—a group of islands in the West Indies that include St. Lucia, Dominica and Barbados—and is expected to make landfall later in the day. It’s then expected to hit the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as Puerto Rico, on Wednesday, “with life-threatening wind, storm surge and rainfall,” the NHC said.

The storm could then hit Florida by the end of the week.

“Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place,” an advisory from the NHC said this morning.

Air travel update
The storm is expected to cause even more disruptions to the air travel industry which is still not-yet recovered from Harvey.

Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico is already experiencing heavy delays and cancellations as of Tuesday morning, according to FlightAware.

American Airlines will not fly scheduled service between Miami and St. Kitts, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and St. Croix for the next three days because of the storm. American will waive its change fee for anyone with a ticket for travel on Sept. 5 to 8. Between those cities as well as Anguilla Wallblake, Antigue and Beef Island.

Delta Air Lines is allowing anyone with a flight cancellation or a delay of more than 90 minutes due to the storm, to refund the unused portion of their ticket. It is also allowing anyone with a ticket for travel in or out of San Juan, St. Croix, St. Maarten and St. Thomas on Sept. 5 and 6 to rebook for travel no later than Sept. 9.

Southwest will allow anyone holding reservations from Sept. 5 to 8 to rebook in the original class of travel within 14 days of their scheduled travel date without paying additional fees.

Cruise line changes
MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line have all made changes to itineraries in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.

MSC will no longer sail a scheduled Eastern Caribbean itinerary on Divina and will now instead sail a Western Caribbean sailing.

Royal Caribbean did the same with Allure of the Seas, changing its Sept. 3 sailing from an Eastern to a Western Caribbean itinerary. All shore excursions for that sailing will be refunded.

Celebrity Equinox will not stop and St. Thomas and Tortola because of the storm, instead making a call at Curacao and adding a day at sea.

Carnival Cruise Line has made changes to four itineraries, including skipping Half Moon Cay yesterday on Carnival Glory’s Sept. 2 sailing.

Carnival Magic’s six-day Sept. 3 sailing will now start with a day at sea and then make calls at Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya. Originally, Magic was scheduled to stop in Amber Cove, Grand Turk and Nassau.

Carnival Splendor’s Sept. 3 sailing, which was originally supposed to call on Nassau, Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk and Amber Cove, will now spend a day at sea before calling at Cozumel, Mahogany Bay and Belize.

Carnival Pride’s Sept. 3 sailing will now spend a day at sea and then call at Charleston, Freeport and Nassau instead of originally scheduled calls at Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay.

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Tip of the Day
The suppliers I can tell appreciate the patience and kindness as well, as we have all been working very hard to manage the influx of work. I see the travel agent community and the suppliers working in harmony.

Emily Rawlins, Merriway Travel
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