Cat-5 Hurricane Irma Threatening South Florida, Scattering Cruise Ships

Hurricane Irwin Cruise ShipHurricane Irma, which continues to strengthen as it heads west toward the Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands, is now a Category 5 storm with winds of over 175 mph (with gusts up to 215 mph) as of this morning's advisories. The huge storm is predicted to continue west across the Caribbean, north of Dominican Republic/Haiti and Cuba, and then turn to the north, likely hitting the Florida Keys and South Florida by late Saturday / early Sunday morning.

Irma will continue as a category 5 storm for the next few days, although its intensity will decrease to a category 4 with winds of 150 mph. 

The most reliable computer models (the U.S. and European models) show Irma continuing to head west before making a sharp turn to the north towards South Florida, although there are no guarantees exactly where or when that northward turn will occur. 

"Spaghetti models" via Mike's Weather Page (image below) is my favorite page to follow the progress of the hurricane. You can see the probable path of this dangerous storm heading into the Florida Keys and South Florida here.  

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas was the first cruise ship to alter its itinerary from its original Eastern Caribbean schedule to the Western Caribbean. The Allure's itinerary was changed to Cozumel, Labadee, and Falmouth. It appears likely that Royal Caribbean's private destination in Labadee (Haiti) will be directly impacted by Irma later this week; cruises to that destination seem likely to be rescheduled. 

Royal Caribbean's changes to its itineraries are listed on its Facebook page. The cruise line cancelled the September 8th cruises to the Bahamas by the Enchantment of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas. Royal Caribbean is saying that the cruise fare and fees for these cruises will be 100% refunded to the original form of payment, and we are also offering a 25% future cruise credit, based on the cruise fare, if a new cruise is booked in the next 30 days.

Regarding the Allure of the Seas (September 10 Western Caribbean), Anthem of the Seas (September 9 Bermuda), Empress of the Seas (September 9 Cuba) and Harmony of the Seas (September 9 Eastern Caribbean), guests are asked to check on updates at the cruise line's Facebook page.

Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist, James Van Fleet, who the cruise line hired after the debacle when the Anthem of the Seas sailed into a well-forecasted storm last year, will be on the hot seat responding to questions posed to him on line. Mr. Van Fleet is already fielding inquiries via his Twitter account. The last question posted was "I'm currently on harmony and someone thinks Irma is going to Hurricane Irma Cruise Shipcause us to reenact titanic. Can you confirm?"  (A PR video produced by Royal Caribbean is below.)  It remains to be seen whether Mr. Fleet was hired for public relations purposes or to provide meaningful information and insight to the Royal Caribbean ships at sea.

Carnival will also be changing its fleet's cruise ship itineraries. The Carnival Glory, scheduled for an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, will switch to a Western Caribbean cruise, which will include Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel. Carnival's changes to the itineraries of the Carnival Magic, Carnival Splendor and Carnival Pride are explained below. 

NCL canceled the three-day cruise to the Bahamas from the port of Miami on the Norwegian Sky scheduled for September 8th, as well as a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape scheduled for September 9th. NCL will offer full refunds and 50 percent future cruise credits.

The itineraries of the cruise ships of other lines are certain to change as Irma heads toward Florida. Additional days at sea and more ports of call in places like Roatan and Belize seem likely.

A large number of air carriers are permitting flyers to cancel their scheduled flights to the Caribbean islands, with some adding flights from the islands to Miami to accommodate people wanting to escape the storm. Cruise lines typically do not permit such cancellations and have policies which permit the ships to change itineraries at their sole  discretion. Unless the passengers have purchased insurance applying to this situation, there is little that families themselves can do to cancel their cruises without incurring penalties or forfeiting their fares.

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Photo credit: Top - NOAA via AP; middle - Mike Weather Page. 

HURRICANE IRMA ITINERARY CHANGES (courtesy of Carnival)
September 3, 2017

CARNIVAL GLORY (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM MIAMI)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 2 – Miami Sept. 2 – Miami
Sept. 3 – At Sea Sept. 3 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 4 – Grand Cayman Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Sept. 5 – St. Thomas
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – San Juan
Sept. 7 – Cozumel Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Miami Sept. 9 – Miami

CARNIVAL MAGIC (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT CANAVERAL)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral Sept. 3 – Port Canaveral
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Belize Sept. 6 – Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 7 – Costa Maya Sept. 7- Grand Turk
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral Sept. 9 – Port Canaveral


CARNIVAL SPLENDOR (SIX-DAY CRUISE FROM PORT FORT LAUDERDALE )
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Port Everglades Sept. 3 – Port Everglades
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – Nassau
Sept. 5 – Cozumel Sept. 5 – Half Moon Cay
Sept. 6 – Mahogany Bay (Roatan) Belize Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Belize Sept. 7- Amber Cove (Dominican Republic)
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – Port Everglades Sept. 9 – Port Everglades

CARNIVAL PRIDE (SEVEN-DAY CRUISE FROM BALTIMORE)
Revised Itinerary Original Itinerary
Sept. 3 – Baltimore Sept. 3 – Baltimore
Sept. 4 – At Sea Sept. 4 – At Sea
Sept. 5 – Charleston Sept. 5 – At Sea
Sept. 6 – Freeport Sept. 6 – Grand Turk
Sept. 7 – Nassau Sept. 7- Half Moon Cay
Sept. 8 – At Sea Sept. 8 – At Sea
Sept. 9 – At Sea Sept. 9 – At Sea
Sept. 10 - Baltimore Sept. 10 – Baltimore 

 

Coast Guard Medevacs Passengers from Carnival Magic, Carnival Ecstasy, Celebrity Reflection and Norwegian Breakaway

Cruise Ship MedevacThe U.S. Coast Guard was busy on Thursday and Friday with four medevacs of ill cruise ship passengers off of the coast of Florida, North Carolina and Puerto Rico. 

