Major Cruise Lines Sail for Humanitarian Relief After Hurricane Irma

Cruise companies, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruise, Royal Caribbean, travel, Caribbean, Florida, hurricane Irma, Leon kaye
The Norwegian Sky is one cruise ship pressed into post-Hurricane Irma relief service

Florida may have dodged even worse destruction than what was feared only a week ago, but much of the Caribbean has been devastated and various news reports suggest damage from Hurricane Irma could cost $50 billion.

As the recovery and cleanup begin, three companies that have long been important to the Caribbean’s travel industry say they are helping the broader relief effort with their own cruise ships. Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have announced that they are dispatching ships to ports including Key West, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.

According the the Miami Herald, Carnival Cruise Line has secured one ship to deliver supplies to St. Kitts and Grand Turk. The company has also promised to develop plans with local officials to deliver more supplies to more islands via future scheduled trips. Those pledges follow last month’s announcement that Carnival and its chairman’s charity, the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation, pledged to contribute at least $2 million for disaster recovery after Hurricane Harvey.

Norwegian and Royal Caribbean are also contributing resources to offer direct assistance to some of the islands hardest hit by Irma. One of Norwegian’s cruise liners departed over the weekend for St. Thomas to deliver supplies, as well as evacuate residents and visitors who were unable to evacuate before Irma hit. Meanwhile, another one of the company’s ships is reportedly at full capacity with travelers who were unable to make scheduled flights home after their travels.

Royal Caribbean has also dispatched ships to ports across the Caribbean in order to provide supplies and has offered space for those who need to evacuate their homes or hotels. The company has canceled several schedule cruises to destinations such as Cuba and the Bahamas in order to assist the broader humanitarian aid effort across the region.

Those supplies are desperately needed as news reports in recent days have shown the desperate conditions across the eastern Caribbean, long visited by vacation seekers worldwide. Food and water have been in short supply, and many hospitals and pharmacies have also been destroyed. Barbuda, one of the first islands to be hit by Irma, lost 95 percent of its buildings and currently half of its population is homeless. One-third of the buildings on the Dutch side of St. Maarten are in rubble, and its iconic beachfront airport suffered heavy damage.

The European Union, of which several of its members have sovereignty most of these islands, has promised a short-term emergency relief package of $2.4 million as of press time. But many of these islands’ residents and visitors need assistance now, so the fact that these cruise lines are stepping up can make an immediate impact where help is needed most.

Image credit: OneCyclone/Wiki Commons


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Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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