New Tropical Storm Forms, Threatens Popular Caribbean Ports

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Tropical Storm Franklin has formed in the southern Caribbean and is on track to threaten the island of Hispaniola. This puts the popular ports of Amber Cove and Puerto Plata firmly in the path of the storm, which is expected to cross the island on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. How will cruise lines adjust for the incoming bad weather?

Tropical Storm Franklin Forms

Tropical Storm Franklin, which officially crossed the threshold to a tropical cyclone on Sunday evening, is currently located 235 miles (378 kilometers) south of Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic.

The storm is moving west at 12 miles per hour (19 kph), but is expected to turn to the north early on Tuesday and cross directly over the Dominican Republic early Wednesday.

Two popular cruise ports, Amber Cove and Puerto Plata, are located on the island nation’s northern coast, and both are likely to feel strong effects from the storm as it passes over the island. Tropical storm watches are already in place for the northern coast, with tropical storm warnings in effect along the island’s southern coast.

Tropical Storm Franklin
Tropical Storm Franklin

Both Amber Cove and Puerto Plata are located near the center of the island’s northern coast, right where the storm’s forecast track leads. Royal Caribbean’s private destination of Labadee, Haiti is further to the west but is also likely to feel the storm’s impact.

Fortunately, no cruise ships are scheduled to be in any of the three ports on Wednesday, August 23, just as the storm passes. Carnival Celebration is scheduled for Amber Cove on Tuesday, and MSC Cruises’ MSC Seascape is scheduled for Puerto Plata on Tuesday as well. The two cruise ports are just 7 miles (12 km) apart.

Both cruise lines are closely monitoring the storm, but have not yet made adjustments to cruise schedules.

“Our Fleet Operations Center at the Mother Ship is also monitoring Tropical Storm Franklin and at the time of writing there has been no changes to any of the current itineraries,” said John Heald, Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador, on Monday morning. “As always we will keep everyone safe.”

Will Cruises Change Schedules?

At the moment, Tropical Storm Franklin has a relatively small wind field with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). While every storm is cause for concern and should be taken seriously, this system is not expected to strengthen considerably until well past Hispaniola and far from cruise line routes.

This does not mean, however, that there will be no schedule or itinerary changes for cruise lines in the eastern Caribbean as the storm moves over Hispaniola and begins an eastward turn.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock)

Tropical storm watches are already in effect for the Turks & Caicos, and the storm will be close to Grand Turk on Wednesday afternoon. At that time, Carnival Magic is scheduled for a port visit to Grand Turk from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. That visit is likely to be impacted by the storm.

Any ships traveling toward Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands this week may also see changes in their schedules to avoid the storm’s path.

Peak Hurricane Season Yet to Come

After a relatively quiet beginning to the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the tropics are certainly heating up. There are currently three tropical storms – Emily, Franklin, and Gert – being monitored (only Franklin is likely to impact land in any substantial way).

Two additional areas of disturbance are also being closely watched. One is in the Gulf of Mexico and likely to bring poor weather to the Texas coast, while the other is far to the east near Cabo Verde off the west coast of Africa, but will move into the Atlantic and could develop more strength over the coming days.

Statistically, the peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season – which runs from June 1 through November 30 – is around September 10, when there are the most storms at the greatest strength.

Damaging storms can impact ports of call, homeports, and cruise ship schedules at any time during hurricane season, or even outside the official season dates. All cruise travelers should stay aware of weather patterns and remain in close contact with their cruise line for updates and adjustments as necessary before, during, and after hurricane season.

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