Hurricane Irma disrupted some airline and cruise travel Tuesday as it threatened the eastern Caribbean and prompted South Florida’s airports and seaports to activate emergency measures to safeguard their facilities.
American Airlines canceled nearly 35 flights to several Caribbean destinations through Thursday, including departures from the Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami international airports, an airline spokeswoman said.
Affected destinations include Antigua, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, U.S Virgin Islands and St. Maarten.
JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit — top airlines at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport — were waiving reservation change fees for passengers who want to re-book their travel. Some airlines are also refunding airfares for canceled flights booked by a certain date.
In addition to Puerto Rico, JetBlue also listed Antigua, St. Croix, St. Maarten and St. Thomas as destinations likely to be impacted.
Seaport and airport officials in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties are advising passengers booked on cruises and flights from South Florida this week to check with their respective cruise lines and airlines for the latest travel updates. They also said they were taking action to protect buildings and equipment.
“The Broward County Aviation Department has already started securing equipment on the airfield and directed our airlines to do the same with their equipment on and around the gate areas of the airport.” said spokesman Greg Meyer in an email. “Currently, all of our operations are running normally to meet the needs of the traveling public.”All three South Florida seaports are expected to be under “Port Condition Whiskey” status starting 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. That means heightened preparations will be in force with the possibility of gale force winds of 39-54 miles per hour entering South Florida within 72 hours.
As part of the plan, operators of oceangoing cargo and passenger vessels have been advised to be prepared to exit the ports as soon as possible.
As of early Tuesday Port Everglades was expecting a handful of cruise ships to arrive later this week including Carnival Conquest, Carnival Splendor, Harmony of the Seas and Allure of Seas as well as its Bahamas day-ferry operator Jaume I.
Miami-based Royal Caribbean said Tuesday it canceled two Bahamas sailings for Sept. 8 aboard its Enchantment of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas ships.
“We are very sorry for the impact this storm has had on your vacation and please know that we made the decision with the safety and comfort of our guests and crew in mind,” Royal Caribbean told affected customers.
The cruise line said it will refund 100 percent of the cruise fare and fees paid and also offer displaced passengers a 25 percent cruise credit on a new cruise booked within the next 30 days.
Royal Caribbean said it’s also evaluating five other sailings between Sept 8-10, including Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas Caribbean cruises from Port Everglades. An update was planned for Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Norwegian Cruise Line canceled a three-day Bahamas cruise out of PortMiami on the Norwegian Sky scheduled for Sept. 8, as well as a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape set for Sept. 9. The line pledged full refunds and 50 percent future cruise credits.
The company also modified a pair of multi-day cruises out of PortMiami to the Western Caribbean and to Cuba this week.
At Port of Palm Beach, its sole cruise operator, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, canceled sailings for Friday and Sunday to Grand Bahama Island from the Riviera Beach seaport, CEO Oneil Khosa said in an email.
Affected travelers can call 1-800-374-4363 to reschedule a cruise or request a refund, Khosa said. Guests who re-book by Sept. 30 will receive a $50 onboard spending credit per cabin, he noted.
Bahamas Paradise’s hurricane hotline is 800-214-0864….