An increasing number of cruise companies is being forced to cancel or delay services in the area near Florida, as Hurricane Dorian continues to disrupt port operations across Florida and the US’ east coast.
Now a Category 2 hurricane, over the past week, Dorian has devastated the Bahamas, lingering over the northern part of the archipelago for two days as a Category 5 hurricane and causing major ports to close.
While cruise ports in southern Florida – namely PortMiami and Port Everglades – temporarily reopened this week to allow cruise ships to return to their berths and offload travellers, the ports of Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina were given Port Condition Zulu by the US Coast Guard, which forced them suspend marine and cargo operations for the foreseeable future. Port Canaveral, Miami and West Palm Beach also continue to remain closed.
Unable to use the ports, cruise lines including Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise and Disney Cruise Line were forced to make extensive alterations to their itineraries, which led to massive delays and cancellations.
Norwegian Cruise Line ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Sun, also had to sail to New Orleans to drop off passengers due to their homeport closures in Florida.
However, the crisis has not prevented them from offering financial and relief aid to those affected, by bringing in supplies and sending relief personnel to help victims in the Bahamas.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, for example, recently deployed its Grand Celebration vessel from the Port of Palm Beach to ship relief supplies, first responders, stranded Bahamian nationals and disaster relief volunteers to Freeport.
Royal Caribbean also announced that it would commit $1m for disaster relief and pledged to allocate employee and guest donations to the Pan American Development Foundation for hurricane relief. Along with financial aid, it said it would load relief supplies – including generators, water, cleaning supplies, clean sheets, and towels – as well as its in-house response team on its vessels and send them to the Bahamas.
Carnival Cruise Line further announced that relief delivery stops at Freeport will be incorporated into the itineraries of its Carnival Pride ship departing from Baltimore and Carnival Liberty ship departing from Port Canaveral to distribute food, water and relief supplies. It announced on Twitter that it will commit $2m.
Other cruise companies such as The Walt Disney Company and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, have pledged to donate a minimum of $1m each towards hurricane relief. The latter has even collaborated with charity All Hands and Hearts and launched Hope Starts Here, a hurricane relief campaign for those affected by Hurricane Dorian.
President of Disney Cruise Line Jeff Vahle said in a statement: “The Bahamas is such a special place to us and our guests, and we have watched the devastation created by Hurricane Dorian with concern and heartache.
“We stand with the Bahamian people, and especially those in Abaco and Grand Bahama, as they recover from the worst storm to ever make landfall in the Bahamas. As the needs in these communities are assessed, we are prepared to aid the relief and recovery efforts through funding, the provision of supplies and by providing support to our Bahamian Crew Members.”
Mediterranean Shipping Co, the leading cargo import and export operator for the Bahamas, announced that it will provide “semi-permanent prefabricated modular housing for the population of the areas most affected by the hurricane, as well as make available geared ships for cargo relief service from the US to the Freeport and Marsh Harbour, Abaco container terminals.”
The National Hurricane Centre forecast said that the “life-threatening storm” will continue to surge along portions of the North Carolina Coast, southeast Virginia and southern Chesapeake Bay, posing a high risk of flash flooding.