PHOTO: Royal Caribbean International ships docked in Cozumel, Mexico. (photo by Jason Leppert)
Cruise traffic is shifting West after Hurricane Irma caused major damage to island destinations in the Eastern Caribbean.
Five diverted cruise ships brought at least 18,000 visitors to Cozumel over the weekend. According to Galu Communication, the Mexican port city has seen a 60 to 70 percent increase in tourism numbers since the hurricane.
It’s sure to continue this way in the region for some time as cruise lines bypass affected areas.
The latest update from Norwegian Cruise Line reads, “We are working with our partners to assess impacts to the ports we visit in the Eastern Caribbean. Currently, we have changed all of our Eastern Caribbean itineraries to Western Caribbean cruises for the next two months.”
Royal Caribbean International’s website specifically mentions three destinations, saying, “Given Hurricane Irma’s impact to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Key West, we will be working on alternative ports for future sailings until these islands have fully recovered.”
Of course, not all Eastern Caribbean ports have been devastated and most cruise lines will likely select alternatives to visit accordingly. With capacity constraints being a challenge, not many displaced ships can descend upon neighboring islands at once and be accommodated.
Norwegian, for one, seems to be hedging its bets by heading only to Eastern Caribbean ports, which include the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Belize and more in Mexico for now. The company also has its new Harvest Caye private destination ready in the region.
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While island likes of Barbuda, St. Martin, St. Thomas, St. John and Tortola may be in limbo for a long while—months or more potentially—the Bahamas and rest of the Eastern Caribbean is still in good shape.
In fact, there has been no news regarding any damage to cruise line private islands, most of which are Bahamian and closer in proximity to Florida.
Meanwhile, Floridian departure ports are beginning to return to normal operations with Port Everglades safe to traffic and Port Canaveral reopened to cruise ships.
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.