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More Cruises Canceled and Disrupted as Hurricane Dorian Approaches Florida

Sept. 03, 2019
12 min read
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The number of cruises out of Florida that have been canceled or delayed this week due to Hurricane Dorian continued to grow on Tuesday as the storm continued on a path that will put it “dangerously close” to the state’s east coast over the next 24 hours.

As of Tuesday afternoon, eight sailings out of Port Canaveral, Miami and West Palm Beach operated by such major lines as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line had been canceled outright. The departures of more than a dozen other voyages had been delayed by between one and four days.

The storm also is causing major disruptions to voyages already underway as ships that had been scheduled to return to Florida this week have been forced to remain at sea due to port closures. As of late Tuesday, several of Florida’s cruise ports, including Port Canaveral and the Port of Palm Beach, remained closed to ship traffic, as they have been for several days. PortMiami and Port Everglades, which also had been closed for several days, reopened late Tuesday.

For the latest update on Hurricane Dorian, check

Port Closures

As of Tuesday afternoon, Port Canaveral and the Port of Palm Beach remained closed to ship traffic.

The port closures have caused some relatively rare diversions. Two Florida-based Norwegian Cruise Line ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Sun, have had to sail all the way to New Orleans to drop off passengers due to the closures of their Florida home ports. Both vessels arrived in the city early Tuesday. The vessels originally had been due to return to PortMiami and Port Canaveral on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Other ships that have seen major disruptions include Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, the world’s second-biggest cruise vessel. Due to the closure of Port Canaveral, the ship’s Aug. 25 sailing to the Western Caribbean has been extended by four full days. In addition to stops at Roatan, Honduras, and Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, Harmony of the Seas now is spending two additional days at Cozumel as well as two additional days at sea.

The most significant impact so far has been to sailings out of Port Canaveral, which closed to commercial traffic late Saturday and isn’t expected to reopen until Thursday. Four lines — Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line — have canceled sailings out of the port.

Dorian has weakened rapidly over the past 24 hours but remains a powerful storm. As of 2pm EST on Tuesday, it had maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour on the Saffir-Simpson scale, making it a Category 2 hurricane. It was centered about 65 miles north of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island and moving to the northwest at five miles per hour.

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Dorian has been pummeling the northwestern corner of the Bahamas over the past 24 hours. This is an area that includes Grand Bahama Island, home to the major cruise destination of Freeport. The other major cruise port in the Bahamas, Nassau, is well to the south of Grand Bahama Island in an area less affected by the storm.

Dorian has now begun a long-expected drift northwestward toward the Florida coast. In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center said it expected Dorian would move “dangerously close” to the Florida east coast late Tuesday through Wednesday evening before arriving very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts by Wednesday night and Thursday.

Private Islands

For passengers on upcoming sailings out of Florida ports, a key question in the wake of Dorian is the condition of the private islands in the Bahamas that are a highlight of many itineraries.

Cruise lines are just beginning damage assessments, but so far there’s no word of major damage. The good news for cruisers concerned about upcoming visits is that none of the private islands were in the direct path of Dorian, although a few were not far off.

The closest private island to the path of the storm was Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay, which is located about 43 miles from the spot in the Abaco Islands where Dorian first made landfall. In a statement, Disney said that sustained winds at Castaway Cay never reached hurricane strength, although the island did experience tropical storm-force winds. Some of the line’s crew had remained on the island, which has a storm shelter rated to withstand Category 5 hurricanes. The line did not say if there was damage to the island’s attractions.

Royal Caribbean on Tuesday said it hopes to have its private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay, back open for cruise ship arrivals by Saturday. Perfect Day at CocoCay is in a cluster of small Bahamian islands and cays known as the Berry Islands that are farther away from Dorian’s path than Castaway Cay. Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, is right next door to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean said it would be landing a team at Perfect Day at CocoCay on Wednesday to do a full damage assessment. For now, it’s aiming for a Saturday reopening based on assessments done with webcams that are placed on the island.

“Our hope is to be up and running on [Saturday], but we won’t really know if it’s ready for normal operation until the entire island is assessed,” the line said. “In the meantime, we’ve secured alternative ports for some of our sailings.”

The line added that most of the more than 400 people that work on Perfect Day by CocoCay are local Bahamians from nearby islands, and before reopening it wants to be sure they have “the time to properly take care of their families and homes during this devastating time.”

The private islands operated by Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, Princess Cays and Half Moon Cay, were far from the path of Dorian.

Still, storm-caused cancellations and departure delays on a scale of what we’re seeing this week are relatively rare. Among the changes to this week’s itineraries that already have been announced:

Carnival Cruise Line

The closure of Port Canaveral prompted Carnival to cancel Monday’s departure of its Port Canaveral-based Carnival Liberty. The ship had been scheduled for a five-night sailing to the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk Island.

Carnival also has delayed Monday’s departure of Carnival Elation from Port Canaveral by three days, and there is a chance the sailing could be canceled. As of Tuesday afternoon, it was scheduled to depart on Thursday, but the line said it would have an update on that by Wednesday at 6pm. Like Carnival Liberty, Carnival Elation had been scheduled for a five-night sailing to the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk Island. If it does sail on Thursday, it’ll be a shortened, two-night trip with a single port call that has yet to be determined.

In addition to the changes to sailings out of Port Canaveral, Carnival has adjusted several departures this week out of Miami and Tampa.

In Miami, the Sunday departure of Carnival Horizon and Monday departure of Carnival Victory have both been delayed until Wednesday. The ships will sail shortened voyages with a single call each at Nassau and Key West, Florida, respectively.

In Tampa, the Sunday departure of Carnival Miracle was moved up to late Saturday in anticipation of the port closing. What was supposed to be a seven-night voyage will now be an eight-night voyage. Saturday’s departure of the Tampa-based Carnival Paradise also was moved up by several hours.

Carnival also has said there’s a possibility a departure of the Jacksonville, Florida-based Carnival Ecstasy planned for Thursday could be delayed if the port is closed due to the storm.

Also affected this week was Sunday’s departure of Carnival Sunshine from Charleston. The ship departed the port a couple of hours late, and its scheduled port call at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas has been canceled.

Carnival said passengers on the canceled Carnival Liberty cruise will receive a full refund. Passengers on the delayed Carnival Victory and Carnival Horizon sailings can either cancel the cruises for a refund in the form of a credit toward a future cruise or go ahead with the sailing. If they choose the latter option, they’ll receive a prorated refund for the missed days.

Additional details on the itinerary changes have been posted at Carnival’s website here.

Royal Caribbean

The Monday departure of the Port Canaveral-based Mariner of the Seas, initially delayed by two days, has now been canceled. The ship remains at sea, avoiding the storm, with passengers from a previous sailing. It now isn’t expected back in Port Canaveral until Thursday. Passengers on the ship are seeing their vacations extended by three full days.

The Monday departure of Miami-based Navigator of the Seas has been delayed and shortened by two days. The ship now will operate a two-night cruise to Nassau starting on Wednesday in lieu of a four-night voyage that also included a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean also has delayed and shortened Sunday’s departure of the Fort Lauderdale-based Allure of the Seas by three days. It’ll now depart Wednesday and visit just one port: Cozumel, Mexico. Stops in Falmouth, Jamaica, and Labadee, Haiti, have been dropped.

Also delayed and shortened by three days was Sunday’s departure of the Miami-based Empress of the Seas. The ship now will depart on Wednesday and visit the port of Nassau instead of Key West, Florida; and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

The Sunday departure of Port Canaveral-based Harmony of the Seas, initially delayed until Wednesday, has been further delayed until Thursday. The ship now will operate a three-night voyage to Nassau instead of a seven-night trip to the Eastern Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean also has delayed and shortened the Monday voyage of the Fort Lauderdale-based Majesty of the Seas and the Tuesday voyage of the Miami-based Symphony of the Seas by two days and one day, respectively. Both vessels now will depart on Wednesday. Majesty of the Seas will visit just one port, Nassau, in lieu of two. Symphony of the Seas will drop a call at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean isn’t saying publicly what sort of compensation it is offering passengers on the shortened cruises. Cruise lines typically offer prorated refunds in such situations.

Royal Caribbean has been posting updates on changes here.

Norwegian Cruise Line

The Sunday departure of the Miami-based Norwegian Breakaway, initially postponed by several days, has now been canceled. The ship has sailed to New Orleans, where it arrived today, to drop off passengers from last week’s sailing. Those passengers saw their vacations extended by two days.

The Monday departure of the Port Canaveral-based Norwegian Sun also has been canceled. Like the Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Sun has sailed to New Orleans, where it arrived today, to drop off passengers from last week’s sailing. Those passengers saw their vacations extended by one day.

Norwegian said passengers on the canceled sailings will receive a full refund.

Norwegian has been posting updates on changes at its online home page,

Disney Cruise Line

The Monday departure of the Port Canaveral-based Disney Dream, initially postponed until Wednesday, has now been canceled. The ship currently is at sea avoiding the storm and now is expected to return to Port Canaveral on Thursday, after the storm passes. That would put it back in Port Canaveral in time for its next scheduled departure on Friday.

Passengers on the Aug. 30 sailing of Disney Dream, which was scheduled to end Monday, remain on the ship and are seeing their vacations extended by three days. Given the extended time at sea, the line added an extra port call to the voyage in Grand Cayman that took place on Monday.

Disney said passengers on the canceled sailing will receive a full refund plus a 20% discount on a future cruise. Disney said passengers should contact the line at 866-325-3905 or 407-566-7032 between Monday, Sept. 9, and Thursday, Oct. 31, to give notice on whether they would like to move their voyage to a later date; apply their refund as a credit; or receive a traditional refund. Passengers who already have moved their sailing to a later date will be able to apply the 20% discount to the new sailing (some restrictions may apply).

Disney’s latest update on changes is online here.

MSC Cruises

The Monday departure of the Miami-based MSC Armonia has been delayed and shortened by two days. The seven-night sailing to the Western Caribbean now will begin on Wednesday and be a five-night trip to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico. Calls at Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, have been dropped.

Passengers can cancel the voyage for a full refund or go ahead with the trip at a prorated fare.

MSC is posting updates on changes here.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line

West Palm Beach, Florida-based Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has canceled this week’s Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday departures of the Grand Celebration from West Palm Beach to Freeport in the Bahamas.

Bahamas Paradise is offering passengers who rebook one of the canceled sailings a $100-per-cabin credit if they sail by Dec. 24. Passengers also can opt for a full refund.

Bahamas Paradise has been posting updates on changes at its online homepage,

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This story was updating to reflect that PortMiami and Port Everglades have now reopened.

Featured image by Getty Images