PHOTO: Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Star docked at St John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. (photo by Jason Leppert)
The wrath of Hurricane Irma—the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean—has not even come to an end.
Yet, its devastating effects on the Caribbean and its local people are already coming into clearer focus. Meanwhile, the cruise lines and ships that frequent the region are left scrambling, diverting and canceling many sailings.
Hurricane season is a fact of life for the cruise industry, occurring every year between the months of June and November, but 2017 has been particularly troubling. Hurricane Harvey has just left a major toll, and now Irma is wreaking its havoc.
Ordinarily, Caribbean cruise destinations rebound relatively quickly from hurricanes passing through and causing “routine” disruptions. However, some of the damage is far more severe this time around.
ABC News is reporting that Barbuda, where the hurricane first made landfall, saw “unprecedented” infrastructural carnage, with Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne saying 90 percent of the island’s buildings have been destroyed. Tragically, one person was also killed.
St. Martin was also badly hit according to the Daily Mail. The Princess Juliana International Airport and adjacent Maho Beach, where planes famously land closely overhead, were among the destruction.
So far, other cruise destinations like St. Kitts and Puerto Rico have come away mostly unscathed. Still, Irma’s potential path includes the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, Cuba and The Bahamas before mainland Florida.
READ MORE: Cruise Lines Scramble to Stay Ahead of Irma
It’s somewhat surreal to see images of Antigua and Barbuda and St. Martin so devastatingly ravaged after having cruised to both island destinations in the recent past. The reality is that it will take some time before tourism again picks up in these areas, even though it’s one of the very things that could most help them.
My wife has expressed interest in aiding the afflicted, and it got me to thinking about Fathom.
The brand originally set out to positively impact the DR with volunteer voyages before its sole Adonia ship was redeployed back to P&O Cruises. It still exists for those Carnival Corporation ships that continue to visit there.
However, how cool would it be if Fathom still operated its own vessel so that they could be sent on hurricane relief missions?
Rather than heading only to the DR and alternating to Cuba as it once did, the Adonia could now set sail for Barbuda and St. Martin. Hundreds of onboard volunteers would be at the ready to help restore the islands.
For awhile, most cruise ships will instead bypass devastated ports and revise their itineraries to visit unaffected alternatives. The majority of vacationers undoubtedly prefer to seek leisure over work, but for those looking to make a difference, such relief cruises would be uniquely satisfying.
If only Fathom still had the Adonia to consider this idea.
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.