St. Maarten welcomes first cruise ship since Hurricane Irma

T1211VIKINGSTMAARTEN_C.jpgThe Viking Sea in St. Maarten. Photo Credit: RTGH PhotographySt. Maarten has reopened as a port of call for cruise ships, three months after Hurricane Irma left the Dutch-French island in shambles.

The Viking Sea sailed into St. Maarten on Dec. 4, followed by the Marella Discovery on Dec. 5. Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas will call on Dec. 17.

Signs of progress on the French side of St. Martin include the reopening of Tijon Parfumerie and the Spiga restaurant and the debut of Cafe Spiga in Grand Case later this month.

On the Dutch side, hundreds of villas are available for rent. Timeshare resorts Sapphire Beach Resort and Atrium Resort plans to welcome guests early in 2018, according to SXM Weekly News.

MSC Cruises Donates School in Rebuilding Caribbean

Virgin Gorda, British Virgin IslandsPHOTO: The semi-permanent school will serve the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. (photo via Flickr/kansas photo)
MSC Cruises continues to assist in the rebuild of the Caribbean following September’s devastating hurricanes.

The Swiss-based cruise line announced Thursday that it has joined forces with government officials in the British Virgin Islands to donate a new 4,000 square-foot, the pre-fabricated building that will function as a semi-permanent school on the island of Virgin Gorda.

All 15 of the territory’s schools were destroyed in the recent hurricanes.

“It is our responsibility as a family-owned company in the seafaring business for more than 300 years, to come to the aid of our family, friends and neighbours in dire times,” said MSC Cruises USA chairman, Richard Sasso in a statement. “This donation is one of many ways we are working to set the industry standard to help those who need it most and we’re proud to utilize our global resources to assist as the Caribbean works to recover and rebuild.”

The donation represents just one example of MSC Cruises’ ongoing effort to restore the British Virgin Islands and the surrounding Caribbean as a whole.

“With most cruise ports in the Caribbean region now open for business, MSC Cruises, along with other players in the cruise industry, are working to support local governments in their efforts to restore normality and rebuild the damaged infrastructures on the islands impacted,” the cruise line stated on its website.

With the help of its global network of partners, MSC Cruises has already helped ship food, water, medical supplies and building materials to the British Virgin Islands as well as hard-hit places in Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and Dominica.

The cruise line recently provided shipping services to bring emergency lighting to Puerto Rico.

Another aspect of the global cruise’s effort to assist the islands is by ultimately returning to the coveted destinations.

Travelers seeking a holiday sailing to the Caribbean with MSC Cruises this December can have their pick of the MSC Divina or the brand new MSC Seaside.

Click here to learn more about some of the ways MSC Cruises is aiding in the Caribbean’s recovery.

Carnival Fascination chartered to FEMA, San Juan departures canceled

Carnival Cruise Line said its ship operating out of San Juan, the Carnival Fascination, will be chartered to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), wiping out four months of cruises.

The move came at FEMA’s request, Carnival said. The cruise line had been set to resume its normal seven-day cruise schedule from San Juan on the Carnival Fascination on Oct. 15.

Instead, Carnival said departures from Oct. 15 through Jan. 28 have been canceled. The Fascination will resume regular year-round cruising from San Juan on Feb. 18.

“We recognize how important vacations are, and we sincerely apologize for the disruption this late change in plans has caused our guests and travel partners,” a Carnival advisory said. “We value your trust in us and hope you understand that this decision was made after careful consideration of the great need to support the recovery efforts in the region.”

Carnival also modified Caribbean itineraries on a variety of ships through Dec. 31 that substitute new ports of call for visits that had been scheduled for St. Maarten and St. Thomas.

Carnival joins Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line in chartering a ship to FEMA for hurricane relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 2005, Carnival chartered three of its ships to FEMA for six months for emergency housing in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.