Fall 2017 has been one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent memory. Three destructive hurricanes hit the Caribbean in one month. Each of these three hurricanes reeked havoc on the Caribbean. Hurricanes Irma and Maria did the most damage. Both hurricanes registered at category 5. The U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten/Martin sustained heavy damage. On Puerto Rico and St. Maarten/Martin, the hurricane damage was extremely heavy. The damage was heavy enough that both islands looked unrecognizable. St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. also sustained significant damage. The level of damage put doubt in the minds of travelers, suggesting that these island destinations won’t see tourist traffic for a long period of time. Surprising news has arisen that these islands will be ready for tourism again by year’s end. When they say “Count your blessings”, it’s not a joke. It’s the truth.
Puerto Rico hasn’t been hit by a hurricane in nearly a century. It is desperately in need of tourism traffic of all types. The island’s infrastructure is merely in ruins. Almost everywhere anyone can look, there is debris lying around. Left and right, there are houses and businesses torn apart. It rips at anyone’s heart to see island residents seeking out shelter and supplies. The port of San Juan, in Old San Juan, is showing signs of improvement. San Juan is a very popular embarkation port as well as being a port-of-call. The three most popular attractions on Puerto Rico are El Yunche Rainforest, the Bacardi Rum Factory, and Castillo Felipe del Morro. Castillo Felipe del Morro is located on the mouth of the San Juan harbor channel. It is visited by millions. The Bacardi Rum Factory is the second most visited attraction on Puerto Rico. Luis Munoz Marin referred to the factory as the “Cathedral of Rum”. Puerto Rico in Spanish means “rich port”. Puerto Rico is without a doubt an island rich in beauty, rich in color, and rich in culture. “Rich” is embedded in the island’s name. No hurricane can change that.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are located thirty miles southeast of Puerto Rico. The islands of St. Thomas and St. John took the most damage from both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. St. Croix, the largest of the three islands, sustained moderate damage. St. Thomas sees the most tourist traffic. Anyone visiting St. John must take a ferry from St. Thomas. The cruise lines offer shore excursions to St. John from St. Thomas. St. Thomas has two cruise piers, Havensight and Crown Bay. Havensight is the largest of the two. Crown Bay is on the west side of Hassel Island, which forms a border between St. Thomas Harbor and Crown Bay. It handles Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships. Magen’s Bay is the most popular beach on St. Thomas. It is located on the island’s north shore. Hurricanes can disrupt the hustle and bustle, but they don’t disrupt the foundation of the island’s resolve. St. Thomas is an island of resilience. The waters will be bluer. The island will be welcoming cruise passengers and tourists sooner than expected.
St. Maarten/Martin is located east of the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Maarten/Martin is nicknamed “The Friendly Island”. St. Maarten/Martin is the only island shared by two European countries. It is part Dutch and part French. There is almost no distinction which side receives the most tourist attention. Phillipsburg is home to the St. Maarten/Martin cruise ship pier. The two long concrete piers can accommodate up to nine cruise ships at one time. The town of Marigot, on the French side, is ideal for shopping. Maho Bay, on the Dutch Side, is home to Princess Julianna International Airport. There, the runway is just one hundred feet from the beach. The jets are just one hundred feet above the water as they make their final approach to the runway. On the northeast shore, on the French side, is famous Orient Bay. Orient Beach is the largest clothing-optional beach in the Caribbean. The clothing-optional side of the beach is shared with the nudist resort, Club Orient. It has been rated with five stars by Trip Advisor. The resort was completely torn apart by Hurricane Irma. Orient Bay visitors can rest assured. Orient Bay will be “presentable” in no time.
The Caribbean is the go-to region for all winter travelers. Whether by plane or cruise ship, it is a region that is always pulsing with tourism. The Caribbean is a region which no hurricane can shake. The islands of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten/Martin were merely paralyzed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. In just hours, they became “Paradise Lost”. With a pleasant breeze and the sun shining brightly, the recovery process is well underway. By year’s end, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten/Martin will once again be back in action. The duty-free shops will be overflowing with shoppers. The beaches will be crowded with sun worshipers. Further, the cruise piers will be teaming with cruise ship activity. Hurricanes can rev up to whatever speed Mother Nature dictates, but they can never shake the spirits of these three great island destinations. These islands are hurricane strong. These three islands were built with resurrection power. No storm can shake these islands’ calm.