Three of Florida’s five major cruise ports are taking precautions and elevating their port condition levels ahead of what is now Tropical Storm Idalia. The storm is forecast to grow as strong as a Category 2 or even a major Category 3 hurricane before making landfall in Florida within 48 hours.
Port Conditions Ahead of Storm
Three of Florida’s five major passenger cruise ports are set to experience the impact from what will soon be Hurricane Idalia. At the moment, the tropical storm is located approximately 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of Cozumel, but with a forecast track that will bring it to a Florida landfall on Wednesday, August 30.
This puts Port Tampa Bay, Port Canaveral, and Jaxport all in the storm’s path, and each cruise port is taking appropriate precautions.
Port Tampa Bay
Port Tampa Bay, which is closest to the storm, is currently at Port Condition Yankee, with gale force winds possible within 24 hours. All inbound traffic to the port is now suspended.
Fortunately, no cruise ships are scheduled for Port Tampa Bay until Thursday, August 31, when Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas and Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Paradise are both returning. By Thursday, the storm should be well away from Florida altogether and the port reopened, unless severe damage cannot be quickly repaired.
On the east side of the state, the world’s busiest cruise port is now at Port Condition X-Ray with gale force winds predicted within 48 hours. At the moment, the port remains open for all operations, though this may change as the storm’s forecast is updated.
Idalia’s impact on Port Canaveral is likely to be strongest on Wednesday, August 30, as the storm passes over the Florida peninsula. Port Canaveral will be on the southeastern side of the storm, where the current wind field is largest.
On Wednesday, no ships are scheduled for Port Canaveral. Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas is planning to make a port of call visit to Port Canaveral on Tuesday, August 29 from 12-9 p.m. should conditions permit. MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside should be in port on Thursday, August 31 if the port is safely open that day.
At the moment, neither cruise line has adjusted itineraries for these vessels.
Jaxport in Jacksonville, Florida is also at Port Condition X-Ray, with gale force winds expected within 48 hours. The storm’s track is firmly headed for Jacksonville, and while the storm will weaken as it crosses the state, the port does expect a strong impact.
“We anticipate the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port will set Port Condition Yankee later in the evening on Monday, August 28, followed by Port Condition Zulu by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29,” the port said in a statement released at noon on Monday.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Elation is currently the only vessel homeporting from Jacksonville, and no ships are scheduled to Jaxport for port of call visits.
Carnival Elation departed on a 5-night Bahamas cruise on Saturday, August 26, and is not due to return until Thursday, August 31. It is possible if Idalia slows or the track shifts slightly south, the ship’s return may be delayed. At this time, there are no changes to Carnival Elation‘s itinerary as the ship visits Nassau and Princess Cays.
Tropical Storm Idalia
Tropical Storm Idalia currently has maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour), just below the 74 mph (119 kph) threshold for an official hurricane. The storm is expected to continue strengthening and will likely be upgraded to a hurricane on Monday evening.
The storm is moving north at 8 mph (13 kph), just west of Cuba, and is expected to continue moving north for most of Tuesday before beginning an eastward turn that will take it across Florida.
Landfall is expected on Wednesday morning, likely as a major hurricane. While the exact location of landfall is unpredictable at the moment, it is likely to be in the Big Bend area of Florida’s west coast, between Apalachicola and Tampa.
After landfall, the storm is expected to weaken significantly as it moves through northern Florida and into southern Georgia, continuing a swing to the east and entering the Atlantic Ocean, where it will then turn toward Bermuda.
It is possible that cruises scheduled for Bermuda, already seeing adjustments for Hurricane Franklin, may likewise see adjustments for Idalia at the end of the week.
Cruise Hive’s best wishes for smooth waters and safe harbors are with everyone in the path of this storm.