At least five cruise lines were rerouting ships in the Caribbean and the Bahamas on Monday as a growing Hurricane Ian barreled toward Florida.
In a significant change, Norwegian Cruise Line sent its 2,002-passenger Norwegian Sky to the Eastern Caribbean for the week instead of the Western Caribbean to avoid the storm.
The Miami-based vessel, which departed the city late Sunday, will visit Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Tortola and the Bahamas this week instead of Grand Cayman, Belize, Honduras and Mexico.
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MSC Cruises’ 4,540-passenger MSC Seashore is also heading to the Eastern Caribbean instead of the Western Caribbean. The Miami-based vessel, which departed the city on Saturday, will visit the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic over the next few days instead of Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Mexico.
Other last-minute itinerary changes affect:
- Celebrity Infinity. The 2,170-passenger Celebrity Cruises vessel pulled into Nassau in the Bahamas on Monday instead of being at sea as scheduled. It will skip a call in Belize on Tuesday and replace a call in Cozumel, Mexico, scheduled for Wednesday with a stop in Labadee, Haiti. The Fort Lauderdale-based vessel is on a seven-night voyage that began Saturday.
- Mariner of the Seas. The 3,344-passenger Royal Caribbean ship skipped a call scheduled for Labadee, Haiti, on Monday and instead was at sea. The Port Canaveral, Florida-based ship is on a five-night voyage that began on Saturday.
- Liberty of the Seas. The 3,798-passenger Royal Caribbean ship will skip a call at Cozumel on Tuesday as it heads far more easterly than normal to avoid the storm. The ship is on a seven-night cruise out of Galveston, Texas.
- Allure of the Seas. The 5,484-passenger Royal Caribbean ship will skip a call at Roatan, Honduras, scheduled for Tuesday as it also stays to the east to avoid the storm. The ship is on a six-night voyage from Fort Lauderdale.
- Scarlet Lady. The 2,770-passenger Virgin Voyages vessel will skip a call at Costa Maya, Mexico, scheduled for Tuesday and visit Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic instead. The ship is on a five-night voyage out of Miami that began Saturday.
The storm will likely affect more cruise ships over the coming days as it crosses into the Gulf of Mexico and approaches the west coast of Florida.
Among other vessels that could face disruptions are Carnival Cruise Line ships based in the Gulf of Mexico ports of Galveston; New Orleans; Mobile, Alabama; and Tampa, including Carnival Dream, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Glory and Carnival Paradise. The Port Canaveral-based Carnival Liberty also could be affected if Ian tracks eastward across Florida.
Related: Hurricane Ian likely to affect travel for days
Carnival has yet to announce any itinerary changes due to Ian, but a spokesperson for the line told TPG on Monday that six Carnival vessels could possibly be affected by the storm in the coming days.
“Our fleet operations center in Miami is continuing to monitor Hurricane Ian and its potential impact on the itineraries for the following ships: Carnival Dream, Ecstasy, Glory, Liberty, Paradise and Sunrise,” Carnival spokesperson Matt Lupoli said in a statement.
Of particular concern is Carnival Paradise, the only cruise vessel currently based in Tampa. It’s due back in Tampa early Thursday from a five-night cruise to the Western Caribbean and scheduled to depart the city later that day on a new voyage. The current projections for Hurricane Ian’s track put it close to Tampa by Thursday.
On Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard set Port Condition Yankee for the Port of Tampa, which means gale-force winds (34 to 47 knots) are expected within 24 hours. Ships are barred from entering a port under Port Condition Yankee but can still depart.
Related: A complete guide to cruising during hurricane season
In a video update posted Monday, Royal Caribbean chief meteorologist James Van Fleet warned that the storm could cause more of an impact on the west coast of Florida than it appeared just 24 hours ago.
“I think there might be harder impacts [to the west coast of Florida] than it was looking over the weekend,” Van Fleet said in the first of two Twitter videos offering his outlook on the storm and its effect on cruisers. “I think we need to be ready for that.”
Also keeping an eye on Hurricane Ian is Disney Cruise Line, which has two ships based in Port Canaveral. The ships are scheduled to take on new passengers at the port on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“We’re closely monitoring Hurricane Ian,” Disney Cruise Line spokesperson Melanie Hager told TPG in an emailed statement. “We have not made any modifications to our itineraries at this time.”
Hurricane Ian’s projected path toward Florida is causing growing anxiety for cruisers scheduled to board ships in the state in the next few days, particularly those scheduled to sail out of Tampa and Port Canaveral.
In addition to possible delays to ship departures, cruisers scheduled to sail out of the central Florida ports of Port Canaveral and Tampa this week could face flight cancellations and delays.
“I really hope [Carnival Cruise Line] just cancels my cruise now,” one passenger scheduled to sail out of Tampa on Thursday wrote Monday on Twitter.
The disruptions come as one of the busier cruise ports in the region that normally would serve as an alternate stop for cruise ships avoiding Hurricane Ian, Grand Turk, remains closed for now due to damage from Hurricane Fiona.
As of 11 a.m. EDT Monday, Ian was about 100 miles west of Grand Cayman and moving northwest at 13 miles per hour. The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour.
The storm is expected to strengthen rapidly over the next 36 hours as it moves northward over Cuba toward the west-central coast of Florida. According to current projections, it could be a very powerful Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour as it nears the coast of Florida late Wednesday into early Thursday.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism