October 23, 2017

After September hurricanes, Florida’s Keys and other islands ready to welcome tourists

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By Rosemary McClure From Los Angeles Times
After September hurricanes some islands, including Florida’s Keys, are ready again for cruise ships and tourists.

Powerful storms battered the Caribbean, slamming into so many islands that it may seem to outsiders that none of them escaped harm.

Not true. Many islands were outside the paths of Irma, Jose and Maria, or weren’t hit directly.

These islands are open for business and gearing up, as usual, for the peak holiday season in the Caribbean, which stretches from December to May. (June to November is considered the official hurricane season.)

On Sunday, , Fla., launched a $1-million advertising campaign to let visitors know it has reopened to visitors.

“We’ve made enough progress where the infrastructure is ready to accept visitors,” said Stacey Mitchell, director of marketing for the Florida Keys tourism council. “Visitors are helping in the recovery process.”

Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines ships have visited the Port of Key West since hit Sept. 10.

Key West and airports are open, and the Florida Keys Overseas Highway is open throughout the 125-mile island chain.

Some parts of the Keys haven’t yet resumed normal operations. Recovery efforts are ongoing, especially in the Lower Keys and parts of Marathon that were hardest hit by Hurricane Irma.

Elsewhere, recovery operations are also in high gear. And Caribbean tourism officials have been reminding travelers that the region encompasses more than a million square miles with more than 100 islands, many untouched.

Six ports are closed, another six are severely damaged and cruise companies are visiting alternate destinations.

Closed ports include those in Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, Guadeloupe and Anguila.

Severely damaged ports, which may take much longer to open, include those in Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and British Virgin Island ports in Tortola, St. Barts and Barbuba.

Among those where cruise ships are stopping: Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Belize, Cuba, Honduras’ Roatán, Mexico’s Cozumel and Costa Maya, and islands of the Southern Caribbean: Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.

To check the accessibility of various islands, see Caribbean Travel Update, a site that features Caribbean destinations. It has set up “open for business” columns to show destinations that have not been affected or are mostly up and running.

It also lists updates on those destinations that are still at various levels of recovery.

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