US-NEWS-WEA-DORIAN-BAHAMAS-MCT

Boats tossed like toys line a pier area in the Bahamas on Monday after Hurricane Dorian.

Ports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., reopened Tuesday, allowing cruise ships whose itineraries were disrupted by Hurricane Dorian to return.

Meanwhile, Disney Cruise Line defended its decision to leave staff on the private Bahamian island it uses as a day stop for passengers.

Disney was among several Florida-based cruise companies that faced a decision as Dorian headed last week for the Bahamas: to evacuate staff on their private islands or leave them to weather the storm.

On Aug. 28, the National Hurricane Center estimated that a major hurricane would impact an area including the private islands belonging to Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Disney Cruise Line by 8 a.m. on Sunday.

As Dorian got closer on Aug. 30, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch followed by a hurricane warning for the area and warned of “a life-threatening storm surge” estimated at 10 to 15 feet.

Royal Caribbean International evacuated 400 staff members from its island, CocoCay, on Aug. 28 to a Nassau hotel or to their homes, according to a spokesperson. On Aug. 30, MSC Cruises evacuated 600 construction workers from its soon-to-open Ocean Cay island, sending them to Nassau or Miami. Dorian struck the Bahamas on Sunday.

Disney Cruise Line decided to leave its staff on its island, Castaway Cay, to ride out the storm in the company’s hurricane shelter. One hundred and two staff members stayed in the concrete shelter, which the company said is 20 feet above sea level and designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

All crew members remained safe during the storm and the company said no one was injured.

“Having operated Castaway Cay for more than 20 years, we have extensive experience managing situations like this, with the care and safety of our Crew driving every decision we make,” wrote Kim Prunty, a spokesperson for Disney Cruise Line, via email.

“The forecast leading up to this storm showed that Castaway Cay, while in the cone of uncertainty, was most likely to experience tropical storm conditions and that is what occurred.”

When Dorian struck, Castaway Cay was the cruise line island located closest to the center of the storm. The Category 5 hurricane hovered over nearby Grand Bahama and the Abaco islands for two days, pummeling them with 165 mph winds and creating storm surges as high as 23 feet.

As the hurricane moved north Tuesday, large swaths of the islands remained under water, and the true death count is still unknown. Dorian was the most powerful hurricane in recorded history to hit the Bahamas.

Although Carnival Corp.’s private island, Half Moon Cay, in the Bahamas was located outside of the National Hurricane Center’s cone of uncertainty, Carnival evacuated its staff from the island prior to the storm, Carnival spokesperson Roger Frizzell said. The island suffered beach erosion, but no structural damage.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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