ORLANDO, Fla. — As Hurricane Dorian ended its assault over the Bahamas, the cruise lines began working Tuesday to assess the damage to their private islands in the region.
Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay was the closest cruise line private island to Elbow Cay in the northern Bahamas, where Dorian tore through as a monster Category 5 hurricane — the strongest to ever strike the archipelago. But a group of employees rode the hurricane out on the island, causing Disney to catch flack from family members of the crew who argued the line should not have allowed them to stay on Castaway through the storm.
But Disney said Castaway was spared the brunt of the hurricane-force winds that as of Tuesday had killed at least five people. About 45 miles away from Elbow Cay, the island experienced tropical storm-force winds, according to the National Hurricane Center. Disney said the maximum sustained winds on the island were 60 mph Sunday night.
Disney said the crew members who stayed on the island were safe in a storm shelter built with thick, reinforced concrete and equipped with restrooms, power, food and water. The bunker is located about 20 feet above sea level, Disney said.
“All is well at Castaway Cay,” said Disney Cruise Line spokeswoman Kim Prunty. “Due to the tropical storm conditions the island experienced, we have some cleaning up to do related to landscaping and will need to make minor repairs to the roof of one small covered pavilion area. We are awaiting the arrival of survey equipment to evaluate the pier and ship channel, as is required after any storm, before we are able to reopen Castaway Cay to guests.”
As for the crew, they’re back in their living quarters, she said.
“With heavy hearts, we have been monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to assist with relief and recovery efforts,” Prunty said.
About 80 miles from where Dorian made landfall, Royal Caribbean International’s CocoCay appears to have made it through the storm with minimal damage to its water slides and other structures.
The cruise line said it evacuated employees from the island ahead of the storm, giving them the option to return home or stay in a secure hotel in Nassau with their families. No one was on the island when Dorian passed Great Abaco Island, but Royal has been able to assess its condition from webcams on CocoCay.
So far, it appears structures came through the storm “without visible structural damage.”
The cruise line said in a statement that it was sending a team Wednesday to assess any damage and begin the cleanup.
“We hope to welcome guests back beginning with the arrival of Navigator of the Seas on Saturday — depending, of course, on what we learn on-site,” Royal spokeswoman Melissa Charbonneau said in a statement. “ … We are keeping the people of the Bahamas in our thoughts and prayers, and we are in communication with the Bahamian government on how we can best help in recovery efforts.”
Next to CocoCay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay is closed to cruise traffic. The cruise line did not respond to a request for more details about the status of the island.
Further south at Carnival Corp.’s Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line said its island was only “minimally impacted” but Hurricane Dorian.
“There was some minor beach erosion, which will be cleaned up, but no structural damage,” said Holland America spokesman Erik Elvejord. “The horses and stingrays are all doing well.”
Holland American plans to return to the island Oct. 21 as scheduled. Carnival Cruise Line, which also operates ships to the island, has canceled upcoming stops to Half Moon Cay.
“We will soon be undertaking a full assessment of our private Bahamian destinations, including Half Moon Cay, and we’ll be advising guests if any changes are needed to our scheduled calls in these ports as soon as the information becomes available,” said Vance Gulliksen, a Carnival Cruise Line spokesman.
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