What It's Like to Ride Out a Hurricane at a Caribbean Beach Resort

  • 01 of 04

    Breezes Bahamas Wins Praise from Guests for Handling of Hurricane Matthew

    Breezes Bahamas resort
    Courtesy SuperClubs

    They say that hurricanes are the price you pay for living in paradise. But what happens if you’re on holiday during one? On a recent trip to Nassau, we had the opportunity to hear first-hand from some guests who were on site at Breezes Bahamas when monster Hurricane Matthew hit the island head-on, just days before we arrived at the resort ourselves.

    It’s not every day you hear the words  ‘lovely’ and ‘hurricane’ in the same sentence. But that’s exactly how British visitor Rosaleen Kelly described how the Breezes’ staff handled the crisis. 

    Kelly was vacationing with fiancée Mick Tully when the couple first heard rumors about a possible “tropical storm." Now you must remember that resorts and tourism boards don’t like to alarm guests by carelessly tossing the “H” word around. Storms can change tracks very quickly and totally miss the target, or leave without much ado save some heavy rain and winds. Also, some islands haven’t been hit for decades, while others have been randomly slammed consecutive years in a row. Nassau had not had a major hurricane since 1929!  

    However, when guests noticed staff quietly removing all ceiling fans and art from the lobby, then putting away water sports equipment and beach chairs and anything that might blow around, and setting up sand bags around the doors, they realized that something serious was coming. Then the airport closed, so 3,000-odd visitors on island had no choice but to hunker down and ride it out. By the time the storm hit New Providence Island around noon on Wednesday, Oct. 5, Hurricane Matthew was a Category 4 monster with winds of up to 140 mph.

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  • 02 of 04

    Guests Huddled in Hotel Boardroom

    Breezes Hurricane Matthew
    Courtesy Mick Tully

    “The staff was quite lovely the way they handled the entire affair," Kelly said. "We were calmly briefed on evacuation procedures, and when the power went out Wednesday and generator power kicked in, we all headed to the main boardrooms on the second floor. They had told us to bring pillows and blankets, and they had set up a nice buffet of food and drink. Then we waited. That was the most difficult part as we all gathered in front of the windows that face away from the wind to watch the storm. 

    "All you could hear was a roaring like an oncoming train; then, the rain came in sheets. It was crazy. We never felt in jeopardy though, but watching trees go down and water rise so quickly we felt for those in less secure accommodations.”

    All guests stayed in the boardrooms overnight, and staff set up a massive buffet breakfast for them in the morning, with movies to watch to pass the time. Some news crews were reporting from the resort, so the guests were always up-to-date on what was going on outside. By early evening the next day, it was all over. Guests were allowed to go back to their rooms while staff assessed the damage. 

    Electrical power remained spotty, but the generators were in full gear, and beyond lots of fallen foliage and some flooding damage to a storeroom, the Breezes resort was spared the worst of the storm. Some other resorts nearby did not fare as well. On the southern end of the island, the storm tore off roofs, downed trees, flooded homes and businesses, and stranded many residents with storm surges reaching up to 15 feet.  But the downtown end of the island was somewhat spared the brunt of Matthew, even as other Bahamian islands, such as Grand Bahama and several of the Out Islands, suffered extensive damage.

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  • 03 of 04

    Aftermath Brings Guests and Staff Together

    Breezes Bahamas palms
    Courtesy Sue Campbell

    Fast forward to late Saturday night. We had originally been scheduled to arrive at Breezes on that fateful Wednesday, but of course with the airport closed, we had to rebook. However, arriving on the island during aftermath, we really didn’t know what to expect.

    The drive from the airport was uneventful. The roads were bone-dry: no sign of flooding, we noted a tree or two down, but power was mostly on along the route we travelled. When we arrived in the Breezes lobby the power was on, there was a band playing, and people were in party mode as usual. Though we did notice a very large number of families checking in very late at night. We later discovered that Breezes had invited the families of their staff to stay in the resort free of charge until conditions were better at their homes and their power and water had returned. We found that extremely heartening and generous.  

    We were staying on the sixth floor in a spacious corner oceanfront suite, and though the elevator was always working, during our entire stay there was no light inside: it was pitch black! Spooky! But guests took it all with good humor and quickly adapted by using their cell phone flashlights inside to see what floor to press.

    The next morning we looked out at our glorious view and you would never have known anything untoward had happened. But on second glance, you might notice that all the palm trees were in an extreme horizontal bend as if frozen in time from the onslaught.

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  • 04 of 04

    Smiles Prevailed and the Sun Soon Returned

    Breezes Bahamas
    Courtesy Sue Campbell

    The next few days were a testament to the Breezes’ staff — their fortitude, hard work and good humor never waivered, though many still had no power at their own homes. And of course, the resort's talented barkeeps kept the all-inclusive drinks flowing, always with a smile. The buffet was working overtime to feed guests three meals daily until the a la carte restaurants could reopen, but eventually we did have a chance to enjoy excellent meals at both the Italian dining room and the Garden of Eden restaurant before leaving.

    Some guests flew home as soon as the airport reopened, but the majority stayed on and were glad they did, as the ensuing weather was absolutely fabulous. Clean-up crews had been fast and efficient restoring Cable Beach to its former glory, and ocean swimming resumed. And though we were a little disappointed we couldn’t try Breezes' famous seaside trapeze, as it had yet to be reassembled, we thoroughly enjoyed pampering massages seaside when their Blue Mahoe spa beach cabins reopened.  That was a perfect ending to our stay.

    Only three days after the hurricane, we took the quick bus trip from Breezes into downtown Nassau to see how the town was faring. The Ministry of Tourism estimated that around $1.8 million revenue had been lost because cruise ships had been diverted elsewhere during storm week. So we were happy to see five big cruise liners docked downtown and the straw market crowded with shoppers. The island's tourist scene was absolutely back to normal, including lively Junkanoo Beach.