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Hurricane Maria: implications for travellers to the Caribbean

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 20 September 2017 22:39 BST
Cjear the decks: The expected course of Hurricane Maria
Cjear the decks: The expected course of Hurricane Maria (National Weather Service)

Hurricane Maria has swept across the northern Caribbean, causing huge disruption to travellers.

As with the previous major storm, Hurricane Irma, airlines have cancelled and re-timed flights to and from the Caribbean.

The Foreign Office said: “The US Virgin Islands were severely impacted by Hurricane Irma and are still recovering. Curfews remain in place, and the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas is currently only receiving emergency relief supplies.”

British Airways has grounded or rescheduled numerous flights. It operated an extra flight on Wednesday morning from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to Gatwick on Wednesday morning - the BA2208. But outbound flights on Thursday 21 September have been cancelled “because it is highly likely that the airport will be closed due to the hurricane”.

BA has also cancelled the Antigua-Providenciales segment of its Gatwick-Turks & Caicos service on Thursday. Affected passengers can choose between refunds or being rebooked on subsequent flights.

Delta Airlines is offering most passengers in the region the chance to postpone travel until 2 October. Travellers to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, can switch travel to any time up to the expiry of their ticket.

For Caribbean holidays sold in the UK that are disrupted by weather, the Package Travel Regulations may apply, They cover flights and accommodation bought in a single transaction. The rules oblige the package organiser to make suitable alternative arrangements, or bring the customer home, at no extra cost.

Ahead of the main cruising season in the Caribbean, which begins at the end of November, cruise lines have already been surveying the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma and adjusting their schedules accordingly.

For each port of call, they are assessing both the logistical issues involved, such as damage to the harbour infrastructure, and whether it is wise to disembark large number of passengers in a location that is under repair.

Cruise lines reserve the right to amend their itineraries in any way they choose, without compensation for passengers. This option is likely to be invoked for a wide range of ports of call. Royal Caribbean, for example, asserts the right “to omit or substitute any port(s), call at any additional port(s), vary the order of call for ports, change the time of arrival at, departure from or time spent at any port of call, deviate from the advertised itinerary in any way or substitute another ship”.

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