Editor’s Note: This post has been updated on September 18th, 2017, with the most up-to-date information, as provided by our industry partners. All included information is subject to change. We encourage anyone with interest in booking travel to Florida or the Caribbean, or anyone with a confirmed booking to the affected area, to contact their Flight Centre travel consultant by phone, by email or by visiting them in-store.
As thousands of Caribbean and Florida residents grapple with deteriorating conditions and lack of food and clean water in Hurricane Irma ravaged areas, hotels and resorts begin to take stock of the damage sustained by the historic storm.
Most of the Canadian vacationers initially stranded have returned home, aided by rescue flights by Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat, Sunwing as well as other U.S. and European carriers.
Naturally, some of the hardest hit islands were where the Category 5 hurricane (at the time) made its first landfall. The small island of Barbuda in the Lesser Antilles was especially affected, reporting catastrophic damage where only an estimated 5% of its buildings remain.
Antigua, Sint Maarten/St. Martin, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Cuba and the barely above sea level Turks and Caicos all took a major hit too, with extensive damage reported throughout. Airports were closed leading up to and in the wake of the storm but most have now re-opened to accept aid and to continue to evacuate anyone still left behind.
Tourism is a key industry and the lifeblood of virtually all of the Caribbean islands, and efforts to clean up and rebuild infrastructure, hotels and resorts are now top of mind. The loss of communication has made it hard for hoteliers to report on the extent of the damage their hotels and resorts have suffered.
Canadian tour operators have made their assessments and have offered the following commitments.
Resort and Flight Updates (as of Sep 18)
Cuba – Sunwing is operating flights to Manzanillo as scheduled. All flights southbound to Holguin have been cancelled up to and including Sep 14. Flights to Varadero are cancelled up to and including Sep 17. Sunwing has suspended flights to Cayo Coco, Cayo Santa Maria and Camaguay until Oct 31.
Bahamas – Flights to Freeport will start up as normal Sep 15. Service to Nassau will commence as scheduled on Nov 2.
Dominican Republic – Flights to both Punta Cana and Puerto Plata are operating as scheduled.
Sint Maarten/St. Martin – All Sunwing flights from Toronto are cancelled until Oct 26, and from Montreal, they are cancelled until Nov 9. As an alternative, extra flights have been added to Cancun and Montego Bay, for those wanting to relocate their upcoming holiday.
Florida – Sunwing’s flights to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando will resume as previously scheduled on Sep 15.
“Change fees have been waived. If the change involves a higher cost, the price difference will be applicable. If the price is lower, the customer will be refunded the difference,” said Jacqueline Grossman of Sunwing Airlines.
Refunds on hurricane affected trips may also be an option – check with your travel agent.
Dominican Republic – Air Transat has resumed service to Punta Cana but flights to Puerto Plata and Samana won’t resume until later this week – TBA.
Cuba – Flights to Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria will be suspended until Oct 31. Holguin service will continue as scheduled with the next flight Sep 15. Air Transat expects to resume operations to Varadero on Sep 22.
Air Canada & Air Canada Vacations
Cuba – Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge have resumed all scheduled service to the Caribbean including Havana, Cuba. Other destinations in Cuba remain cancelled with plans to resume services to Holguin and Varadero in the coming days.
Caribbean – Flights have resumed to the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe since Saturday September 9, and to Martinique, Haiti, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos since Sunday September 10th. Other flights that were disrupted in the Caribbean will resume as regularly scheduled.
Sep 18 UPDATE – due to Tropical Storm Maria, all flights in and out of the Dominican Republic on September 18th, 2017, with Air Canada have been cancelled. Those booked to travel between Sep 18 and Sep 24 can re-book their Air Canada Vacations package until October 15, 2017. Those booked to travel to Antigua, Barbados, Guadeloupe or St. Lucia between Sep 18 and Sep 20 may re-book an alternate Air Canada Vacations package by Oct. 5, 2017. Change fees have been waived but difference in fare is collected if new package is more expensive.
Cuba & Sint Maarten/St. Martin – Flexible change and cancel rules are in effect for Santa Clara and Cayo Coco, Cuba (see below for Varadero), as well as for Sint Maarten/St. Martin, for those who booked on, or before September 12, 2017 for travel until December 31, 2017. To review your options, please check with your travel provider.
Florida, Turks & Caicos, Varadero (Cuba) and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – Flexible change and cancel rules are in effect for guests who booked on, or before September 12, 2017 for travel until September 30, 2017. To review your options, please check with your travel provider.
We advise all guests travelling to or from these cities to check the status of their flights prior to leaving for the airport.
