PHOTO: Multiple cruise ships lined up at Port St. Maarten.
The message is crystal clear: The Caribbean is open for business.
During a conference call Monday morning, Arnold Donald (Chair, CLIA and CEO, Carnival Corporation), Adam Goldstein (Chair, FCCA and President and COO, Royal Caribbean) and Michele Paige (President, FCCA) emphasized the destination is doing well and there is no need to stay away.
In fact, the opposite is true.
Paige said that “most of the region was completely unaffected,” and the FCCA and regional cruise lines are, “working tirelessly on hurricane relief,” to help the few areas that were. She continued to repeat with confidence: “The Caribbean remains open for business.”
That is the subject of a new campaign and communication efforts.
“It is a great time to go to the Caribbean,” Donald added. “There is no better way to support the Caribbean than to go to the Caribbean.”
He encourages people to contact their travel agents to book a sailing accordingly.
Truth is, of the one million square miles that comprise the Caribbean, there are, “100 different itineraries to choose from,” according to Donald. Only four of 50 most pertinent ports to Royal Caribbean—San Juan, St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. Martin—were significantly affected.
Nevertheless, all destinations are expected to be up and running in the coming weeks.
“Recovery is happening very, very quickly in the affected areas,” explained Donald, who additionally expects Grand Turk to be operational within 30 days or so.
The representatives from Carnival and Royal Caribbean both reaffirmed they will only take guests to these destinations provided they will deliver a positive experience—shore excursions included—and that is all fully anticipated.
When asked about Norwegian Cruise Line’s change of deployment primarily from the Eastern to the Western Caribbean in response to the hurricanes and whether or not the brand is being encouraged to return to the East, Paige ensured everyone that the partners are working together.
“Each cruise line has a direct relationship with their destination partners. As I said, they’re family, so they are very, very conscious of the need to go back to the destination, but all the destinations are working together. For instance, when we could not get supplies into the British Virgin Islands and St. Martin, the other destinations we could drop it off [at] would get it there, so we’re all working together,” she said.
“In keeping the ships in the Caribbean, keeping them happy and then when the destinations are fully recovered, and the cruise line feels that they can go back as a business decision, they will go back. But as I said, they know that these destinations’ lifeblood depends on them going back. So, they’re very conscious of that.”
However, if people are waiting for a deal to be had, it might not come. Donald repeated that cruising is already a great value and that specials are not necessarily likely as a result of the hurricanes.
Further reassuring is how Carnival Corp.’s Fathom brand may still factor into all of this.
While the Caribbean is up and running, there are still volunteer opportunities remaining. Fathom as a program now expanded across all the company’s cruise lines can potentially assist—as I previously suggested—beyond its primarily Dominican Republic opportunities.
“We’re exploring expanding what we already offer, but we do have some offers that exist[ed] in those places before the hurricane,” Donald explained. “We’ll look to see if we can expand the offerings of those activities for people who may want to try to volunteer as part of their vacation to help in some way.”
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.