Insight Cruise Insight Unscathed Caribbean destinations need to be promoted By Tom Stieghorst / September 25, 2017 Share 1 -- It gave me a nice warm feeling to see the Empress of the Seas on a local television report over the weekend, docking in Key West again.Royal Caribbean's Empress was the first ship back to Key West, a little more than two weeks after Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys. There's still not a lot of visitors in Key West, but the bars are open and the town is gearing up for Fantasy Fest, the traditional pre-Halloween kick-off to the winter tourism season.That Key West rebounded shows the importance of careful discernment this year between areas that were hit hard by a hurricane and areas that were hardly hit. No doubt Key West experienced a hurricane, but the eye of Irma passed about 30 miles northeast of Key West on Cudjoe Key.There, the damage is more shocking and the recovery will take correspondingly longer.It is the same throughout the Caribbean.In Martinique, for example "there is no significant damage," from Hurricane Maria, according to a statement from Jacques Witkowski, France's head of civil protection and crisis response. The airport and seaport reopened shortly after the storm. The U.S. military announced over the weekend that it is relocating its foreign disaster relief task force to Martinique from Puerto Rico.On the other end of the spectrum, the islands of Barbuda and Dominica took direct hits from the eyes of Irma and Maria respectively and will be off the cruise ship circuit in the eastern Caribbean for the foreseeable future.No one knows what impression the general public has of vacation conditions in the Caribbean, but it's probably safe to say at least some people are ready to write-off the whole region for a season, just for convenience.Travel agents play a key role in helping clients distinguish the areas that won't be serviceable from those that are open for business, and may very well be offering vacation bargains that weren't available a month ago.Likewise, cruise lines have a role in finding and promoting vacations to areas such as the western Caribbean that haven't been affected. And destinations can do their best to get out the word - much as Martinique and France did after the storm - that they had good luck and are ready for tourists.If the industry can collectively draw those distinctions, and help those areas with limited damages to reopen, there may be more feel good stories like Key West to report in the not too distant future.