Ports Close, Evacuations Begin Ahead of Hurricane Florence

(Graphic by the National Hurricane Center)

South Carolina’s cruise ports are set to close and parts of North and South Carolina, as well as Virginia, are evacuating as Hurricane Florence is set to approach the area Thursday and Friday.

According to the South Carolina Ports Authority, Charleston’s port will close Thursday and remain closed through at least Saturday. A return to operations is possible on Sunday, depending on Florence’s track and conditions, while normal operations are expected on Monday.

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.

According to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Florence is set to move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Wednesday, approaching the coast of North or South Carolina Thursday and Friday. The storm is currently a powerful category 4 with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph, and further strengthening is forecast through Wednesday night. While the storm is expected to start weakening by late Thursday, the National Hurricane Center warns that it is forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it nears the U.S. coast on Friday.

CBS News reports that President Donald Trump has declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, and all three states have ordered evacuations of their coastal areas.

Florence has also caused a number of other cruise changes:

Carnival Cruise Line has 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 will call 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 it will move Monday’s planned call at Amber Cove to Tuesday. The ship will return to New York as planned September 13.

Carnival has also modified Monday’s eight-day Caribbean sailing on Carnival Vista out of Miami. To avoid Tropical Depression Nine, the ship will sail a reversed itinerary, calling on St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan and Amber Cove before returning to Miami September 16.

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 is expected to arrive 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 will call 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 will call 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’sSeptember 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.

Air Travel Updates and Change Waivers

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 16 can rebook through September 20 and/or change their origin or destination to Baltimore, Washington - Reagan or Washington - Dulles. Customers can also rebook after September 20, so long as rebooked travel is completed wtihin one year of the ticket date. A difference in fare may apply.

Delta is allowing customers set to fly through September 16 to rebook through September 20, with rebooked travel to begin no later than that date. When rescheduled travel occurs beyond September 20, the change fee will be waived, but a difference in fare may apply. 

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 16 can rebook through September 20.

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. 

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