(Updated 7:30 p.m. EDT) -- All six of the South Florida cruise ports that shut down last week ahead of Hurricane Irma's arrival have reopened.
PortMiami, cruising's largest hub, had expected to open Tuesday, but sunken sailboats found in the cruise channel caused a delay; the port couldn't open until the debris was cleared. That caused Carnival to cancel the Sept. 11 sailing of Carnival Victory and further shorten two others on Carnival Vista and Carnival Glory. Carnival Vista will now depart on Wednesday September 13 for a four-day cruise to Cozumel, and Carnival Glory will leave Wednesday for a three-day cruise to Freeport in the Bahamas. Due to berth limitations in Miami, Carnival Sensation instead docked in Port Everglades Wednesday morning for passengers to disembark; they were transferred by coach to either PortMiami for vehicle pickup, or to Miami and Ft. Lauderdale airports. Carnival Sensation then sailed to Miami to embark passengers sailing on the next cruise Wednesday evening. MSC Divina also arrived back in Miami on September 13, and passengers have disembarked.
Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Orlando (Port Canaveral), the Port of Palm Beach and Port Tampa Bay have also reopened. Jacksonville (Jaxport) is open to shallow-water vessels only.
The ports are working closely with the cruise lines to ensure a smooth turnaround process. A spokesperson for Port Everglades said: "The Port is working with the cruise lines to determine how to best accommodate cruise guests who are returning this week. Cruise passengers should continue to check with their cruise lines for the latest information on upcoming itineraries."
No cruise ships called on Florida ports between September 7 and September 12, when Port Everglades was the first to reopen. Due to an order issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, all ports were required to close,forcing ships to leave after either altering or canceling itineraries. By Saturday, every Florida homeport was operating under the USCG's Port Condition Zulu, a full lockdown that prevents all ships from entering the port, issued when gale-force winds (39 to 54 miles per hour) are expected within 12 hours.
A handful of ships whose next cruises had been canceled, including Majesty of the Seas, Norwegian Sky and Carnival Fascination, are being used by the lines to assist with relief efforts in the Caribbean.
Airports also are in the process of resuming operations.
Last week, the storm devastated Caribbean islands, such as St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Thomas and Tortola in its path. It is unclear when the damaged ports will reopen.
--By Gina Kramer, Editor
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