BY HUGO MARTIN
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS
Hurricane Irma has put a temporary halt to operations at Florida’s usually bustling cruise ports, forcing cruise companies to cancel several trips and shorten others.
When the monster storm ripped through the Caribbean and Florida, it struck the world’s three busiest cruise ports — Port Miami, Port Canaveral and Port Everglades — as well as the top cruise destination, the Caribbean.
Although the storm is likely to put a dent in the operations of the $35.7 billion cruise industry, a final assessment of the financial impact may not be known for weeks or months, industry experts say. More than 3 million cruise passengers sail out of Florida ports each year.
As on Monday morning, Port Miami, Port Canaveral and Port Everglades remained closed, pending inspections by government officials to determine the extent of storm damage.
Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s largest cruise company, canceled six cruises scheduled to depart between Sept. 7 and Monday, and delayed the departure of six others.
Royal Caribbean, another major cruise company, canceled two sailings, one to Cuba and another to the Bahamas. The company said the ships would be used for humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean.
Cruise passengers will be refunded their fares and fees and will be offered a 25 percent credit toward a future cruise.
Stuck in Miami
Royal Caribbean will also delay the departure of four cruises and, in some cases, will refund a portion of the fares to passengers whose trips have been altered.
Cruises on the Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Escape were canceled last week, leaving some passengers stuck in Miami with a massive storm bearing down on them.
Norwegian Cruise Line said it accepted about 4,000 of those passengers onto the Norwegian Escape and set sail for Cozumel on the eastern tip of Mexico, away from the storm.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Sky has been deployed to the Virgin Islands to carry humanitarian supplies to victims of the storm.