Hurricane Irma made landfall in Barbuda and Saint Martin early Wednesday.
According to NPR, with 185 mph winds the category 5 storm is the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Irma is currently headed toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows that the storm could then move up the center of Florida. The storm’s eye wall also hit Anguilla.
A state of emergency is in effect for Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
In its latest update Carnival Cruise Line reports that it has cancelled the September 7 sailing of the Carnival Liberty, which was scheduled to sail a three-day cruise to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral. Carnival Victory’s September 8 three-day Bahamas cruise from Miami has also been cancelled. Guests scheduled to sail on these voyages will receive a full refund.
“In addition, we are making preparations for a potential landfall in South Florida, where Carnival headquarters is located,” Carnival said. “The safety of our guests and team members is our first priority.”
Royal Caribbean reports that it is modifying sailings on Oasis of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas in order to delay their return until after the storm has passed. Empress of the Seas’ September 9 Cuba cruise, Enchantment of the Seas’ September 8 Bahamas cruise and Majesty of the Seas’ September 8 Bahamas cruise have all been cancelled. Guests will receive a refund as well as a 25 percent future cruise credit on bookings within the next 30 days.
Royal Caribbean has also modified a number of its itineraries. Allure of the Seas’ September 10 western Caribbean cruise will now depart September 13 on a four-night itinerary to Nassau, the Bahamas. The cruise line will also continue to monitor the path of the storm and, if Nassau is no longer an option, sail instead to Labadee, Haiti. Harmony of the Seas’ September 9 eastern Caribbean cruise will now depart September 12 on a four-night itinerary to Cozumel, Mexico. Guests on these two sailings can choose to sail on the modified itinerary and receive a refund of 50 percent of their cruise fare, along with a 50 percent future cruise credit. Guests who are unable to sail on the modified itineraries and need to cancel will receive a 100 percent future cruise credit.
Oasis of the Seas’ September 10 eastern Caribbean cruise will now depart September 12 on a five-night itinerary to Costa Maya and Cozumel. Guests who sail on the modified itinerary will receive a 30 percent refund and a 50 percent future cruise credit. Guests who need to cancel will receive a 100 percent future cruise credit.
Pre-booked shore excursions will be refunded, and guests will have the ability to rebook new excursions once onboard, Royal Caribbean reports.
Anthem of the Seas’ September 9 Bermuda cruise, Enchantment of the Seas' September 11 Bahamas cruise and Majesty of the Seas' September 11 Bahamas cruise are all currently being evaluated.
The following Royal Caribbean sailings are currently departing as scheduled:
- Adventure of the Seas: September 9 Southern Caribbean cruise
- Grandeur of the Seas: September 7 New England/Canada cruise
- Liberty of the Seas: September 10 Western Caribbean cruise
- Serenade of the Seas: September 10 New England/Canada cruise
- Vision of the Seas: September 7 New England/Canada cruise
The news follows a number of previous cruise cancellations over the past few days. Late yesterday Norwegian Cruise Line reported the cancellation of two cruises and the alteration of two others on Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Escape. Norwegian Escape shortened its September 2 cruise and is now set to arrive back in Miami Thursday afternoon, where guests will be given the opportunity to disembark. Those without onward travel arrangements are encouraged to remain onboard, as the ship will leave PortMiami Thursday evening on a course away from the storm. Norwegian Sky will shorten its September 4 Cuba cruise by sailing back for Miami following its departure from Havana Wednesday, arriving Thursday morning.
Carnival had previously reported modifying itineraries on five of its other ships – Carnival Glory, Carnival Magic, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Pride and Carnival Ecstasy – in order to maintain a safe distance from the storm. Royal Caribbean had modified Allure of the Seas’ September 3 itinerary, while Celebrity Cruises had modified the itinerary of the Celebrity Equinox. MSC Cruises likewise revised the September 3 itinerary of MSC Divina.
A representative of Port Everglades reports that it upgraded to Port Condition WHISKEY as of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, which means the port will begin taking precautions to secure against potential storm impacts by removing debris and securing potential flying hazards. The port says that it anticipates setting Port Condition X-RAY on Thursday.
The hurricane has also prompted a number of airlines to issue cancellation waivers.
American Airlines has issued a waiver for travel through affected airports through September 12. Rebooked travel must take place through September 15 between the same city pair in the same cabin (or pay the difference).
United Airlines customers flying through Florida airports through September 12 can opt to rebook for new travel departing September 15 between the same city pair in the originally ticketed cabin. Customers flying through the Bahamas, Cuba and the Dominican Republic through September 9 can rebook through September 12, and customers flying through Puerto Rico through September 7 can rebook through September 11.
Delta has issued a change waiver for travel through September 9. The new ticket must be reissued on or before September 12 with rebooked travel to begin no later than that date.
Southwest Airlines has issued a waiver for travel through September 11. Travelers can rebook in the original class of service or travel standby within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city pair.
Customers flying JetBlue through the eastern Caribbean through September 7 and the western Caribbean through September 8 can rebook through September 11. JetBlue customers flying to Florida September 9 - 10 can rebook through September 12.