Hurricane Florence to Hit Carolinas Late Thursday

Airports and cruise ports in the southeastern United States are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Florence, which is set to approach the coasts of North and South Carolina later today.

The Charlotte hub airport reports that it is preparing for the storm’s arrival, while the cruise port in Charleston continues to expect to remain closed through at least Saturday. Port operations could resume Sunday, depending on the storm track and conditions, and operations are expected to be back to normal on Monday.

According to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Florence is expected to move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina Thursday night and Friday, continuing over eastern South Carolina through Saturday night. A hurricane warning is in effect for an area ranging from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, as well as Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. A hurricane watch is in effect for an area ranging from Edisto Beach to South Santee River in South Carolina, and a tropical storm warning is in effect for an area ranging from north of Duck, North Carolina, to Cape Charles Light, Virginia, as well as in the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.

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Maximum sustained winds for the storm are near 110 mph, with higher guests. Little change in strength is expected before the center of the storm reaches the coast, although it should begin to weaken as it moves inland.

Reuters reports that states of emergency have been declared in Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. More than 1 million people in coastal areas have been ordered to evacuate.

Air Travel Updates and Change Waivers

A number of airlines have issued flight waivers due to the storm:

American Airlines warns that Hurricane Florence will disrupt travel through its Charlotte hub, as well as other airports in the southeastern United States. Customers set to fly through September 17 can rebook through September 21 and/or change their origin or destination to another city affected by the airline's alert or to Baltimore, Washington - Reagan or Washington - Dulles. Customers can also rebook after September 21, so long as rebooked travel is completed wtihin one year of the ticket date. A difference in fare may apply. 

American is also waiving fees for checked bags, overweight/oversized bags and carry-on pets for customers traveling on or before September 17 from airports set to be affected by the hurricane. 

Delta is allowing customers set to fly through September 17 to rebook through September 21, with rebooked travel to begin no later than that date. When rescheduled travel occurs beyond September 21, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. The airline is also waiving checked bag and pet fees for affected customers. 

On United Airlines, customers flying through the southeastern United States through September 16 can rebook through September 20 between the same city pair in the originally ticketed cabin. They can also rebook after September 20, or change their departure or destination city, in which case the change fee will be waived but a difference in fare may apply. The airline is also waiving fees for bags and in-cabin pets for flights through affected airports through September 16. Customers who have already paid a fee will be automatically issued a refund. 

Southwest Airlines is allowing customers flying through the southeastern United States through September 17 to rebook in the original class of service or travel standby within 14 days of their original date of travel.

On JetBlue, travelers scheduled to fly through the southeastern United States through September 17 can rebook through September 21.

Frontier Airlines is allowing customers set to fly through September 16 to rebook, with rebooked travel to be completed through October 1. Origin and destination cities may be changed, and customers with cancelled flights may request a refund. 

Cruise Updates

Hurricane Florence has also forced a number of cruise itinerary updates. 

A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line tells Travel Agent that the Carnival Ecstasy is scheduled to be in port in Charleston Sunday, September 16, and is scheduled to operate. The line is continuing to closely monitor the storm and will advise of any changes. The line has also 

revised the itineraries for both the Carnival Pride and the Carnival Horizon. On Carnival Pride’s September 9 sailing out of Baltimore, instead of stopping at Bermuda September 12 – 14, the ship is calling at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport, the Bahamas. Carnival Horizon, which is on an eight-day sailing out of New York that departed September 5, cancelled Sunday’s planned call in San Juan, and moved Monday’s planned call at Amber Cove to Tuesday. The ship is returning to New York as planned September 13.

Royal Caribbean reports that it has modified Grandeur of the Seas’ September 8 sailing, replacing its planned call in Bermuda. The ship spent a full day in Nassau, the Bahamas, on Tuesday, and arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida, Wednesday, where it will stay through Thursday. The cruise line said that it expects to arrive back in Baltimore no later than Sunday, September 16. 

Norwegian Cruise Line has modified itineraries for both the Norwegian Escape and the Norwegian Dawn. On Norwegian Escape’s September 9 itinerary out of New York City, the ship is calling in Port Canaveral, Florida, and Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas to avoid Hurricane Florence's path, instead of calling in Bermuda as planned. On Norwegian Dawn’s September 7 itinerary out of Boston, the ship is calling in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia; St. John, New Brunswick; and Bar Harbor, Maine, instead of calling in Bermuda.

A spokesperson for Oceania Cruises reports that the luxury line has modified Sirena's September 7 itinerary to bypass the ship's Bermuda call, which had been scheduled for September 12 and 13. Instead, the ship will call at Nassau on September 15, before returning to Miami the next day. Oceania has also modified Insignia’s September 7 itinerary out of Halifax to stay north of Hurricane Florence’s forecast track, with revised ports of call in New Brunswick, Maine, and New York instead of Bermuda.

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