Royal Caribbean’s September 30 sailing of Adventure of the Seas has been cancelled to devote the 3,114-passenger cruise ship to hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean.
Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which was devastated by the "catastrophic" and “life-threatening” winds of Hurricane Maria, the ship was diverted to St Croix and St Thomas to transport relief supplies before helping evacuees and stranded tourists from all three islands to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The ship is expected to return to San Juan on October 6 to prepare for its scheduled October 7 departure from St Croix to Martinique. All passengers on the cancelled sailing will be refunded and offered a 25 per cent future credit for any new cruises booked within the next 30 days. Several other cruises, including sailings on Harmony of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, have been scheduled for other dates in October.
Adventure of the Seas is the latest among a host of other ships that have been used in aid of hurricane relief in recent weeks, including idle ships from both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line that been sent to St Maarten, which suffered severe damage following the recent hurricanes.
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Ships from Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line and the Caribbean’s largest cruise operator, were also reported to be delivering supplies, water and food to the Caribbean earlier this week and were in discussion with authorities in Puerto Rico on other ways to provide aid.
Several cruise lines have been pledging donations. Oceania Cruises this week announced it will donate £350 of every booking of a veranda stateroom and above for Caribbean sailings from December 2017 to April 2018, while Regent Seven Seas announced today it will donate £300 per guest for new bookings made from now until October 31 on eight selected 2018 Caribbean voyages on board Seven Seas Explorer, one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships.
Both cruise lines and their sister brands have pledged to raise at least $2.5 million (£1.87m) for relief efforts, with Oceania having committed to $1.25 million (£1.12m) in matching donations from guests, crew, suppliers and travel partners.
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"The outpouring of assistance and support by Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry, hoteliers, and the many industry partners and friends of the Caribbean is heartwarming,” Frank J Copito, CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, told Telegraph Travel.
“It will be important that all stakeholders continue to support the sustained recovery efforts. We believe those affected destinations can come out stronger and better over time," he added.
The latest relief initiatives aren’t the first time cruise ships have been used for non-leisure purposes. Several ships throughout history have undergone temporary conversions to join the war effort, such as Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2, one of the world’s most famous ocean liners which marked its 50th anniversary last week.
The iconic ship was once used in the Falklands War in May 1982 to carry 3,000 troops to the South Atlantic. The ship was refitted for war service with several features including helicopter pads, steel plating and an anti-magnetic coil to combat explosive naval mines, while its public lounges were turned into dormitories.
P&O Cruises Canberra ocean liner was also used as a troopship in the Falklands War during its cruise ship tenure between 1961 and 1997. The ship was sailing in the Mediterranean, near Gibraltar, at the time when the war broke out. It returned to Southampton to be refitted and used to transport the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines to the islands.
More recently in 2011, the cruise ship Sea Voyager was used as a residence hall for students at St Mary’s College of Maryland following an infestation of mould in two of its dorm rooms on land.
Last year, several cruise ships, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines' 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway, doubled as floating hotels during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to create extra accommodation for visitors.