(5:30 p.m. EDT) -- As concerned cruise travelers and storm watchers await word on the status of Grand Turk -- an island in the Turks and Caicos chain that was pummeled by Hurricane Ike this weekend -- Carnival Cruise Lines has issued an official statement on the Grand Turk Cruise Center, built and owned by parent company Carnival Corp.:
"Initial reports from our assessment team that arrived in Grand Turk this morning indicate that damage to the island is substantial. It appears it is going to take some time for Grand Turk to recover. As a result, we are not able to provide an estimate for re-opening of the Grand Turk cruise facility at this time."
Indeed, senior vice president of strategic planning for Carnival Corp., Giora Israel, told the Associated Press "I've been living in the Caribbean for 25 years and I've never seen this kind of destruction."
The Associated Press further reports that rain and wind caused an estimated $5 to $10 million in damage to the terminal and the grounds around it "ripping out some 500 palm trees that were planted just six months ago." The pier itself is reportedly unscathed as it was built to withstand a Category Five storm, the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson scale (Ike came through as a still-dangerous Category Four).
For Carnival itineraries that include Grand Turk, the line is working on alternate ports and will advise impacted guests as those modifications are finalized.
Other lines scheduled to call at Grand Turk through the end of the year -- also likely scrambling for replacements -- include Princess, Holland America, Iberocruceros, Crystal, Seadream, Royal Caribbean, Fred. Olsen, Celebrity, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and P&O Cruises.
We'll keep you posted.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor
Where's Hurricane Ike Headed Next?
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Update: Grand Turk Damage Report
First Ike Damage Report: Grand Turk
Ike Inches Closer to Caribbean, Florida
Category Three Ike Impacts Cruises
Ike Becomes Fifth Hurricane of the Year
Tropical Storm Ike Develops in the Atlantic
No Estimate for Reopening of Grand Turk Cruise Center
September 8, 2008