The Coast Guard first provided an emergency airlift on Thursday morning to a 47-year-old male passenger from the Celebrity Reflection, to a hospital in San Juan Puerto Rico.

The Celebrity cruise ship was about 35 miles north of Puerto Rico, en route from St. Kitts to Miami, when the crew requested Coast Guard assistance in transporting the man who was described as being in "medical distress" to a local hospital.

On Friday, the Coast Guard reportedly medevaced a 53-year-old woman from the Carnival Ecstasy which was approximately 150 miles east of Port Canaveral. The crew of the Ecstasy contacted the Coast Guard at around 10:43 a.m., stating that a passenger was experiencing chest pain.

The Coast Guard station in Clearwater dispatched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter to the Carnival cruise ship. The helicopter arrived at the Ecstasy aroung at 2:30 p.m., hoisted the cruise passenger and a ship nurse, and transported them to Halifax Memorial Hospital in Daytona at around 4:45 p.m. A video of the rescue is below at the middle.

Also on Friday, the Coast Guard station in Miami deployed a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter which hoisted a 41-year-old passenger man from the Carnival Magic which was about 100 miles southwest of Key West.

The man was experiencing chest pains and was flown to the Miami-based air station, where EMS personnel drove him to Jackson Memorial Hospital. A video of the medevac is at the bottom.

A family member left a message on the Defense Video and Imagery Services (DVIDS) webpage stating:

So thankful for your service . My son-in-law is going to be fine. They put a stint in and we should be able to bring him home to North Carolina soon. God is Good !! Our prayers were answered. May God bless each of you for your service and for getting him where he needed to be to get help. Our family is grateful for all you did.

A third medevac also took place on Friday afternoon. The Coast Guard medevaced a 60 year-old man from a cruise ship off the coast of North Carolina after the crew reported that he was experiencing kidney failure.

The Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a C-130 Super Hercules aircraft which arrived at the Norwegian Breakaway, around 120 miles southeast of Wilmington. The helicopter crew hoisted the man to the helicopter and transported him to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for treatment. 

There is no reported inforrmation regarding the status of this NCL passenger or the other passengers who were medevaed for emergency medical treatment ashore from the Carnival Ecstasy or the Celebrity Reflection.  

The costs involved in U.S. Coast Guard medevacs are paid by the U.S. government. 

Another cruise ship medevac took place on Friday after a 66 year old woman fell and broke both of her legs on the P&O Pacific Jewel off the north-east coast of Australia (Queensland).

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Video credit: 

Top - 7News Australia.

Middle - Carnival Magic - U.S. Coast Guard District 7 via DVIDS.

Bottom - Carnival Ecstasy - Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Clayton, U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville via DVIDS. 

 

  

  

Cruise Mystery Involving the Carnival Magic in Roatan?

Roatan Honduras Carnival CruiseI received the following four messages from passengers on the Carnival Magic who all reported that several people apparently did not return to the Carnival ship in Roatan at the end of last week. The Magic reportedly used its spot lights to shine into the beach and surrounding areas for the passengers who went ashore.     

  • "Were just back from Carnival Magic. Our ship was docked in front of Carnival Breeze. In Roatan we (both ships) didn't leave port until 10:00 p.m. We were supposed to leave at 6:00 p.m. Our ship had their ships spot light in Mahogany Bay waters looking for someone or something. Flash lights all over the beach area and island area in the port by people looking for something or someone. We asked several security people and crew on board afterwards, and no one would tell us what happened and said they either didn't know or can't talk about it. That night the Captain indicated they were waiting for clearance from the Honduran officials. We've never had to wait for clearance on the 7 other times we've been there, especially too because they own the port area."
  • "Hello. I recently returned from a cruise on Carnival Magic. On the 8th we were delayed nearly six hours in Roatan. None of the employees would tell us why. Also we were blocking the Carnival Breeze so they too were delayed. Around the time we were suppose to debark they announced the names of four people who had yet to board. Everyone on both cruises are dying to know what the cause of this massive delay was." 
  • "Aboard Carnival Magic, and four passengers did not return to ship last night in Roatan. We watched searchers combing through the port area, boats with spotlights, and the ship using the big searchlight. Magic and Breeze were delayed by about five hours in their departures. Never saw anyone brought back aboard. Everyone was very tight lipped. Breeze was berthed behind us so they could not leave till we did. They called the names repeatedly onboard, and we watched them methodically searching the whole port area and surrounding waters. I hope they were just laid up drunk somewhere, but someone suggested that maybe it was an intentional disappearance." 
  • I would like to know where I can find out what really happened in Honduras March 8th when the Carnival Magic was at port until 10:30 p.m. looking for 4 missing passengers.

There is no indication that the passengers met with foul play of any kind, although it appears unusual for this to occur.

In the past several years, there have been several reports of passengers "disappearing" in cruise ports from time to time, primarily in Jamaica, although these instances have been intentional in nature.  The passengers inevitably were "found" and had apparently taken an extended vacation.  

Does anyone have reliable information regarding what, if anything, happened in Roatan last week? 

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Photo credit: Roatan booth at Seatrade Miami 2014 - Jim Walker