(1:40 p.m. AEST) — Cyclone Winston, reported to be the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, has caused extensive damage in Fiji and caused the diversion of several cruises. It is not yet known when cruise ships will return to Fiji as the post-cyclone clean-up begins.
P&O Cruises announced today it has cancelled all visits to Fijian ports until further notice.
“Our Fiji destinations are not in a position to receive visitors at this time. It is only reasonable that these communities are able to concentrate completely on recovery operations,” P&O stated on its Facebook page.
Pacific Pearl, which departed Auckland, New Zealand, today on its ‘Fiji Encounter’ cruise, will instead visit Tonga. The eight-night itinerary originally included only three ports — Suva, Port Denarau and Dravuni Island — all located in Fiji.
Earlier in the day, passengers were told that some of the Fiji visits may be possible. Cruise Critic member NZBear posted on the boards: “They have advised we could still do 2 of the 3 ports of call but they are waiting on port authorities to confirm.”
A P&O spokesperson said the situation on the ground had since been fully assessed by its port agents, local authorities and Government agencies.
Over the weekend another P&O ship, Pacific Jewel, cancelled its call to Mystery Island in Vanuatu. The cruise line stated: “Although Winston is well east of Vanuatu, its effects are likely to be felt at Mystery Island making a call there untenable.”
Cunard’s Queen Victoria, sailing in the South Pacific on its world cruise, also skipped a scheduled port, Apia, due to rough conditions. Cruise Critic member roscoe39 said: “Call to Apia definitely off, we are going to skirt eastwards around the storm.”
Royal Caribbean International was forced to make changes to the current South Pacific itineraries of
Voyager of the Seas and
Legend of the Seas.
“Voyager of the Seas departed Sydney on 19 February 2016 and Legend of the Seas departed Brisbane 18 February 2016. Instead of calling at Mystery Island, Voyager of the Seas’ itinerary will include a call to Brisbane, Queensland. Instead of calling at Mystery Island or Port Vila, Legend of the Seas’ itinerary will include a call to Champagne Bay, Vanuatu, and spend an additional day at sea,” a spokesperson told us.
At this stage, all upcoming Royal Caribbean sailings are expected to embark as scheduled from Australia. “We will advise our guests of any itinerary changes to future cruises as and when they occur, in order to provide them with a safe and comfortable holiday. We’ll continue to support Fiji as they rebuild and recover, making every effort to maintain our scheduled port calls in the weeks and months ahead, if it is appropriate to do so.”
Carnival Cruise Lines posted on Facebook to update passengers booked on the Sydney-based Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit: “With regards to our upcoming itineraries to Fiji, we are fully committed to returning to Suva and Port Denarau as soon as the people of Fiji are ready to welcome us back. We are still evaluating the impact of the storm and will advise our booked guests if we believe a change to any itineraries is required. Rest assured, we will only visit if the local community is open and able to handle the visit. We will be in touch directly with any guests (and travel agents) impacted if an itinerary change is necessary.”
P&O has pledged to donate AU$50,000 to Save the Children to assist in the relief efforts on the ground in Fiji. A similar amount was contributed around this time last year to help Vanuatu communities affected by Cyclone Pam.
According to media reports, a 30-day nationwide state of emergency has been declared in Fiji, with damage to roads, homes, crops, a jetty, telecommunications, power and water infrastructure. At least 17 people are believed to have died in the cyclone, which hit on Saturday.