My home base is Central Florida. We felt the wrath of hurricane Irma as she wreaked havoc over the Caribbean and my Sunshine State last month.
I only lost power for 48 hours. My folks were without it for a week. I also lived in the Florida Keys during my teenage years on the island next to where Irma’s eye wall made landfall over Cujoe Key. Scrolling through the images and status updates in the Facebook feeds of those friends that still live down there made my heart hurt.
I’ve been blessed to have visited multiple areas of both the Eastern and Western Caribbean on more cruises then I can count, as well as longer length stays in both Nassau and Puerto Rico.
These people need our help.
On Saturday, September 9th I was scheduled to set sail from Miami on the Carnival Vista for an eight night cruise to Grand Turk, Puerto Rico, Saint Maarten and Saint Kitts. That day was also the day that Irma had scheduled herself to be in Miami too.
When Carnival approached me to take a four night cruise out of Port Canaveral to the Bahamas my immediate reaction was yes and then the questions started swirling in my mind…
Would trash and debris be piled everywhere? Would the water be so churned up that I wouldn’t recognize the place? Were the Bahamas effected enough that every swaying palm would be layed over sideways or stripped of its fronds?
I was about to find out.
The ship we sailed was the Carnival Fascination. She doesn’t normally sail from the East Coast of Florida. Her homeport is Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has been devastated, so she has been unable to sail from there.
When we boarded the ship we knew that we would be on her for four nights but no one had any idea where she would be going once we returned to Florida. I’ll tell you how that story ends later on in this post.
Our cruise was scheduled as such: embarkation day, sea day, Nassau and then Freeport.
When we awoke on our sea day I pulled open the curtain in our cabin and was pleasantly surprised to see that luxuriously rich blue water I had remembered in the Caribbean.
We made our way to the main dining room for Seaday brunch and I requested a seat by the window to take it in.
As we inched closer to the Bahamas I wondered what the next day would bring.
We had an excursion scheduled for our day in Nassau. We would be spending the entire day exploring the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, a quick bus ride from the port.
It was here on this beautiful island that all of my concerns were laid to rest.
Not only was the island unaffected in any way physically, the people we encountered all seemed so happy to know that tourists were returning.
As you can see, not a palm frond was stripped. Everything was lush and beautiful. Greens and blues. Just as I had remembered.
My husband and I spent a great deal of time lounging on beach chairs at the private Cove beach, eating Caribbean fair and walking The Dig area underneath the resort before returning back to the ship and setting sail to our final destination.
We arrived in Freeport on the final full day of our Caribbean cruise. When I stepped outside I was greeted with the same sights, sounds and smells that I had remembered. Everything was well on the island of Freeport too.
Buildings still in tact, palm tree still standing and all the vibrant colors that I could recall.
We ended up spending the day on the ship after a little time in the port’s market taking advantage of low crowd levels on the pool deck.
The Caribbean needs us right now. Our tourist dollars are more important than ever to the people that call these islands home. It can be an unsettling thought to think about planning a vacation to the areas that have been affected, but a cruise is still a possibility right now.
Private industry has stepped up in this time of need with disaster relief. Carnival Cruise Line has been especially instrumental in aiding the affected areas.
A HAPPY ENDING
Here’s the part where I finish the story I had begun in the beginning of this post. Where would Carnival Fascination be heading once we returned to Florida?
On the last evening of our cruise Carnival spokesman John Heald stood up in the center of a very crowded casino with a check that read $30,000. This was the amount of money that had been donated by both cruise guests and the Carnival corporation on our sailing. The money would be going directly to hurricane relief. And Carnival Fascination, well she would be going to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where she will provide housing and meals for relief workers until February of next year.
Ready to book your Caribbean cruise? Head over to Carnival.com or call 1-866-857-7234
Special thanks goes out to Carnival for hosting me and my husband on this cruise. I was not compensated to write this post and all opinions are my own.