Cruise Lines Contribute to Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts

September 20, 2017
Evacuation route sign

(Updated 5:30 a.m. EDT) -- Nearly one week after Hurricane Irma left its devastating mark on parts of the Caribbean and Florida, a handful of cruise lines continue to utilize their ships for supply deliveries in some of the most damaged ports as well as donate funds toward recovery.

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line all have deployed ships to affected ports to deliver supplies, including food, water and clothing. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian also have assisted in rescue missions. Some itineraries have been adjusted to assist with ongoing operations.

Meanwhile, Carnival Corp. & plc -- together with the Miami Heat Charitable Fund and Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation -- has pledged up to $10 million for relief and rebuilding efforts in the Caribbean and Florida; an immediate donation of $2.5 million was made to support urgent needs. The company oversees Carnival, Holland America and Princess, among other cruise lines. Royal Caribbean also revealed on its Facebook page it will match donations up to $1 million for affected communities.

Carnival today added on Twitter that it is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from comedian Chris Tucker's upcoming Carnival LIVE performances to Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

Days before Hurricane Irma made landfall on Florida, all ships had evacuated the state -- some with passengers still onboard from the previous sailings. Mass evacuations were later ordered for parts of Miami-Dade County and all of Key West, which flooded when Irma hit early September 10.

Florida was in a state of emergency through the weekend of September 9, and various South Florida ports -- including Miami, Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando (Port Canaveral) and Palm Beach -- operated under U.S. Coast Guard-issued port conditions that required them to close to ship traffic over the weekend. All ports have now reopened, Jacksonville to shallow-water marine traffic only.

Here's a breakdown of how each cruise line has gotten involved.

After Hurricane Irma

Royal Caribbean: Empress of the Seas, which had its September 9 and 13 sailings canceled, is coordinating with officials in Key West to make humanitarian stops to drop off supplies during its September 23 and 27 sailings. Further, Adventure of the Seas stopped in St. Maarten on September 10, during a regular sailing, to bring clothing and water and pick up passengers for evacuation. Majesty of the Seas, which canceled its cruises on September 8, 11 and 15 and pushed back a sailing from September 18 to September 19, is helping with relief efforts in St. Thomas, St. John and St. Maarten.

Norwegian: Norwegian Cruise Line, in cooperation with the government of St. Thomas, deployed Norwegian Sky -- which had been anchored off the coast of Cancun following the cancellation of its September 8 and September 11 cruises -- to the island over the weekend to pick up roughly 2,000 travelers who were stranded when Irma hit; it arrived late Monday, September 11. The ship has returned with those passengers to Miami will depart as scheduled for its next sailing on Friday, September 15.

Carnival: Carnival Fascination is delivering supplies to St. Kitts. Eleven more ships also will incorporate deliveries into their itineraries. The line's efforts will be extended to Grand Turk, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Antigua, Barbuda and affected Bahamian islands.

In addition to its monetary donation and fundraiser pledge, Carnival Corp. is working with Caribbean governments to determine how it can help long-term.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line: The line kept Grand Celebration docked in Palm Beach through September 16, providing free hot meals to first responders and deeply discounted accommodations and meals ($39 per person, per night) to people displaced by the storm. (Anyone wanting to book a cabin should call 800-611-4242 to reserve a cabin, or stop by the cruise terminal check-in desks at the Port of Palm Beach.) In addition, from September 23, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has chartered the ship to house first responders in St. Thomas as they help to rebuild the island following Hurricane Irma. Regular sailings are scheduled to resume December 23.

Before Hurricane Irma

Norwegian: Norwegian Escape returned early to Miami September 7, giving passengers the option to disembark or remain onboard and evacuate. The ship departed the same day at full capacity, with more than 4,000 passengers from the previous cruise, as well as the canceled Norwegian Sky sailing, the line said. (The September 9 departure was canceled.) It arrived back in Miami September 13 and is due to depart as scheduled for a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise on Saturday, September 16. 

MSC Cruises: MSC Divina returned early to Miami September 7 (following a shortened cruise), giving passengers the option to disembark or remain onboard and evacuate. The ship departed the same day with the remaining passengers from the previous cruise and rode out the storm in Cozumel. (The September 9 departure was canceled.) It arrived back in Miami September 13.

Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean offered complimentary rooms on Enchantment of the Seas to any of its South Florida employees who needed a safe haven, according to Cruise Week. The ship's September 8 three-night Bahamas cruise was canceled, and its September 11 departure was bumped to September 12. The line also secured water for employees who were not able to stock up, due to the limited supply in stores across the area.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line: For those who were not on an existing itinerary and wanted to evacuate, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line offered a one-time four-night cruise to nowhere that departed September 8 from the Port of Palm Beach at a significantly reduced cost.

Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Line also canceled cruises or rerouted ships to avoid the storm's path.

--By Gina Kramer, Editor

Want to help? Make a donation to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Efforts.