Ready for visi­tors? A post-Irma up­date on Caribbean is­lands and Florida cities

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Magazine - By An­drea Sachs

No ques­tion, Hur­ri­cane Irma was a heart­less beast. Over the past week, the storm clawed its way up a chain of Caribbean is­lands be­fore knock­ing down the door into Florida. The nat­u­ral dis­as­ter has left be­hind a war zone of roof­less homes, top­pled trees, crum­bled ho­tels and flooded streets. Many des­ti­na­tions will need months to recover, while oth­ers have al­ready started to bounce back.

“The af­fected coun­tries are get­ting on with the busi­ness of re­build­ing,” said Hugh Ri­ley, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Caribbean Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion. “By the end of[ last] week, many [were ex­pected to] have a bet­ter as­sess­ment of their dam­age .”

Mr. Ri­ley re­minds trav­el­ers that the Caribbean en­com­passes a large swath of trop­i­cal real es­tate and that Irma grazed only a small por­tion of it. “You don’t want peo­ple think­ing they should stay away from the whole re­gion,” he said. “The whole Caribbean has not been closed for busi­ness.”

The Caribbean and Florida have just started their re­cov­ery ef­forts, and sta­tus up­dates are chang­ing daily. For the most cur­rent re­ports, we reached out to the Caribbean Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion, CheapCaribbean. In­trepid Travel and Lisa Grubba, an en­vi­ron­men­tal writer for Florida Field Notes. Of course, be­fore you book a trip to an Irma-blown desti­na­tion, con­tact your ho­tel to con­firm that it is fully in­tact. In ad­di­tion, reach out to the lo­cal tourism of­fice for the most timely in­for­ma­tion on trans­porta­tion, road and beach con­di­tions and op­er­at­ing hours for at­trac­tions.

The Caribbean

An­guilla: The air­port has re­sumed ser­vice. Good prog­no­sis for sev­eral of the ma­jor ho­tels and re­sorts.

An­tigua: The air­port is open and elec­tric­ity has been re­stored in the cap­i­tal of St. John’s and most parts of the is­land. Busi­nesses are op­er­at­ing, in­clud­ing most ex­cur­sions. No struc­tural dam­age to ho­tels; lim­ited flood­ing. Beach cleanup is in progress.

The Ba­hamas: The Nas­sau/Par­adise Is­land air­port is open; Grand Ba­hama air­port is closed. The Port of Nas­sau is ex­pected to wel­come cruise ships mid­week. Prop­er­ties in­clud­ing At­lantis, War­wick Par­adise Is­land and San­dals Emer­ald Bay on Great Ex­uma are ready for guests.

Bar­buda: Mas­sive dam­age to homes (90 per­cent), ho­tels and tourism in­fra­struc­ture. Not ready for visi­tors. Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands: Wide­spread dam­age on Tor­tola and Vir­gin Gorda,com, which has or­dered a 6 a.m.to-9 p.m. cur­few. Not ready for visi­tors. Cuba: Power is re­turn­ing in many ar­eas of the is­land. Some flood­ing in Ha­vana, in­clud­ing the neigh­bor­hoods of Vedado and Cen­tro Ha­bana, but­wa­ter is re­ced­ing. Des­ti­na­tions such as Vi­nales, Soroa, Trinidad, San­ti­ago de Cuba and Bara­coa are op­er­at­ing as nor­mal, though some ex­cur­sions, such as hikes to wa­ter­falls, may re­main closed for a few­more days.

Do­mini­can Repub­lic: Air­ports are open, as are ho­tels and busi­nesses.

Puerto Rico: Port and air­port are open. The ma­jor­ity of main­land ho­tels and re­sorts are back in ser­vice. Cleanup ef­forts are tak­ing place at parks and beaches.

St. Barts: Lim­ited com­mu­ni­ca­tion and a slow re­turn of wa­ter and elec­tric­ity. Port is open, and the 25 Quar­ter restau­rant and bar is serv­ing cock­tails. The star-stud­ded Eden Roc is de­lay­ing its usual Oc­to­ber re­open­ing, due to dam­age.

St. Martin: Ex­ten­sive de­struc­tion. Not ready for tourists.

St. Kitts and Ne­vis: Do­ing well.

Turks and Caicos: The Prov­i­den­ciales air­port has re­sumed flights. Sev­eral of the is­land’s top re­sorts, such as the Sands at Grace Bay and the Shore Club, plan to re­open by the end of the month. Cruise ships are re­turn­ing to the port on Grand Turk Is­land. South Caicos Is­land suf­fered-sig­nif­i­cant dam­age.

U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands: St. Croix, which re­opened its air­port last week, avoided se­ri­ous dam­age, but its sis­ter is­lands weren’t so lucky. The U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands’ tourism of­fice is “re­quest­ing the post­pone­ment of all sched­uled vis­its to St. Thomas and St. John.” CheapCaribbean. notes that all ho­tels on St. Thomas and St. John are closed through Sept. 30.

Florida

Most Sun­shine State des­ti­na­tions are fully or par­tially up and run­ning, in­clud­ing Tampa, St. Peters­burg, Jack­sonville, Day­tona Beach, Fort Laud­erdale, Mi­ami and the Walt Dis­ney World theme parks — with the ex­cep­tion of Wa­ter Parks, which [were slated to open at the end of last week.] The Florida Keys, how­ever, are closed. The tourism of­fice re­quests visi­tors post­pone trips to the is­lands but ex­pects to open in time for Fan­tasy Fest in Key West on Oct. 20.

John Raoux/As­so­ci­ated Press

Mar­lene Sulk­ers, left, is es­corted by her grand­daugh­ter Rachel Sulk­ers as they evac­u­ate from Rachel's res­i­dence in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Irma, in Jack­sonville, Fla.

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