A couple of weeks on from Superstorm Sandy, many parts of northeastern America are still in ruins. Much of the focus, both during and after Sandy struck, was directed toward the cities of New York and New Jersey, which were hit hardest. However, as the cruise industry is well aware, the storm started offshore in the Caribbean, where many captains, passengers, crew and vessels alike were among the first to feel the extent of her wrath.
Some 50 cruise ships were forced to change their itineraries during Sandy’s reign of terror. Closed ports along the US northeast coast, in conjunction with dangerous conditions, poor lines of communication and the rerouting of voyages, made for difficult journeys in which captains and their crew had their work well and truly cut out for them.
Since the immediate distress caused by Sandy has dissipated, passengers have had mixed impressions of cruise operators in dealing with the natural disaster. All cruise lines have legalese protecting them from weather-related itinerary changes (contracts advise that passengers are not owed anything in the event of missed ports). However, some cruise operators, such as Carnival Cruise Lines, anticipated potential discontent off the back of Sandy and offered their passengers compensation. Other operators, like Royal Caribbean, have copped a lot of criticism about their management of the situation, which distinctly lacked remuneration.
Financial discontent aside, the long-term implications for the cruise industry are starting to become more apparent. Sandy caused significant damage to several shore-side facilities that are privately owned and used by cruise companies. One of the worst affected areas was Great Stirrup Cay, a small island that is part of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. Owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines since the late 1970s, Great Stirrup Cay had recently undergone US$30 million worth of renovations. Norwegian Jewel, Sky and Pearl have all already foregone visits to their private island since Sandy struck. Damage has similarly occurred to Princess Cruises’ Princess Cays, Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay, Holland America Line’s Half Moon Cay, and Disney Cruise Line’s Cay.