If you plan to take a cruise anywhere in the Caribbean, Florida or the Gulf Coast this week, call your cruise line. Nearly all of them are changing itineraries, ports and departure dates. Expect major disruptions, not just because of Hurricane Gustav but also Hurricane Hanna right behind it.
Hanna, which raked the Turks and Caicos today and closed its airport, was upgraded from a storm to a hurricane this morning, and forecasters said it could head for the U.S. mainland.
So far, the weather is affecting nine ships at Carnival Cruises alone, as well as operations of Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. And of course, if your departure or arrival date or port is changed, you may need new flights. Many airlines have temporarily loosened change penalties, but you have to act soon to take advantage of them.
Among cruise updates posted on websites:
Carnival: Carnival Ecstasy will depart Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday instead of today, and shorten its trip from five days to three days. Carnival Fantasy will depart Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday instead of today. Guests can cancel for full refunds or take the cruises and get partial refunds based on missed cruise days, Carnival says. These and seven other ships are changing itineraries on cruises already underway, with several canceling calls on the Bahamas.
Norwegian: The Norwegian Spirit, which departed New York on Sunday for a six-day cruise, will call on Bermuda instead of the Bahamas. The Norwegian Sky, departing Miami today, originally for the Bahamas, will instead call on Cozumel, Mexico, and Key West, Fla.
Royal Caribbean International: Sovereign of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas, both departing today from Florida ports, will skip Coco Cay, the line’s private resort in the Bahamas, and instead call only on Nassau and Key West, Fla, according to an update today. Mariner of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, which departed over the weekend, are also making itinerary changes.
Disney Cruise Line: The company today said it has not made any changes to the upcoming Disney Wonder voyage, which is due to leave Port Canaveral, Fla., on a three-night cruise to Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney private resort in the Bahamas.
Here's a comparison of Hurricanes Gustav and Katrina:
Gustav: Monday, Sept. 1, 2008, about 10:30 a.m. EDT, near Cocodrie, La., about 70 miles southwest of New Orleans.
Katrina: Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, about 7:10 a.m. EDT, near Buras, La., about 55 miles south of New Orleans.
Gustav: Reached Category 4, landfall as Category 2, winds near 110 mph.
Katrina: Reached Category 5, landfall as Category 3, winds near 125 mph.
Gustav: Reports of 12 feet high in the Industrial Canal, east side of New Orleans.
Katrina: Estimated at 27 feet high in Hancock, Miss. (It was difficult to measure in New Orleans because buildings washed away, leaving no high water marks.)
Gustav: Tropical storm forms Aug. 25, 2008, in the Caribbean, crosses Haiti, Cuba.
Katrina: Tropical storm forms Aug. 24, 2005, over the Central Bahamas, strikes southern tip of Florida.
Gustav: FEMA estimates 10,000 left in New Orleans.
Katrina: 30,000 people crowd Superdome, convention center. Others plucked from homes, rooftops.
Sources: National Hurricane Center, FEMA
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The US Coast Guard issued a Marine Safety Bulletin (MSB) stating that Captain of the Port Zone New Orleans remains at Port Condition ZULU. However, the Lower Mississippi River is open to shallow draft traffic (less than 12 feet draft) from Mile Marker 303 to Mile Marker 88 (in the vicinity of Algiers Lock). A second MSB states that a safety zone has been established in the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal to protect mariners from hazards associated with salvage operations. Entry into the IHNC is prohibited. A third MSB states that Port Condition ZULU has been lifted for all vessel traffic regardless of draft for the Lower Mississippi River from Mile Marker 20 Below Head of Passes to Mile Marker 303 Above Head of Passes. Vessels transiting from the Southwest Pass sea buoy to Mile Marker 20 Below Head of Passes are limited to a draft of 30 feet or less. (9/3/08).
The US Coast Guard issued a press release stating that the Port of Mobile is open to maritime traffic with a draft of 35 feet or less. The Port of Pascagoula is open to traffic with a draft of 12 feet or less. (9/3/08).
The US Coast Guard issued a press release stating that the vessel traffic service (VTS) at Morgan City, Louisiana has been re-established following passage of Hurricane Gustav. (9/3/08).
The US Coast Guard issued a press release stating that port conditions for the Ports of Palm Beach and Fort Pierce have been increased to X-RAY due to the expected passage of Tropical Storm Hanna. (9/2/08).