Hurricane Season 2018: Where Do Caribbean Cruise Ports Stand?

July 16, 2018
Viking Sea in San Juan

(Updated 6:45 p.m. EDT) -- It's hard to believe, but barely eight months after the destructive forces of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria swept the Caribbean, it is once again hurricane season -- officially beginning on June 1. While most islands with cruise ports made a swift recovery, working to bring tourism dollars back into the economy just weeks after the storms, other destinations were less fortunate.

The good news is that every single Caribbean cruise port is open and welcoming cruise ships and visitors. Dominica, which experienced widespread destruction, will host Carnival Cruise Line beginning in July; Barbuda, which evacuated all inhabitants of its small island in the wake of Irma, is expected to be back on track to receive cruisers onboard Windstar ships this November.

If you're planning a Caribbean cruise or wondering what the latest is on your favorite port of call, we've rounded up which lines are calling where, as well as the status of each island.

For the latest information on hurricane season, be sure to check out the rest of Cruise Critic's hurricane coverage.


Anguilla beach

Anguilla

Cruise Port: Road Bay at Sandy Ground

This small, British island in the Eastern Caribbean was hard hit by Hurricane Irma, but has recovered well. Seabourn Cruise Line has a number of Exotic Caribbean itineraries that are scheduled to call on Anguilla this December. After a six-month renovation, one of the island's luxury villas, the ViewFort Estate, has reopened. (Anguilla has more capacity in villas than hotel rooms.) The island can also be reached by ferry from both sides of St. Maarten/Martin in about a half-hour for $20 one way.


Antigua

Cruise Port: St. John's

Antigua escaped much of the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and served as a home for displaced residents of sister island, Barbuda, which was severely impacted by the storm. Major cruise lines including Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and more, commenced calling on the island as early as last fall. Antigua was one of the first Caribbean islands to recover from the storms enough to welcome tourism.


Aruba

Cruise Port: Oranjestad

The Southern Caribbean island was untouched by the hurricanes of 2017. Cruise lines continue to call on Aruba, as usual, and some even replaced ports of call with the island immediately after the storms.


Bahamas

Cruise Ports: Nassau; Freeport

The Bahamas is a nation of about 700 islands, and nearly all made it through the storm damage, including popular cruise port and capital Nassau (on New Providence Island), and the dock in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Bahamas sailings resumed shortly after the hurricanes and remain as ubiquitous a cruise destination as ever. Hotels are fully operational.


Barbados

Cruise Port: Bridgetown

Barbados was spared by the hurricanes of 2017. More than a dozen cruise lines call here on a variety of mega-, luxury and sailing ships.


Barbuda

Cruise Port: Low Bay Beach

The island of approximately 1,800 residents -- a twin to Antigua -- was severely impacted by Hurricane Irma, which passed directly over the small island, resulting in destruction of 90 percent of homes. Despite widespread devastation, Barbuda has been steadily recovering. As a show of faith, Windstar Cruises is scheduled to call on Barbuda beginning in November of this year on a handful of Caribbean itineraries.


Bermuda

Cruise Ports: King's Wharf; Hamilton; St. George's

Bermuda escaped any effects from the storms and is open to all cruise ships.


Bonaire

Cruise Port: Kralendijk

Bonaire, a tiny island in the Southern Caribbean, was unaffected by the hurricanes.


Castaway Cay

Disney's private island in the Bahamas experienced very little damage from the hurricanes and has been operating as usual.


CocoCay

Also known as Little Stirrup Cay, Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas fared well during the 2017 storms and has been open and operating for the past eight months. Beginning next fall, RCCL will overhaul CocoCay, introducing tons of new amenities.


Cuba

Cruise Ports: Havana; Cienfuegos; Santiago de Cuba

While parts of Cuba -- mainly Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Santa Maria -- experienced flooding and damage as a result of Hurricane Irma in September, the country got back online quickly, and Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos were largely unaffected. Cruise lines have been increasing calls to Havana, and Cuba overall, including Carnival's recent announcement about Cuba cruises from Charleston and the largest ship ever to deploy to Havana.


Curacao

Cruise Port: Willemstad

Curacao, one of the ABC Islands in the Southern Caribbean along with Aruba and Bonaire, was unaffected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.


Dominica

Cruise Port: Roseau

Hurricane Maria hit Dominica as a Category 5 storm on September 18, 2017. The island's prime minister said that initial reports were of widespread devastation, with most homes losing roofs from the 160-mph winds. Despite the damage, the island nestled between Guadeloupe and Martinique welcomed its first cruise ship call in late December (the small Sea Cloud II) with a major cruise ship call in January (German company TUI Cruises' Mein Schiff 3). Carnival Cruise Line resumed visits to Dominica on July 10, and it will call throughout the summer and fall along with other major lines like Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America and Seabourn.


