Cruise lines begin resuming ship departures from Florida ports that closed due to Hurricane Ian
Cruise lines have resumed operations at three Florida ports that closed during the approach of Hurricane Ian. Port Tampa Bay, Jacksonville's JAXPort and Port Canaveral all reopened to cruise vessels on Saturday after being closed earlier in the week.
Port Tampa Bay closed to marine traffic, including cruise ships, at 8 a.m. on Tuesday as Hurricane Ian bore down on the west coast of Florida, and Port Canaveral closed to marine traffic at 12 a.m. on Wednesday. JAXPort shut down at 12 p.m. on Wednesday.
The closures forced five cruise lines to cancel voyages out of the three ports that had been scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday.
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With the reopening, half a dozen cruise ships that have been stuck at sea for the past couple of days including Carnival Cruise Line's Tampa-based Carnival Paradise and Royal Caribbean's Port Canaveral-based Mariner of the Seas will be able to return to their home bases Saturday to allow passengers to disembark. Paradise had been due in Tampa on Thursday and Mariner of the Seas had been due in Port Canaveral on Thursday, too.
The three ports that were closed were the closest cruise ports to the track of Hurricane Ian, which swept across Florida from west to east on Wednesday and Thursday. None of the three ports were directly in the path of Hurricane Ian, which has caused devastating destruction and loss of life in parts of Southwest Florida.
Related: Don't cruise during hurricane season without reading this first
The storm made landfall Wednesday more than 100 miles south of Port Tampa Bay, which was the cruise port closest to where the storm came ashore with winds of around 150 mph. The storm weakened considerably as it moved across the state to the vicinity of Port Canaveral and JAXPort.
In a statement, Port Canaveral said the Rodney Ketcham Park boat ramps and Jetty Park at the port will be closed until further notice due to storm damage, but the roadways around the port are open and cruise ships have been cleared to resume operations starting Saturday.
In a tweet, the port said passengers on cruises scheduled to depart this weekend should check directly with the cruise lines for the latest on schedules.
In a statement posted late Friday on its website, Port Tampa Bay did not report any damage to port facilities. "The Port’s PUSH teams have fully assessed the docks, wharfs and terminals," the statement said. "Commercial vessel traffic is again being queued for a return to full operations at the port, meaning we are open for business."
In a status report tweeted out on Saturday, JAXPort did not mention any port damage and said that it was fully open.
In a statement to TPG, Carnival said three of its ships that were delayed returning to the three ports this week — Carnival Paradise, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Elation — would all be returning to the reopened ports Saturday.
At the same time, Carnival said that three Carnival ships scheduled to return to the ports of Baltimore; Norfolk, Virginia; and Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday morning to disembark passengers would arrive late due to Hurricane Ian's movement up the coast.
Carnival said the Baltimore-based Carnival Legend and Norfolk-based Carnival Magic still would arrive at their home ports on Saturday but later than expected. This will delay the subsequent departures of the ships, the line said.
Carnival said the Charleston-based Carnival Sunshine would return to the city once its port reopens, which is expected to happen on Sunday. The ship’s next voyage, which was originally scheduled to depart Saturday, is now delayed. Carnival said the ship likely would depart on its next voyage on Sunday instead of Saturday. The trip will thus be shortened by a day.
Carnival said passengers on the delayed sailing would get a one-day, pro-rated refund of the cruise fare and a $50 onboard credit. Passengers on the sailing can also cancel their trip for a full refund.
In addition to Mariner of the Seas, one other Royal Caribbean ship that has been stuck at sea due to Ian in recent days — the Port Canaveral-based Independence of the Seas — would be returning to its home port on Saturday.
Disney Cruise Line said one of its ships that had been scheduled to return to Port Canaveral on Friday, Disney Wish, would now return to the port on Sunday.
The reopening of the cruise ports comes as airports in the vicinity of the ports also reopen. American Airlines resumed operations out Tampa and Orlando (which serves as the airport for Port Canaveral) on Friday. The carrier resumed operations out of Jacksonville on Saturday.
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