In the aftermath of the two mega-storms that tore through the Caribbean in September — Hurricanes Maria and Irma — a lot of travelers are wondering about which islands have recovered and are ready to receive visitors in the months ahead.
The short answer is: nearly all of them. Some 75 percent of the Caribbean was unscathed by the hurricanes, and even in areas walloped by the storms, locals are counting on tourism to help them get back on their feet.
In November and December, major cruise lines continue to reroute dozens of sailings to destinations away from the hardest-hit ports — St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. John, St. Barts, Tortola and Grand Turk. But even in the affected areas, ships are slowly starting to return.
Which islands are back in business? Here's a port-by-port roundup.
Anguilla (Blowing Point)
► Status: Recovery efforts are ahead of schedule.
Off the beaten track of the major cruise lines, Anguilla was hard hit by Hurricane Irma, which knocked out 90 percent of the electrical grid as well as the main water supply. Limited ferry service from St. Maarten has resumed while a new terminal is being built, due for completion in December 2018. Anguilla seems to be recovering faster than other hard-hit islands, according to our staff member Shannon Kircher, who lives there. Electricity, phone and Internet service have been restored to most of the island, and many restaurants are already open or plan to reopen next month. Some smaller cruise ships will resume sailings to the island late this month. The Anguilla Tourist Board has created a microsite with updates on the island's recovery efforts.
Antigua & Barbuda (St. John's)
► Status: Antigua in good shape, Barbuda remains closed
While the main island of Antigua suffered a glancing blow from Irma, its sister island Barbuda was devastated. On Antigua, cruise ships have returned in greater numbers than ever thanks to the cruise lines' reshuffled itineraries, including visits from ships that have never stopped here before. But there won't be any excursions to Barbuda for a long time: The small island saw 90 percent of its homes damaged or destroyed. Before Irma, Barbuda had a population of 1,800, and now it's uninhabited, with plans to reopen to visitors in mid-December 2018.
Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao
Nassau — the Caribbean's largest cruise port — and the ports of Freeport, Castaway Cay, CocoCay, Great Stirrup Cay, Princess Cays and Half Moon Cay were all relatively unaffected by Irma, which passed far to the west. Cruise ships continue calls to the Bahamas as usual.
Barbados escaped serious damage from the storms and has been receiving cruise ships on a regular schedule.
British Virgin Islands
► Status: Ongoing recovery efforts with cruises to return soon
The island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands received a devastating blow from Hurricane Irma and continues to recover with ongoing repairs to its power grid. A prized destination for yachties, Tortola has just begun welcoming yacht passengers again, and commercial flights to the B.V.I. have resumed in part. However, major cruise lines have canceled stops in Tortola for the rest of 2017, replacing them with calls in the Western Caribbean. Power on Virgin Gorda has been 60 percent restored, and the Bitter End Yacht Club there remains closed, Travel Weekly reports. Jost Van Dyke was also hit hard. Officials hope the first cruise ships will return by late December following an evaluation of port facilities.
Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman)
Grand Cayman was unaffected by the storms.
Havana suffered damage from Hurricane Irma, including power outages and water shortages, but the port in Cuba's capital has reopened and cruise lines have resumed sailing there.
► Status: Closed to cruise visitors until January as recovery efforts continue
Dominica, dubbed the Nature Island of the Caribbean, was pummeled by Hurricane Maria's category 5 winds. Nearly a quarter of all homes were flattened and a third of reefs at dive sites were damaged. All of the island's dive operators remain closed with most not expected to reopen before January. Repair work continues on roads leading to nature-based tourism sites. Limited commercial flights to Douglas Charles Airport have resumed. Officials say cruises will resume in January when the pier is back in operation and nature attractions reopen.
Grenada (St. Georges)
Grenada was unaffected by the storms.
Martinique experienced flooding and power outages in the wake of Maria, but its port was closed only briefly.
Puerto Rico (San Juan)
► Status: The cruise port has reopened as recovery efforts continue.
About half of the island remains in a blackout and many residents still lack clean water and adequate medical care. Despite the island's ongoing struggles with electrical power and critical infrastructure, Puerto Rico’s tourism sector has begun to rebound. Cruise lines have rerouted some ships away from San Juan though others have resumed visits there; the cruise port is open. Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is fully operational.
