How Hurricane Dorian is affecting Bahamas and US travelers

It's expected to remain powerful for a few days

By Marnie Hunter and Francesca Street, CNN

(CNN) - Hurricane Dorian has travelers scrambling to stay out of harm's way and reroute plans in affected areas.

While devastating for residents in the storm's path, the hurricane also spells trouble for travelers in damaged or threatened areas of the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Devastation in The Abacos and Grand Bahama

Dorian lashed the northern Bahamas for two days, causing catastrophic damage in The Abacos and Grand Bahama.

"There are no words to convey the grief we feel for our fellow Bahamians in The Abacos and Grand Bahama," said Dionisio D'Aguilar, Bahamas minister of tourism and aviation, in a statement on Wednesday.

Hotels in The Abacos and Grand Bahama Island are closed, according to the tourism ministry.

Also closed: Grand Bahama International Airport, Grand Bahama Island's Freeport Harbour and Leonard Thompson International Airport (MHH) in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

"Now is the time to come together for our brothers and sisters in need and help our country get back on its feet," D'Aguilar said, highlighting www.bahamas.com/relief, a website for verified ways to provide support.

Most of The Bahamas' other islands are open for business.

"We also implore travelers to continue visiting the Bahamian islands that were not impacted by Hurricane Dorian as this will help our people tremendously," D'Aguilar said.

Nassau, other islands open for business

The Bahamas capital of Nassau and neighboring Paradise Island are receiving visitors and hotels remain open.

Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) in Nassau is open, but visitors should check with their airlines on flight status. Nassau ports are also open and operational, although cruise line schedules may change.

Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Andros are also welcoming visitors, according to the tourism ministry.

Islands in the southeastern and central Bahamas were largely unaffected, including The Exumas, Cat Island, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Long Island, Acklins/Crooked Island, Ragged Island, Mayaguana and Inagua.

Transport and travel

Airlines including Delta, American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, United and Frontier are offering travelers the option to change or delay flight bookings within affected areas, with certain terms and conditions applying.

Aviation tracking website FlightAware.com keeps track of the number of day-of and next-day flight disruptions. Passengers with itineraries that may be affected should check with airlines, refer to flight waiver policies online and be sure to check flight status before heading to the airport.

Wilmington International Airport in North Carolina suspended operations on Wednesday and expects to resume flights on Friday. The same is true for Charleston International Airport in South Carolina

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia was operating a limited schedule Thursday, according to the airport's Twitter feed.

Airlines resumed flights at Jacksonville International Airport in Florida on Thursday.

Airports in Daytona Beach and Melbourne, Florida, were also expected to resume operations on Thursday.

Cruise ships changing schedules

Cruise ship itineraries have also been affected.

Carnival Cruise Line has adjusted itineraries for numerous ships leaving out of Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, Miami and Charleston. A full list on the cruise line's website is updated regularly.

CocoCay Island, owned by Royal Caribbean, is closed. It originally planned to reopen on Wednesday, but that's now been delayed and the hope is it'll be open by Saturday. Royal Caribbean also posts operational updates online.

Royal Caribbean says it is "closely monitoring" Dorian, shortening and extending some ship itineraries where necessary, although the company said that "being onboard a ship is one of safest places to be during a storm."

For non-cruise aficionados, that might seem hard to believe, but Brian Major, executive editor for Caribbean and Latin America at US content company travAlliancemedia, tells CNN Travel that's because cruise ships will always amend their itineraries to avoid sailing into a storm and ensuring the safety of passengers.

"The ships are very astute in making sure they avoid those storms," says Major. "It will impact some folks' vacations, which is the unfortunate part of it. But it's better than sailing towards a hurricane."

Major says cruisers should stay in contact with their cruise line and contact their travel agent if they think they won't be able to get to the port or if they're worried about port closures.

"These situations always bring to light the importance of travel insurance," he adds.

Accommodation

Many hotels in the hurricane's path have been boarded up and travelers have been evacuated to temporary shelters.

Marriott International will "continue to monitor the path of Hurricane Dorian, and our hotels in the predicted path have implemented storm preparation protocols," the hotel announced in a statement.

Hilton issued a similarly worded statement, encouraging guests to call 1-800-HILTONS (800-774-1500) for up-to-date information on individual hotels.

Some hotels have posted plans on websites or pinned to their social media pages detailing when and if they're closing -- including the swanky The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort south of Charleston, which details plans to close Monday and reassess its status on Thursday.

Other hotels outside the hurricane's path are operating as emergency shelters. Evacuees who can get to Statesboro, Georgia, can check out VisitStatesboro.org for information on hotel spaces available there.

Relief efforts

The Atlantis Bahamas hotel said on Twitter on Tuesday that it's working with chef Jose Andres, his nonprofit World Central Kitchen and the Bahamas Red Cross to provide relief to residents impacted by Dorian. Andres' organization uses hotel kitchens and other venues to serve food to those in need.

There will likely be further relief needed over the coming weeks: the American Red Cross says 19 million people live in areas across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina that could be lashed by the storm.

Walt Disney Company, led by Disney Cruise Line, announced plans Tuesday to donate $1 million to relief and recovery efforts in the Bahamas. Royal Caribbean has also pledged $1 million to relief efforts.

CNN's Katia Hetter and Fernando Alfonso contributed to this story.

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