While damage from this year’s hurricane season has scrambled
Caribbean itineraries for large cruise ships sailing from Florida and
elsewhere, it has created an additional level of uncertainty for small-ship
lines operating in the region.
A number of companies base their ships during the winter in
Caribbean islands that were recently decimated by storms, including St.
Maarten/St. Martin and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many offer port
calls at islands that are likely to need months to be ready for tourists again,
such as St. Barts, Dominica and Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Windstar Cruises is one company that has had to reshuffle
its itinerary plans following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The Seattle-based line scrubbed plans to sail its
208-passenger Star Breeze in the Caribbean and instead will keep it in Panama
and Costa Rica, where it has added cruises in February and March.
Windstar said it is still in the process of deciding which
itineraries to offer on the Star Pride, which is scheduled to begin sailing
from San Juan on Nov. 25.
“We are working with our San Juan agents and hotels and
have conducted a detailed port-by-port evaluation for mid-cruise port calls,”
Travel agents and guests will be updated by email when a
decision is made, according to the company.
Another line still trying to decide its course in the
Caribbean is Crystal Cruises, whose 60-person Crystal Esprit expedition yacht
is scheduled to begin a series of roundtrip cruises from Marigot,
St. Martin, on Nov. 2.
The French collectivity, which shares the island also
occupied by Dutch St. Maarten, was badly hit by Hurricane Irma.
Crystal is in discussions with local port officials and is
telling guests that the Crystal Esprit plans to sail from St. Martin, according
to some travel agents. Others said there has been no official decision.
“I have not received any correspondence from them at
all about that vessel,” said Karen Ruppel, manager of leisure and cruises