Bahamas Prepares for Hurricane Irma
Much like other island nations in the Caribbean, the Bahamas is preparing for Hurricane Irma which heading its way. Hurricane warnings were issued for parts of the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas. Hurricane force winds may begin there as early as late Thursday.
Hurricane Irma has been reported to be the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. When it hits the Bahamas, the water levels are expected to rise up to twenty inches. Officials warn that the heavy rains could potentially cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
More than 700 islands and cays make up the Bahamas. They are spread out over 100,000 square miles. Today a hurricane warning was issued for the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has ordered mandatory evacuations in the southern part of the Bahamas in order to keep citizens safe. Minnis says Hurricane Irma is an impending threat to the islands of Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay and Ragged Island.
Residents of the islands will be flown Wednesday to Nassau on the island of New Providence. Minnis says this will be the largest hurricane evacuation in the history of the Bahamas. Those who don’t evacuate will be at “great danger” from storm surges caused by Hurricane Irma. He adds that emergency personnel may not be available to rescue those who stay behind when the storm is at its worst between Thursday and Friday.
The Bahamas tourism industry will take a big blow because of Hurricane Irma, and may cost the island millions of dollars. There will be a significant effect on tourist arrival to the island. All visitors and potential visitors are advised to follow the progress of Hurricane Irma closely.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar stated that even this time of year is traditionally the slow tourist season, Irma will have considerable impact on the island’s tourism industry in general. People will be afraid to come to the island because of Irma.
Many cruise lines have already canceled sailings to and from the Bahamas, with more cancelations likely in the coming days. Carnival Cruises canceled two Bahamas cruises out of Miami and changed itineraries for five others to avoid Hurricane Irma. Norwegian canceled two cruises that would have left Miami for the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and shortened two other cruises. Royal Caribbean canceled two cruises to the Bahamas and one to Cuba, and it delayed the return of three others until the storm passes. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, canceled cruises for Friday and Sunday to Grand Bahama Island from the Riviera Beach seaport in Palm Beach.
Disney has canceled Saturday’s sailing of the Disney Fantasy and the Friday and Monday sailings of the Disney Dream. Both vessels are based in Port Canaveral and were also headed to the Bahamas.
Balearia Caribbean issued a statement that they will not be sailing until at least Thursday, September 14. Travelers are urged to check their website for updates on sailing schedule. Guests who are scheduled on the days cancelled, will be able to re-book at no charge.
All cruise lines are promising full refunds for canceled cruises and partial refunds or credits for shortened cruises, plus additional credits in some cases.
Bahamasair released a statement explaining to its ticket holders that it would waive the change fees for any travelers wanting to adjust their travel itineraries because of the storm.
“All passengers booked to travel from Monday, September 4 through Monday, September 18 will not incur any change fees for adjustments made to travel itineraries during this period.”
British Airways has also cancelled yesterday’s and today’s flights from Gatwick to Antigua, which normally continue to the islands of Tobago and St Kitts respectively. They are also offering a “waiver” to anyone booked to fly to Antigua, St Kitts, Punta Cana, Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos, and Nassau before 10 September.
People who are on a package holiday to the region should stay in touch with their travel provider, check news reports and heed the advice from local authorities.
The Bahamas has also instituted a Hurricane Hotel Policy which states that visitors who cancel a Bahamas holiday because a hurricane will receive an immediate refund with no penalties.
The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, a resort and casino in Nassau, is informing customers they will be required to evacuate the property if the island is determined to be in the path of Hurricane Irma.
Hyatt said four other hotels in the region are also ceasing normal operations due to mandatory or suggested evacuation orders, including the Hyatt Centric in Key West; the Hyatt Place Marathon/Florida Keys; the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six in Ft. Lauderdale, and the Confidante in Miami Beach.
According to a Hyatt spokesperson, Hyatt guests with pre-paid reservations will receive refunds, and cancellation fees will be waived.
As of this date, hurricane warnings have been issued for the Bahamas. Tropical storm force winds may arrive there as early as late Thursday.List of Canceled Cruises
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