Some tourism sites — including the Puerto Rico Museum of Art in Santurce, the Museum of Art in Ponce and the Bacardi outfit in San Juan — are open. El Morro, San Cristobal and other San Juan historic sites are now closed but expected to reopen in the coming weeks, officials say. El Yunque National Forest, a major tourist destination and home to endangered species, remains closed for the foreseeable future. Officials are shooting for many tourism sites to reopen by Dec. 20, in time for the December-May high season, according to USA Today.
St. Barts (Gustavia)
► Slowly reopening to cruise visitors
St. Barts, the European Union territory and hideaway for the rich and famous, took a major hit from Irma on Sept. 6. Its harbor is operational and has just reopened to cruise visitors, though some sailings have been diverted to other destinations. Electricity, Internet service and water lines have been restored, roadways cleared and many businesses have reopened. However, recovery efforts will continue for months.
St. Kitts (Basseterre)
St. Kitts received a glancing blow from both hurricanes but escaped major damage. The Port Zante cruise pier remained open, and several cruise lines added St. Kitts to passengers' itineraries in place of the affected areas.
St. Lucia (Castries)
Beautiful St. Lucia was unaffected by the storms.
St. Maarten/St. Martin (Philipsburg)
► Slowly reopening to cruise visitors with cruises resuming in December-January
St. Maarten was walloped by Hurricane Irma and the devastation is widespread, with hundreds of buildings and homes destroyed and beaches degraded. Residents continue to struggle for basic needs. Nearly all cruise lines' sailings to the French-Dutch island have been rerouted to other destinations until early 2018. St. Maarten is among the most visited cruise ports in the Caribbean, drawing more than 1.6 million cruisers a year. Princess Juliana International Airport resumed sporadic commercial flights in mid-October. Some cruise lines have canceled visits through March 2018 as the island continues to recover. Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas will call in St. Maarten on Dec. 17, marking the return of cruise ships to the island, followed by Carnival Sunshine on Jan. 15.
"We are open now, but visitors have to realize we have come through an enormous, powerful storm and the island is in the midst of recovery," minister of tourism Melissa Arrindell-Doncher told Travel Weekly. She said she expects tour operations to get back to normal levels by March.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
St. Vincent and the Grenadines was unaffected by the storms.
Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad & Tobago was unaffected by the storms.
Turks and Caicos (Grand Turk)
► Slowly reopening to cruise visitors starting this month
Turks and Caicos, visited chiefly by Carnival cruise ships, suffered damage from both hurricanes, with power restored, fresh water being pumped and all roads cleared. The Grand Turk Cruise Center officially reopened Nov. 1 with a visit from Carnival Ecstasy. Itineraries are expected to return to normal in the coming weeks. Providenciales International Airport and Grand Turk JAGS McCartney International Airport are operating. Most of the shops and restaurants on Provo, the island of Providenciales, have reopened, although restoration efforts continue throughout the nation.
US Virgin Islands
► St. Thomas is reopening to cruise visitors starting in December
The storms delivered crushing blows to St. John and St. Thomas, including the port of Charlotte Amalie, and also inflicted serious damage on St. Croix. The airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix are open to commercial flights again.
St. Thomas: The U.S. territory is struggling to cope with widespread decimated buildings, infrastructure damage and lack of running water. Power outages continue though officials say electricity will be restored to 90 percent of the island by Christmas. Major cruise lines initially canceled visits to the island for many itineraries but will return in December, with more than 60 ship visits expected. Some smaller, high-end cruise lines have already started to return. Magens Bay, the popular beach, was damaged by both hurricanes but has reopened to cruise passengers.
St. John: Efforts continue to clear debris, restore infrastructure and reopen the pristine Virgin Islands National Park. Many of the island's beaches will soon reopen, though Caneel Bay will be closed for the 2017-2018 season.
St. Croix: The island experienced severe flooding and wind damage from Maria, causing major damage to buildings, roads and beaches. Nonetheless, many cruises originally destined for St. Thomas were initially rerouted to St. Croix, whose cruise terminal is operational.
You can also get more information at the websites of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the new CaribbeanIsOpen site set up by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.