Dominican Republic

Cruise Ports: Amber Cove; La Romana; Samana; Santo Domingo

According to the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, all ports in the country are operating normally and none suffered damage due to Hurricane Maria, with very little damage from Hurricane Irma. (Amber Cove was developed by Carnival as a purpose-built cruise port in 2015.) More than 50 cruise ships are expected to arrive this year to the DR, and the small ports in Sans Souci and Cap Cana are also fully functional and carrying out their operations without disruption.


The Florida Keys

Cruise Port: Key West

On September 24, Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas called on Key West -- just two weeks after Hurricane Irma made landfall there. The Florida Keys sustained serious damage and flooding as a result of Hurricane Irma, but the Port of Key West recovered sooner than expected. Now, eight months after the first returning cruise ship call, sailings to the popular port are scheduled as usual, and visitors can expect their favorite shore excursions and local bars and restaurants to be open and operating. Most hotel capacity has also returned.


Great Stirrup Cay

Norwegian's private island in the Bahamas was unaffected by the storms.


Grenada

Cruise Port: St. George's

Grenada was unaffected by the storms and is open to cruise ships and visitors.


Aerial shot of Pointe-a-Pitre

Guadeloupe

Cruise Port: Pointe-a-Pitre

Hurricane Maria hit the southern shores of the French island of Guadeloupe on September 18, 2017, causing flooding and obstruction of roads from debris. However, infrastructure remained intact, and you can expect to see 2018 winter sailings to Guadeloupe from MSC Cruises, Costa, Seabourn and Holland America, as well as Princess and Carnival in early 2019.


Haiti

Cruise Port: Labadee

Haiti was relatively unscathed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private island, is regularly on a variety of five- to nine-night Royal Caribbean sailings. Cruises might continue on to the Eastern, Western or Southern Caribbean, or Cuba.


Half Moon Cay

The Bahamian private island, primarily used by Holland America and Carnival, is open to cruises.


Martinique

Cruise Port: Fort de France

Hurricane Maria passed over Martinique on September 18, and the port re-opened on September 20, 2017. The French island is open to visitors and on 2018 itineraries from Princess Cruises, Holland America, Disney, Royal Caribbean, MSC and Norwegian Cruise Line.


Montserrat

Cruise Port: Little Bay

Montserrat, like Grenada, is part of the British West Indies and was not affected by the hurricanes.


Nevis

Cruise Port: Charlestown

A twin island to St. Kitts, Nevis was open to tourism in late September, shortly after the storms hit. Mainstream cruise lines tend to only call on St. Kitts, but smaller, luxury lines like Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea, and sailing ships Star Clippers, have calls to the port in Nevis scheduled for winter 2018/2019.


Princess Cays

Princess Cays, located at the southern end of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, was not damaged by the 2017 hurricanes and is featured on a wide variety of four- to 14-night Caribbean cruises from Princess and Carnival.


Puerto Rico

Cruise Port: San Juan

After sustaining extensive damage from back-to-back hurricanes, Irma and Maria, San Juan re-opened as a homeport on October 7 and also served as a hub of humanitarian aid. In late November, the Port of San Juan received its first port of calls from Carnival Conquest and Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. Carnival reinstated San Juan as a homeport in February.

In mid-May, the San Juan Cruise Terminal welcomed 17,000 cruisers from Carnival Ecstasy, MSC Seaside, Carnival Magic and Harmony of the Seas. On May 12, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas relocated to homeport in San Juan for the upcoming 2018/2019 cruise season (expected to have a $40 million impact for the local economy).

Carnival's newest ship, Carnival Horizon, began calling at San Juan in early June; other new cruise ships arriving later this year include mega-ships Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas and Celebrity Edge. For the upcoming cruise season, San Juan expects a record-breaking 1.7 million passengers, which officials equate to approximately $250 million in revenue for the U.S. territory.


St. Barts

Cruise Port: Gustavia

St. Barts was heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma, which destroyed government buildings and badly damaged private homes and hotels. By late November, tourism was coming back, as we reported from a sailing onboard Crystal Esprit.

Attractions for cruise visitors -- such as shops, beaches, downtown restaurants and the famous Nikki Beach club -- are open, but some major hotels (like Eden Rock) have not yet reopened. St. Barthelemy can primarily be found on the itineraries of luxury cruise lines like Crystal, as well as Silversea, Seabourn, Regent, Oceania and sailing ships like Star Clippers and Windstar Cruises.


