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Hurricanes Don’t Follow Schedules

Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas sits at harbor in St. Martin. (Jim Wyss/TNS)

This ‘N That by Nicky De Lange

As we inch closer to the end of hurricane season, I have a few questions and comments.
The first comment is to encourage everyone to keep all those impacted by the recent terrible storms in their thoughts and prayers. Some areas – parts of Houston and Puerto Rico, just to mention two – are still struggling to get things back to normal. Puerto Rico, for example, is still without electricity and water on much of the island. St. Thomas was also hit pretty hard.
For these tropical islands, it’s not just their living conditions that are severely impacted. The destruction has also made a terrible dent in their economy. Many of the islands in the Eastern Caribbean depend on tourist trade, especially weekly visits from large chips.
Shortly before we were scheduled to sail, the cruise line notified us that due to a problem with the ship’s inability to get the necessary speed to make it to St. Kitts, they were scratching that port and substituting San Juan, Puerto Rico for it. We figured we just had to roll with the punches, even though we’d really been looking forward to St. Kitts. Disappointing but no big deal.
Then along came Hurricane Irma. This was the storm that hit Florida really hard. Now we worried about whether the port of Fort Lauderdale would be able to function in time for our cruise. It turned out to be a good news, bad news situation. Fort Lauderdale came through okay, but St. Thomas suffered heavy damage. The cruise line substituted Haiti for St. Thomas.
We were now down to just one of the originally scheduled stops, Nassau. We selected new excursions for our revamped itinerary.
What we didn’t anticipate was Hurricane Maria. This storm stomped its way through what was left of the Eastern Caribbean. Scratch Puerto Rico and Haiti. We finally became a Western Caribbean cruise to Nassau, Cozumel and Costa Maya. We weren’t thrilled but settled for that route, figuring at least there would be no more changes. Wrong again. As we left Cozumel, the ship’s captain announced that a new storm, Hurricane Nate, was in the Gulf of Mexico and headed our way. We would change course once again and skip Costa Maya and head for Nassau for an extra day.
Now for the comments I promised at the beginning of this column. First, think carefully before scheduling a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season. The cruise companies can reschedule their routes if necessary, and you may wind up going places you’ve already been or don’t care to visit. As far as we could find out, the companies can change destinations in these situations and don’t have to allow cancellations or refunds.Be cautious about visiting any destinations that suffered a major impact from a hurricane. Sometimes you may find yourself visiting a port that is just barely back to normal. It takes a while to restore and reopen tourist attractions.
And a final comment: try to pick a ship with plenty of on-board attractions. Think of the ship itself as your destination. You’ll be a lot less disappointed!

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