The popular cruise destination of Nassau, Bahamas, received an unexpected surplus of 17,000 cruise ship passengers due to Hurricane Ian and Fiona forcing multiple cruise itinerary changes.
Vessels from Carnival Cruise Line, Virgin Voyages and MSC Cruises all brought in additional passengers to the Nassau Cruise Port to keep guests safely away from recent hurricanes that impacted the Caribbean, U.S. and Canada.
The Bahamas Catered to More Cruise Guests
Over 17,000 additional cruise ship passengers visited Nassau in the Bahamas at the end of September as both Hurricane Fiona, and Hurricane Ian forced cruise itineraries changes between September 21-30.
This was due to port closures in Florida due to Hurricane Ian, including Port Canaveral. It’s also after damage to the pier in Grand Turk due to Hurricane Fiona, resulting in Carnival ships canceling scheduled calls and visiting Nassau instead.
Mr. Maura told the Tribune, “Just as the storm was leaving Florida, we had 15,000 passengers roaming the streets of Nassau.”
Hurricane Ian stormed through Florida with up to 155 mph winds on September 28, making several cruise ships reroute, including MSC Seashore and Virgin Cruises’ Scarlet Lady bringing with them an unexpected 6,000 passengers to visit the popular cruise stop.
Although several cruise itineraries chose to cancel or shorten their itineraries, such as Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, many cruises chose to reposition to Nassau, surprising guests with an unexpected port of call. Other ships also remained at sea longer and lengthened their voyages to stay away from any storm.
The 170,412 gross ton MSC Seashore chose to shift its original itinerary, and on Monday, September 26, the ship spent the day in Nassau from 8:00 AM to 6 PM.
Additionally, Virgin Cruises’ 2,770-passenger Scarlet Lady skipped its call at Costa Maya, Mexico, and re-routed to the Bahamian capital during its September 25-30 itinerary.
With Hurricane Fiona damaging the cruise dock in Grand Turk, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Legend and Mardi Gras had replaced their scheduled visits with stops in Nassau. Carnival Sunrise also canceled Grand Turk but replaced it with a call to Bimini, also in the Bahamas, during its September 24 sailing.
As the winter cruise season arrives for the Bahamas at the end of October, Nassau will see a great return of calls as ships deployed in Alaska and Europe make a return to the Caribbean. More than four million cruise passengers are expected in 2023, taking over the previous record set in 2019.
As the Bahamas eases its cruise requirements for guests, cruises to the island located in New Providence have become easier as fully vaccinated passengers no longer need to be tested prior to embarkation.
The Hurricane’s Progressive Devastation
On September 23, Tropical Storm Ian first formed in the central Caribbean but then strengthened into a hurricane on September 26, making it the strongest September hurricane in the central Caribbean since Hurricane Felix in 2007.
On September 26, Hurricane Ian emerged in the southern Gulf of Mexico as a Category three hurricane with winds of up to 115 mph.
As the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Michael in 2018, Ian was the first Category four hurricane to impact Southwest Florida since Charley in 2004, with catastrophic storm surges of 12-18 feet above ground level.
Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm on September 29 but regained traction back into a Category one on September 30 before making landfall in South Carolina just after 2:00 p.m. the same day.
The storm weakened once over South Carolina, becoming a post-tropical cyclone three hours after landfall, dissipating over southern Virginia on October 1.
On September 14, Hurricane Fiona formed in the Atlantic and became a Category four hurricane, impacting the Caribbean and Eastern Canada as the first major hurricane for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.
Fiona dissipated on September 28 with over an estimated $2.68 billion worth of damages, sustaining winds of up to 130 mph.