Ports, Cruise Lines Assess Damage to Bahamas and Private Islands

August 27, 2011
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(5:40 p.m. EDT) -- As Hurricane Irene continues its relentless path up the East Coast, the Bahamas is counting the cost of the storm that ravaged its islands.

The eye of the hurricane missed the major population center and cruise destination of Nassau on New Providence Island, which has a population of 200,000. Freeport, another popular cruise port on Grand Bahama Island, also escaped with only minor structural damage, although power outages, fallen trees and flooding continue to affect both islands.

Here's an assessment of the damage so far and the immediate outlook for the destination:

Some of the out islands, including Acklins Island, have sustained serious structural damage, according to local media reports.

According to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, there is “limited damage” in Nassau and on Grand Bahama and a “quick return to normal operations” is expected.

Airports in Nassau and Grand Bahama Island (also according to the Ministry of Tourism) are back in operation. Assessments of airports throughout the other islands are still underway.

Cruise ports in Nassau and Grand Bahama are expected to be open for business on Saturday, August 27; most ships destined for those calls will visit as planned.

Angela Culmer, a Bahamas resident posting on the hurricane-tracking Web site Stormcarib.com, says: “Damage is mainly fallen trees and power lines. Many residents are without power. According to the radio, BEC [Bahamas Electricity Corporation] are on the road already assessing the damage so we are hopeful that we will be back to normal ASAP.”

Many cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival, have private beaches on some of the smaller out islands and ships have been diverted from these.

Here's what we know so far:

Holland America Line says it has assessed the impact to its private island, Half Moon Cay, in the Bahamas. It said in a statement that it "expects [the island] to be operational for cruise ship visits by Sunday, September 4. Damage was limited and can be easily addressed and all horses are well with no injuries. Repairs will be made to some island structures, vegetation will be replanted in various areas, and the main guest beach will be renewed in those areas impacted by erosion."

A spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean in the U.K. told Cruise Critic: “Monarch of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas will not call on CocoCay this weekend as Royal Caribbean International feels that the guest experience could be impacted. A full assessment of conditions at CocoCay is underway.”

We're waiting for an update from Princess Cruises about any issues on Princess Cay.

According to a Norwegian spokeswoman, Great Stirrup Cay -- its private island -- has received "some damage" and a team is now evaluating it.

Disney has scrapped a visit by Disney Dream to Castaway Cay, its private island, saying in a staetment that the line is "taking time to fully inspect and prepare Castaway Cay to welcome guests again in the near future."

Elsewhere, the Turks and Caicos, southeast of the Bahamas archipelago, also escaped Irene with minimal structural damage. Like the Bahamas, however, the island suffered extensive flooding and fallen trees. A Carnival spokesman told Cruise Critic that the line's Grand Turk Cruise Center had sustained “minor” damage, a clean-up operation was already in place and that the facility would start receiving cruise ships again this Saturday.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor