Cruise lines reroute ships as subtropical storm Nicole barrels toward Florida
At least three cruise lines were rerouting ships in the Caribbean and the Bahamas on Tuesday as a growing subtropical storm Nicole barreled toward Florida.
In perhaps the most significant change, Royal Caribbean's giant Anthem of the Seas, which departed from the port of Bayonne, New Jersey, on Sunday on a seven-night cruise to Florida and the Bahamas, skipped its first call Tuesday at Port Canaveral, Florida, to steer clear of the storm and will skip the two remaining calls on the itinerary, too — at Nassau, Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas.
Instead, the 4,180-passenger ship is heading south to Labadee, Haiti, where it will arrive on Wednesday.
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Also rerouting significantly Tuesday were Royal Caribbean's 3,798-passenger Liberty of the Seas and 3,926-passenger Freedom of the Seas, both of which departed Florida on Monday on four-night sailings.
The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Liberty of the Seas on Tuesday was speeding south to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic instead of heading to the Bahamas for calls in Nassau and Perfect Day. The Miami-based Independence of the Seas is on the way to Falmouth, Jamaica, instead of the Bahamas.
A third Royal Caribbean ship that departed Florida on Monday, the 3,858-passenger, Port Canaveral-based Independence of the Seas, is skipping a call scheduled for Wednesday at Perfect Day.
Related: Read this before booking a cruise during hurricane season
Royal Caribbean's Baltimore-based Enchantment of the Seas, which is on an eight-night voyage to Florida and the Bahamas out of Baltimore that began Saturday, also is dropping a call at Perfect Day scheduled for Tuesday and is on its way back north toward Baltimore earlier than scheduled.
The Bahamas ports that the ships were scheduled to visit currently are in the crosshairs of Nicole's expected path over the next two days.
The approach of subtropical storm Nicole to the Bahamas and the coast of Florida also has forced Disney Cruise Line to drop calls this week at Castaway Cay, its private island in the Bahamas, scheduled for two Florida-based ships: Disney Dream and Disney Wish.
The Port Canaveral-based Disney Wish also will drop a visit to Nassau and instead head to Cozumel, Mexico. Both Disney Wish and the Miami-based Disney Dream are on four-night sailings that began on Monday.
Two Carnival Cruise Line ships — the 2,974-passenger Carnival Liberty and 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation — also are being affected.
- The Port Canaveral-based Carnival Liberty, which departed the port Monday on a four-night cruise, will spend Tuesday at sea instead of a planned visit to Nassau, Bahamas. On Wednesday, the ship will visit Cozumel instead of Princess Cays, Bahamas.
- The Jacksonville, Florida-based Carnival Elation, which departed the port Saturday on a five-night cruise, will spend Tuesday at Freeport, Bahamas, instead of Princess Cays.
The storm, which currently is well east of Florida, will likely affect more cruise ships over the coming days as it heads westward toward the northwestern Bahamas and Florida.
Related: Stuck at sea during a hurricane
While currently a subtropical storm with maximum sustained winds of just 50 miles per hour, Nicole is expected to gain strength rapidly over the next 48 hours and possibly reach hurricane strength before making landfall along the Florida coast.
But Nicole's winds aren't as big an issue for cruise ships sailing in the region as the massive waves that the storm and interacting storm fronts are expected to churn up over the next couple days.
In a video update posted Sunday, Royal Caribbean chief meteorologist James Van Fleet warned the storm could cause waves above 20 feet high in the waters off the east coast of Florida up through the Carolinas.
"We're looking at about 21 to 24 feet [waves], and that's not somewhere where we want to put our ships sailing in those regions," Van Fleet said in a Twitter video offering his outlook on the storm and its effect on cruises.
As of 7 a.m. EST Tuesday, Nicole was about 385 miles east-northeast of the northwestern Bahamas and moving west-northwest at 8 miles per hour. The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour.
The National Hurricane Center on Tuesday said the storm was forecasted to approach the northwestern Bahamas Tuesday, move near or over those islands on Wednesday and approach the east coast of Florida Wednesday night.
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