Cruise ships are synonnymous with luxury and relaxation… far from the current reality they are facing after hurricane Irma devastated the coast of Southern Florida and several Caribbean islands, most of where cruise lines operate.
The category 4 storm ‘Irma’ made its way up the west coast of Florida Sunday, having earlier ripped through several islands in the Caribbean, destroying infrastructure and killing at least 24 people.
From the bridge of one of its ships, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean Michael Bayley, shared with ABC News how the company evacuated 2,700 employees from the South Florida area and fled the hurricane zone towards southern islands that had already been affected by the category 5 storm. “Everbody’s feeling pretty good. Obviously, we’re all from south Florida, every single person on the ship, so we’re anxious about our homes; we’re starting to head back to South Florida and we’re off the west coast of Cuba. People were relieved and happy to leave South Florida but of course now everbody’s anxious to get home. We’re planning on being home Tuesday mid-day,” said the executive.
The cruise line has enabled four ships for humanitarian relief and were sent to deliver provisions such as canned foods, water and even garbage bags to help those in need in St. Thomas and St. Maarten, two islands that were hit hard by Irma’s passing. The Adventure of the Seas ship, with passenger capacity of 3,800, made a humanitarian stop in St. Maarten on Sunday. “We were abel to evacuate around 320 tourists and local people who needed help and had to leave the island,” Bayley added.
The Majesty of the Seas ship was allocated to the Virgin Islands to rescue around 2,000 travelers that were stuck in the island of St. Thomas after the storm. “We’re taking those people to Puerto Rico where we’re working with various airlines to help get them safely home,” concluded the CEO. Empress of the Seas is standing by to assist Key West, while a fourth ship will do the same for Tampa once the impact of the storm is known.
According to press reports, Norwegian Cruise Line sent one ship to St. Thomas to pick up about 2,000 people late Monday who couldn't get off the island before the storm.
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