The aftermath of Cyclone Pam
As the people of Vanuatu continue to pick up the pieces after the devastation of Cyclone Pam, the murky picture regarding cruises into the South Pacific is becoming somewhat clearer. But what has become blatantly obvious is the admirable support of the cruising community, many of whom have formed a special bond with Port Vila.
While precise numbers as to the extent of damage inflicted by the cyclone on March 13 are still to be confirmed, it is the worst natural disaster in Vanuatu's history. Eleven people were killed, but that figure is expected to rise once the isolated islands are reached. UNICEF figures estimate that 132,000 people have been affected.
P&O send in ships loaded with supplies
Unsurprisingly numerous cruise ships have been affected. Here is the latest information we have:
P&O Australia and Carnival: Pacific Dawn will depart Brisbane on Saturday March 21 and Pacific Pearl will leave Sydney on Monday March 23 as per the schedule. Both cruises are travelling to Port Vila, carrying humanitarian aid. Dawn's load will include food, bottled water and tarpaulins. For more information, check out the P&O Cruises Australia Facebook page. The Port Vila port stop will be brief and passengers on both ships will not be allowed to disembark. Pacific Pearl will call at Vila on Saturday March 28. P&O have asked their passengers to understand the situation and the response online has been remarkably positive. They are dealing with situation "week to week" and hoping to re-establish Port Vila as a cruising destination as soon as possible.
All Carnival Legend and Spirit cruises are going to the South Pacific as planned. However, Port Vila and Mystery Island are being removed from itineraries. Carnival is working hard with regards to rescheduling - Mystery Island is being replaced with Lifou. For an official statement, click on the Carnival Cruise Lines Australia Facebook page.
Royal Caribbean: Rhapsody of the Seas is travelling to Mare in the Loyalty Islands instead of Mystery Island on the eight-night South Pacific cruise, leaving Sydney on Friday March 20. Rhapsody is also stopping at Isle of Pines in New Caledonia instead of Mystery Island on the eight-night South Pacific cruise, departing Sydney on Sunday March 19. Royal Caribbean has also stated that guests will be refunded any pre-booked shore excursions for Mystery Island. For more details, click on the Royal Caribbean Facebook page.
Cunard: Auckland received a big surprise on Thursday March 19, as Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2 and sister Queen Victoria felt the effects of the cyclone and docked in Auckland to avoid the bad weather. Scheduled calls to Wellington and Akaroa were cancelled and the two ships docked at Jellicoe Wharf. Queen Mary 2 has two-and-a-half days in the city, scheduled to sail for the Bay of Islands on Saturday night. Queen Victoria is now en route to Rarotonga as part of her 103-night world voyage.
Inspiring support from the cruising world: are you on Pacific Dawn?
While P&O cruises has committed $300,000 to Save the Children's relief efforts (AU$150,000 from Carnival Australia, $150,000 from Carnival Corp Chairman Micky Arison's family foundation) and Royal Caribbean has so far donated $AU100,000, the response to our initial cruisesalefinder.com.au story on Cyclone Pam has been both inspiring and a reminder of how unique the cruising community actually is.
The article has set a new record for eyes reached with numerous comments and shares, reflecting how much our customers care about the situation in Vanuatu. Special mention to the following:
Chris Mumford: We walked the streets of Port Vila when we went there on our cruise 2008. I cried when I saw it after Pam struck: kia kaha you wonderful people. Hope you find the happiness you had once. My thoughts are with you.
Maryann Fraser: How about we take a ship load of people over to help rebuild: I will go in a heartbeat to help out.
Lisa Jane: My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Vanuatu. A wonderful place with some great people.
Diane Hamilton: We will visit again as soon as we can. Vanuatu & Le Lagon & Hideaway. We won't forget you!
As P&O prepares to send ships into Port Vila loaded with supplies, we would love to hear from anyone on-board Pacific Dawn or Pacific Pearl destined for Vanuatu. Please comment in the section below or on our Facebook page, as you embark on one of the most important cruises in the industry's history. We are sure it will evoke a passionate response from many of you.
And if you wish to donate funds to the recovery effort, here are the key websites:
Cruisesalefinder.com.au will continue to keep you updated with news as we get it.