4. Hurricane Sandy Update - NY-Bound Ships Still Stuck at Sea, Cruise Lines Adapt, Private Isle Clean-Up Begins

storm cloudsHurricane Sandy continues to play havoc with cruise ship schedules mid-week as New York harbor remains closed. The ports of Baltimore and Portland, ME, also remain closed today. Wind and rain from the storm’s massive outer bands are still affecting sea conditions from Maine southward along the East Coast.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem has sailed around in the Atlantic for several days, just waiting for approval by the U.S. Coast Guard to return to the Port of New York. "At this point, we are anticipating that the port will re-open on Thursday or Friday,” a Norwegian statement said.

Passengers set to disembark on Oct. 29 have been onboard much longer than anticipated. Today, Oct. 31, Norwegian Gem will call in Boston to take on provisions and fuel. Guests will be able to go ashore or disembark the ship in Boston, if they choose. Norwegian will assist guests who purchased air through the line with re-booking subject to flight availability at Boston's Logan International Airport.  

The line urged guests who were scheduled to sail on Norwegian Gem’s planned Oct. 29 cruise to continue to check www.ncl.com for updates on embarkation.

UPDATE: Late Wednesday, Oct. 31, Norwegian said on its Facebook page that Norwegian Gem is expected to depart Boston after midnight tonight, sail toward New York and plan to arrive in New York on Friday morning.

For guests who were scheduled to sail on Norwegian Gem’s October 29 cruise, "we apologize for the uncertainty and inconvenience this extreme weather-related situation has caused," the line said. Norwegian Gem is expected to depart on Friday afternoon on a five-day cruise and spend two days in Bermuda, returning on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

As a result of the shortened itinerary, Norwegian Gem guests on that shortened sailing will receive a pro-rated refund in the form of an on-board credit for the missed days based on cruise fare paid.

Another ship stuck in limbo is Princess CruisesCaribbean Princess. Passengers onboard are currently in Boston and have just received an update from their captain that the Brooklyn cruise port will be closed to all vessels until the weekend. So Caribbean Princess won’t leave Boston tonight as planned for New York and will remain overnight again there.

Princess is researching other ports, it said on a website update at www.princess.com, noting that it hopes the ship might be able to call at Manhattan on Friday, Nov. 2.

Princess passengers wishing to disembark in Boston will be able to do so. “As previously shared with passengers, we will offer compensation once we know more about the full impact to their overall voyage,” the line said. Cruise lines are generally not responsible for compensating guests for weather-related port adjustments, but Princess has a history of doing so when conditions merit that. 

Caribbean Princess’ voyage originally scheduled to embark on Oct. 31 in New York is further delayed, and the line will provide passengers with a per diem refund for any cruise days missed due to late embarkation. There is no word yet on when that embarkation might occur.

Crystal Cruises also said late Tuesday that Crystal Symphony will not call there this week as scheduled. Instead, the ship will proceed to its next port of call, Charleston, SC, arriving a day earlier than anticipated. Crystal Symphony had been docked in the Port of Boston until after the hurricane made landfall and had sailed Oct. 30 for New York - where the current cruise was planned to end and another New York-to-Los Angeles cruise was slated to begin.

But now guests will disembark either Nov. 1 or 2 in Charleston, depending on their individual travel arrangements. Crystal Symphony will then embark guests for the next cruise on Nov. 2 in Charleston. For Crystal Air/Sea guests, the line will notify travel agents about new flight details; cruise-only guests must work with their agent to change flights. Check www.crystalcruises.com for further updates.

Also stuck at sea is Royal Caribbean International’s Enchantment of the Seas, according to a statement on the line’s Web site, “will be unable to call on Kings Wharf, Bermuda, as originally scheduled. Instead, the ship sailed out to sea in an effort to try to find the calmest seas possible.”

A statement on www.royalcaribbean.com says that “at this time, Royal Caribbean has not altered the boarding time or itinerary of any ship that departs from Baltimore, MD, or Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ, this Thursday, Friday or Sunday. However, we encourage guests sailing on Brilliance of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, and Explorer of the Seas monitor this website for any additional updates.

Carnival Cruise Lines was forced to cancel two cruises due to the hurricane, the Oct. 28 departures of Carnival Pride from Baltimore and Carnival Glory from Norfolk. Located downtown, the Norfolk cruise terminal is behind a major flood gate, which was closed for the storm. Carnival said guest refunds will be processed to the original form of payment within the next two weeks.

Carnival said it would offer a new two-day “Cruise-to-Nowhere” on Carnival Pride from Baltimore on Nov. 2 to 4.

The line adjusted many other ships schedules during the height of the storm, including shortening by one day the itineraries of both Carnival Dream and Carnival Ecstasy from Port Canaveral, FL; guests will receive a one-day pro-rated cruise refund.

Travel Agent previously covered the Carnival itinerary shifts in detail, giving side by side comparisons of the revised and original schedules. See the end of this story for the specifics:  www.travelagentcentral.com/cruises/two-cruises-cancelled-more-dozen-ships-change-itineraries-37686

For example, Carnival Miracle's Oct.29 sailing from New York departed a day early, Oct. 28 with a revised schedule. Port calls at San Juan and St. Thomas, both on the original schedule, were eliminated. The ship will return to New York on Nov. 6. Passengers on the sailing will not need to pay gratuities for the extra day and will be reimbursed for any additional port parking expenses; Carnival also will reimburse passengers up to $200 in airline change fees.

Among the ships at sea for which passengers sent back video of storm damage was Disney Fantasy. A CNN iReport video (http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-865019?hpt=hp_t1) shows water spilling out of the pool and onto the deck, as well as gift shop items thrown to the floor during the height of the storm. Some passengers reported damage to bars and lounges but Disney Cruise Line said damage was minor, just a few cracked windows and furniture damage.

The line said the ship is operating as normal in the western Caribbean, and it will offer those on the Oct. 20 Disney Fantasy sailing a 25 percent discount on either a future Disney cruise or a Walt Disney World resort stay.

The hurricane also created a few hiccups at cruise line private islands in the Bahamas, although Freeport and Nassau, two big cruise ports, were relatively unscathed.

The damage to such private island getaway spots like Holland America’s Half Moon Cay and Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay was not serious, it appears. Clean-up is underway. The most damage was apparently at Princess Cay but clean up is expected to be completed before the next ship arrives on Nov. 11.

For a complete cruise line private island update, visit CruiseCritic.com: www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=5058&src=tocc

Many lines are providing guests with free Internet access and phone calls during the crisis, so that guests may call friends and relatives, or make alternate flight or hotel arrangements.

Do you have cruise clients impacted by the hurricane? What's your perspective on the handling of the crisis by the cruise lines? What did it require at your agency to keep on top of the situation? Will cruise clients impacted sail again? Let us know at [email protected] and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TravelAgentMagazine

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