Despite a month of bad headlines for the region and its cruise industry, most of the Caribbean was left unaffected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma and is open and ready to welcome cruise ships, according to Michele Paige of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).
“The degree of public perception that the entire region has been affected by storm…could not be further from the truth,” Paige told reporters on a conference call Monday where she was joined by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. President Adam Goldstein and Carnival Corp. President and CEO Arnold Donald to talk about the state of the Caribbean cruise industry post Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“Over 90 percent of all Caribbean destinations will be welcoming cruise guests in coming weeks,” she added.
During a single season, cruising has generated as much as $2.4 billion for the Caribbean, with a single cruise call producing about half a million dollars in economic impact.
And while canceled calls have impacted some cruise line bottom lines — Carnival Corp. said it suffered a 10 percent to 12 percent loss per share — for most of the Caribbean, it is business as usual.
“We know some people wonder if it’s a good time to go to the Caribbean…the answer is simply that it is a great time to go to the Caribbean. Most of the region was untouched by the storms,” Donald said. “We expect virtually every destination to be up and running in the coming weeks,” Donald said.
“We really don’t expect this year to be any different,” Goldstein added.
Here is an update on the major ports that were hardest hit by the hurricanes:
According to Goldstein, who visited Puerto Rico last week, the old town of San Juan is “completely fine,” including the city’s 475-year-old fortress El Morro. San Juan’s port, which did suffer some damage from the hurricanes, is now back and running. Royal Caribbean has already turned around two sailings there in the last two weekends.
The real problems in San Juan, Goldstein said, are the high numbers of residents of the island who do not have electricity. “I think it’s really important to understand the distinction between the long road that Puerto Rico has ahead of it…and delivering a guest-satisfying experience.”
“We expect and hope that many of our customers will follow the lead of our current customers…I guarantee they won’t be disappointed.”
Until power is back and roads are cleared, guests can expect a heavier emphasis on excursions to San Juan’s center than there has been in the past.
Donald expects Carnival Corp.’s St. Maarten shore excursions to be mostly operational by the end of November and the ports in St. Maarten to be fully operational by Nov. 11.
“There’s a lot of cleanup to do…I can’t predict for them, but I would be surprised by January or even before Christmas if it isn’t up and running at a level that will exceed guest expectations,” he said.
“We’ll be open and operational at some point,” Goldstein said of St. Thomas, an island that was also heavily affected by the storms.
Goldstein said that Royal is still waiting for updated communications from the St. Thomas national park service, though “the governor is extremely bullish on exceeding the guest experience by early to mid-November. “
Magen’s Bay, one of the most popular shore excursion destinations in St. Thomas, is also on its way to being fully restored.
Despite a new travel warning from the U.S. Department of State, both Donald and Goldstein said that their Cuba itineraries are operating as normal.
“[We’re] operating all of our itineraries in Cuba…as normal,” Goldstein said, “and we don’t have intention on deviating on that.”
“For us, it’s the same…those itineraries are continuing as they were before,” Donald said.