St. Maarten reopens to cruise ships

Hurricanes are certainly not rare within the Caribbean, with the region seeming to be badly hit at around the same time every year. This year was particularly bad, as locals tried to come to terms with Hurricane Irma – a category 5 major hurricane that developed near Cape Verde and grew in strength as it crossed the Atlantic. On September 6th, 2017, the hurricane reached its peak, as winds of up to 185mph wreaked catastrophic havoc across a number of Caribbean islands including Barbuda, Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, and Saint Martin.

In the aftermath of this terrible natural disaster, many cruise lines decided to steer their ships clear of the affected islands. Structures that once stood were entirely swept away, roads became submerged, and an island-wide blackout left people without power. The devastation was so bad, in fact, that it was reported that as much as 70% of all houses were either severely or completely damaged.

So it may come as a surprise to know that the island has opened its doors to cruise tourism once again, with Viking Sea ending a 13-week drought. It is incredible to think that, despite the devastation, the island has managed to recover in a relatively short period of time.

The truth of the matter is that the Caribbean is home to some of the most resourceful and resilient people on earth. Despite managing to work only with what was readily available, the locals have managed to restore the island to a point where cruise lines are able to dock their ships there once again. Tourism is such a vital source of income for the Caribbean as a whole and this move will work wonders for the economy of St Martin.

Celebrated as a milestone by the residents of the island, a large party of locals were sent to the dock to mark the occasion in style. Steel drums, stilt walkers, dancers dressed in flamboyant attire and port officials all gathered to greet passengers as they disembarked Viking Sea. Guests were presented with #SXMSTRONG wristbands as a mark of solidarity and support, while a plaque was exchanged in a private ceremony aboard the ship.

Indications of the level of destruction are still present across the island - as to, are the efforts that are underway to try and fix and repair. Restaurants and shops are beginning to reopen, which will bring in an invaluable source of income this winter season.

Viking Cruises’ Viking Sea will be followed by Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas – which is set to dock at the island on 17th December 2017. And St Martin isn’t the only Caribbean island to have reopened its gates to tourism in recent weeks, with St. Thomas and San Juan both welcoming cruise passengers once again in November.

The Caribbean is one of the most vital regions in terms of the international cruise industry. Thousands of British travellers embark on cruises within the region every year, while nearby Miami operate Caribbean sailings on board some of the newest and largest cruise ships in the world. The regions depends on tourism as a vital source of income and to see vessels docking in the island shores once again is very encouraging.

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