by Sue C Travel
The “H” Word and the Caribbean
As a seasoned travel writer specializing in the tropics, I know full well that island tourism boards hate it when you even mention the “H” word (hurricane). They much prefer if you use the words ‘tropical storm’ if you must mention it at all. But this past season there was no getting around it. Many major hurricanes ripped through the islands, and left many totally devastated. It was a season like no other.
Some islands were hit so hard that it will take them a long time to recover- Barbuda, St. Maarten/St. Martin, St Thomas, St. John, Dominica, and Puerto Rico among them. Others were badly bruised but not broken and are recovering ahead of schedule like Anguilla, while some islands are completely outside of the hurricane belt like the Dutch Caribbean ABC’s (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and never worry about storms at all. And the Bahamas has some 700 islands, but few were affected. It’s a very large expanse; so don’t think that the Caribbean is closed due the past hurricane season. It’s not. 70% of the region was not affected by storms this year.
Thankfully, many major cruise lines have already begun returning to ports at islands that were badly affected, and airports on the most part are back up and running. So don’t discount the Caribbean as your winter escape. The best way you can help beyond donating to funding campaigns is to actually visit the islands this year because they are very dependent on tourism. The entire region needs your business to help bounce back. For a current status update of all the islands post hurricane season see:
So what’s it like to live through a hurricane? We spoke with some of our expat Canadian friends living in the islands about their recent experience, and frankly, we sometimes wonder why they stay. But one thing that comes across strongly from all of their accounts is that the resilience of the Caribbean people is true force to be reckoned with- one that even the Mother Nature’s worst wrath cannot defeat.
Renuka Harrigan grew up in Milton, Ontario, married an Anguillan man, and moved there a few years ago. Hurricane Irma was her first rodeo. She said, “I won’t lie, it was terrifying- the noise, the destruction… it felt like it was the end of the world. And worse, I have a special needs child I needed to comfort, but the aftermath, brought about a whole new understanding of the people here. I had labored hard to establish The Blossom Centre- a school for special needs children on the island- and it was badly damaged. But the way the entire community came together so quickly to help each other out in every way was mind blowing. Yes, much still needs to be done, but I feel part of something bigger now, I’m dug in here and will continue to do my best to also help those in need.”
Tim and Rebecca Tibbitts moved to the Bahamas from Ontario in 2007. Tim is a chef and Rebecca a sommelier, so they opened their dream restaurant, Flying Fish Modern Seafood in Freeport in 2012. Hurricane Matthew hit them hard in 2016. Rebecca Tibbitts recalls, “It was heartbreaking, but we opened up again as soon as we could. It was tough- mentally and physically- and we thought of packing up and quitting many times. Then, we saw Hurricane Irma heading our way.”
Thankfully, Irma veered off their path, but the couple adds, “The feeling of dread that comes over you is hard to explain. But now, after several major storms weathered, the resiliency of the Caribbean has seeped into our blood. We calmly go through the motions of preparation and don’t panic, but now we know enough to stock lots of wine in our shelter! ” They have since rechristened their restaurant as Flying Fish Gastro Bar:
Olivier Auvray from Nun’s Island, Quebec, moved to St. Maarten to open some business ventures for tourism just as major Hurricane Luis hit in 1995. He is still there. He said, “ Yeah, we rebuilt after Luis, and this time my office literally exploded, but we will rebuild again. We knew what we were in for when we moved here, St. Maarten is not gone; it’s just on pause for a little bit. We’ll be back stronger than ever.”
I recently traveled through St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana airport en route to Saba and I was amazed at how efficient everything was considering that it was little more than a complex of tent cities. Everyone was surprisingly upbeat, traffic moved smoothly, security was impressively fast, and everything left on time. There was food, drink, duty-free items and restrooms, and even a pop-up bar! Incredible!
Yep, the Caribbean is on the mend, so please, grab your flip-flops and visit this season.
To donate to hurricane victims and businesses on the islands visit:
There are also many products you can buy where proceeds go to hurricane help like
Omari Banks’ track Caribbean Strong where 100% percent of the single’s proceeds will go directly to APANY to help Anguilla: www.apanydonate.org. It’s available on iTunes.
Other Caribbean News
Riu Palace Paradise Island has been recently refurbished and reopened as an adult-only resort. As of Dec. 17th, 2017, Sunwing is offering direct flights to Bonaire from Toronto, and Sunrentals Bonaire will accept Canadian dollars at par this season to celebrate at their Oceanfront Apartments: www.sunoceanfront.com. AMResorts launched their 15th Secrets brand resort in Dominican Republic in 2017, Secrets Cap Cana Resort & Spa is their latest upscale adult-only all-inclusive there, they also opened two new resorts in Jamaica- Breathless and Zoëtry now join their collection in Montego Bay. Visit: www.amresorts.com . Aruba’s The Mill Resorts & Suites will undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation and be rebranded as a Courtyard Marriott in 2018.
Award-winning travel journalist Sue Campbell is based in Montreal but makes it her business to be on top of everything cool, hot, and new under the sun throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. World Traveler welcomes her as a new regular columnist. Follow her on twitter @suectravel.
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