St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Cruise Port: Frederiksted

While fellow U.S. Virgin Islands St. Thomas and St. John were far more impacted by Hurricane Irma, seaports and airports on St. Croix quickly re-opened. Hurricane Maria made landfall in St. Croix between September 19 and 20. The Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility pier in Frederiksted, St. Croix's deepwater cruise ship facility, is undamaged and welcoming cruise ships from Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival on mainly Eastern Caribbean itineraries. New restaurants and small businesses on the island include the St. Croix Brewing Company, a brand-new microbrewery, as well as a walking food tour of Christiansted from VI Food Tours.


St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Cruise Ports: Cruz Bay

St. John is a smaller island off the coast of St. Thomas. Occupied mostly by Virgin Island National Park, St. John sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Irma with downed trees and debris blocking trails. The island is mostly experienced by visitors as a day trip by ferry from St. Thomas, where most mainstream cruise lines dock, but select smaller ships do dock at the port facility in Cruz Bay. British line Cruise & Maritime Voyages is scheduled to call later this year as part of a long itinerary on Marco Polo; Azamara Club Cruises and Silversea have calls scheduled beginning March 2019.


St. Kitts

Cruise Port: Basseterre

The Port Zante cruise pier, in St. Kitts, did not sustain storm damage. In fact, the port of Basseterre was one of the first cruise ports to re-open following Hurricane Irma; Carnival Fascination called on September 8. St. Kitts & Nevis sustained minimal damage from both Irma and Maria. All hotels in St. Kitts are fully operational and St. Kitts' Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport re-opened and began welcoming flights on September 20. Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival and more cruise lines continue to call here.


St. Lucia

Cruise Port: Port Castries

St. Lucia was unaffected by last year's hurricanes. Multiple cruise lines call there on Caribbean itineraries.


St. Maarten

Cruise Port: Philipsburg

Philipsburg, on the Dutch side, is home to the largest cruise facility on the island, and despite extensive storm damage, the port re-opened to cruisers on December 4. We were on Royal Caribbean's first sailing back to St. Maarten after the storms, and businesses were rebuilding. We spoke with a main tour operator in St. Maarten and they said that more than 20 operational tours were run this season, with more concierge options on the way for the upcoming season. A number of Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, Norwegian and Celebrity cruises have resumed relatively frequent calls on St. Maarten. Late last year, the Rockland Estate, a huge new eco-park, opened on the island. The Maho Beach Resort and Ocean Point Resort are scheduled to re-open in November and February, respectively.


Aerial shot of Marigot

St. Martin

Cruise Port: Marigot

The French side of the island was severely impacted during Hurricane Irma. Popular sites with cruisers, like Orient Bay Beach, were still in recovery mode when we visited in December. Now, nearly six months later, the island continues to rebuild. Luxury yacht Crystal Esprit, of Crystal Cruises, runs regular sailings roundtrip from Marigot. Land-based resorts were severely damaged, including hotel chain Sonesta, but others are on the mend.


St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Cruise Ports: Charlotte Amalie; West Indian Company dock; Crown Bay dock

One of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean, St. Thomas took a hard hit last September after the double-header hurricanes of Irma and Maria. By November, mega-ships were once again calling. In early December, Magens Bay was officially re-opened with the help of Royal Caribbean. On its busiest days, tens of thousands of cruise passengers visit Charlotte Amalie. Roads are being rebuilt and most tour operators are back in business.

This cruise season, visitors can experience a variety of new food tours (St. Thomas Food Tours) and even go bowling, right near then cruise port, at Chicken'n Bowling. The Children's Museum has also re-opened. At least a half-dozen mainstream cruise lines are regularly calling once again at St. Thomas.


St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Cruise Port: Kingstown

St. Vincent and the Grenadines remain open and unaffected. Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and MSC Cruises are just a few cruise lines that call on St. Vincent.


Tortola (British Virgin Islands)

Cruise Port: Road Town

Hurricanes Irma and Maria, both registering as Category 5 storms, hit the BVI within two weeks of one another, between September 6 and September 20, resulting in casualties and severe property destruction. After three months of recovery, Tortola received a cruise ship on December 6 with the arrival of British ship Marella Discovery. Now, you can visit this small, scenic island onboard a number of Norwegian Cruise Line itineraries (including its newest ship, Norwegian Bliss), as well as Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity, MSC and Carnival.


Turks & Caicos

Cruise Port: Grand Turk

Hurricane Maria passed over the Turks & Caicos islands on September 22, 2017. By November 1, Carnival Ecstasy was back with a call on Grand Turk, the Carnival Corp.-owned and -operated port. When we visited in mid-December, it seemed like just about everything was back up and running. (Several of the hotel properties on Turks & Caicos were scheduled for annual closure prior to Irma, and some properties elected to remain closed to assess any damage, but re-opened by the end of October.) Carnival quickly resumed a number of seven- and eight Caribbean cruises with a call here, now including its newest ship, Carnival Horizon.

--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor