— -- Royal Caribbean is sending cruise ships to the Caribbean to help with Hurricane Irma relief efforts and to transport people affected by the storm to safety, the president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, Michael Bayley, said on “Good Morning America” today.
Ships from Royal Caribbean's fleet are being mobilized and filled with supplies to “help out with the efforts as best as we can,” said Bayley.
“We were able to tie up, and we landed much needed provisions: water, ice, garbage bags, clothing, canned food,” he said on “GMA.” “We were able to evacuate around 320 tourists and local people who needed help and needed to get out of St. Martin. They all boarded the ship yesterday evening and are comfortable, and we’re taking them on to the ABC islands [Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao], where they’ll probably disembark.”
Bayley said one of the company’s other ships, Majesty of the Seas, is “fully provisioned [and] fully fueled” and is being sent to the Virgin Islands.
“We’ve been in contact with the local government in the Virgin Islands, the governor and the team there, and they’ve asked us to come and help land provisions — ice, water, etc. — and also use the ship temporarily to feed and take care of the responders,” he said. “And then they’re planning on boarding anywhere up to 2,500 travelers who are stuck in the Virgin Islands, and we’ll take those people to Puerto Rico, where we’re working with various airlines to help get them safely home.”
A third ship, Empress of the Seas, which Bayley said is in the Gulf, will go to Key West “as soon as it’s safe” so it can “land water, ice and really help out with the efforts as best as we can.”
Much of St. Martin, a popular tourist destination, was destroyed by Irma, which was a Category 5 hurricane when it hit the island. Its famous Princess Juliana International Airport was badly damaged by the storm, making supplies deliverable only via helicopter and ship.
The damage on St. Martin is so bad that some large resort companies, including Sonesta, have canceled reservations for the rest of 2017.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the island’s “four most solid buildings” were destroyed and that more rustic structures were probably “completely or partially destroyed.”
Before the storm, Royal Caribbean canceled three of its cruises in the Caribbean.
The cruise line’s chief meteorologist, James Van Fleet, is closely tracking Irma’s progress to determine its potential effect on its current and upcoming sailings, according to a press release issued Sunday.