Additional updates will be posted as they are available.
Cruise lines are also in limbo with many beginning their Caribbean sailings from south Florida ports. Royal Caribbean has cancelled all cruises to Cuba and the Bahamas planned for this week.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has re-positioned its ships normally sailing the Eastern Caribbean to cruise the Western Caribbean instead through to November.
Hotels, Resorts & Tour Providers (as of Sep 18)
Through Flight Centre’s American counterpart, Liberty Travel, we were able to get an update on a few of the islands and the state of their airports and resorts that were able to communicate their status.
|Antigua||Galley Bay||Not accepting guests until at least Nov 1, 2017.|
|Pineapple Beach Club||Re-opened Sep 14|
|St. James Club||Re-opened Sep 14|
|Verandah||Re-opening Oct 14|
|Bahamas||Airport (Nassau)||Airport now open – check your flight’s status.|
|Melia Nassau||Re-opened Sep 13|
|Sint Maarten/St. Martin||Sonesta Great Bay||Closed until further notice|
|Sonesta Maho||Closed until further notice|
|Sonesta Ocean Point||Closed until further notice|
|RIU Palace St. Martin||Closed through Oct 31|
|Westin St. Martin||Closed until further notice|
|Grand Case||Closed until further notice (March 2018)|
|British Virgin Islands||Scrub Island||Closed until further notice (January 2018)|
|St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands)||Marriott Frenchman’s Reeff||Closed through Jan 8, 2018|
|Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas||Closed through Jan 8, 2018|
|Sugar Bay Resort & Spa||Closed through Dec 31, 2017|
|Turks and Caicos||Airport||Airport now open – check your flight’s status.|
|Beaches Turks & Caicos||Revised – now closed through Dec 13|
|Grace Bay Club||Closed through Sep 30|
|Private Villa Collection||Closed through Sep 30|
|Seven Stars||Open and operational|
|West Bay Club||Closed through Sep 30|
|Fort Lauderdale, Florida||W Fort Lauderdale||Re-opened Sep 14|
|Key West, Florida||Hyatt Centric Key West||Re-opened Sep 17|
|Miami, Florida||Eden Roc||Re-opened Sep 17|
|RIU Miami Beach||Closed until further notice|
|Grayline Miami (local tours)||Cancelled through Sep 30|
|Orlando, Florida||Grayline Orlando (local tours)||Open and operational|
|Legoland Orlando||Re-opened Sep 12|
|SeaWorld Orlando||Re-opened Sep 12|
|Walt Disney World & Universal Studios||Hotels open, theme parks re-opened Sep 12|
|Los Cabos, Mexico||RIU Palace Los Cabos||Re-opened Sep 12|
|RIU Santa Fe||Closed through Sep 21|
In addition to the above properties, we have been notified of the following closures and re-openings:
Turks & Caicos
The Palms, Villa Del Mar, The Sands at Grace Bay and The Shore Club will be closed until Oct 1. Ocean Club West will remain closed through Oct 31 with the Suites section closed until further notice. Coral Gardens Resort is set to re-open on October 16 and Parrot Cay by COMO will be closed until November 19.
Cuisinart and The Reef at Cuisinart will remain closed until the end of 2018.
Jolly Beach is open and operational. Blue Waters will be re-opening September 30.
Viva Wyndham Fortuna and the Grand Lucayan both re-opened September 15.
St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Emerald Beach Resort is closed until January, 2018, and Windward Passage Hotel will be closed until March 1st, 2018.
Fort Lauderdale‘s Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six and Harbor Beach Resort have re-opened on Sep 15. The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort remains closed until further notice.
The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club plans to re-open Sep 19 while The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Beach Resort remains closed until further notice.
Miami‘s Fontainebleau Resort re-opened Sep 13, W South Beach re-opened Sep 15 and St. Regis Bal Harbour re-opened Sep 16. The Marriott Stanton South Beach and the Ritz-Carlton South Beach remain closed until further notice.
The Breakers in West Palm Beach re-opened on Sep 15 and the PGA National Resort & Spa is currently open as well.
Both the Tampa Renaissance International Plaza and the Tampa Airport Marriott are open.
Fort Myers‘ Westin Cape Coral has re-opened Sep 13.
South Seas Island Resort on Sanibel Island is scheduled to re-open Sep 27.
Marco Island Beach Ocean Resort re-opened Sep 17 and JW Marriott Marco Island plans to re-open Oct 2.
Hawks Cay in Key West will remain closed through Oct 15.
Please note: The above information can change. Please contact your Flight Centre travel consultant (or your travel provider) if you have an upcoming trip to any of the affected areas.