As Hurricane Ian has strengthened in the Caribbean with a forecast track that will likely bring the storm to western Florida within the next 2-3 days, Port Tampa Bay has begun preparations for the hurricane’s impact.
Other Florida cruise ports are also making preparations for the storm as appropriate for their predicted conditions.
Port Tampa Bay Prepares
With Hurricane Ian – now a Category 1 storm but forecast to continue strengthening – predicted to impact western Florida as early as Wednesday, Port Tampa Bay has begun hurricane preparations.
“Port Tampa Bay is coordinating closely with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as the maritime community to prepare for and respond to potential impacts of Hurricane Ian,” port authorities said in a statement.
“As always, the Port’s priorities are safety of life, protection of the environment, and maritime commence resiliency.”
Preparations at this time include removing debris and loose items from the pier facilities, and securing structures and hazardous materials. Vessel traffic has been closely monitored, and a queue is being planned in case vessels may be required to evacuate from the port as conditions worsen.
At this time, Port Tampa Bay is at Condition X-Ray, which indicates gale force winds (39-54 miles per hour / 63-87 kilometers per hour) are expected in the port area within 48 hours. Under this condition, the port remains open to all daily operations.
If the port advances to Condition Yankee with gale force winds expected within 24 hours, vessels must begin departing the port, cargo operations must prepare to cease, and ships planning to arrive at the port must seek a different destination.
With the hurricane’s expected track turning north and likely north-northeast in the next day, it is likely that Port Tampa Bay will advance to Condition Yankee within that time frame.
Condition Zulu, the highest level of concern, closes all port operations, and will be set if gale force winds are expected within 12 hours.
Impacted Tampa-Based Cruises
As Port Tampa Bay only has one cruise ship currently homeported – Carnival Cruise Line’s Fantasy-class vessel Carnival Paradise – changes in Port Tampa Bay’s hurricane readiness will not impact many cruises at the moment.
Carnival Paradise is currently offering 4-5 night Western Caribbean itineraries. Each cruise visits Cozumel, Mexico, and the 5-night sailings also visit either Roatan, Honduras or Georgetown, Grand Cayman, depending on the departure date.
The cruise most likely to be impacted by Hurricane Ian will be Carnival Paradise‘s September 29 sailing, a 4-night sailing.
Thursday, September 29, is just when Hurricane Ian is expected to be closest to Port Tampa Bay, and when the storm may also be at its strongest, a Category 3 or possibly even a Category 4 hurricane.
At this time, there have been no changes made for that sailing, but booked passengers should stay in close contact with Carnival Cruise Line for updates.
Should the port be significantly damaged or the adjacent waterways blocked by the storm, it is also possible that other cruises may be impacted after the storm passes.
Other Florida Ports Also Preparing
Other Florida cruise ports have also begun whatever storm preparations are necessary for their locations and operational needs, based on the storm’s track and expected intensity in different areas.
As of Monday morning, each of Florida’s five cruise ports has the following conditions:
- Port Tampa Bay – Condition X-Ray
- Port Canaveral – Condition Whiskey
- Port Miami – Condition X-Ray
- Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) – Condition X-Ray
- JaxPort (Jacksonville) – Condition Whiskey
The storm, which currently has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), is located approximately 275 miles (443 km) south of Cuba and 285 miles (459 km) west of Jamaica. The storm is moving northwest at 14 mph (23 kph).
Hurricane watches and warnings are already in place along the western Florida coast as appropriate, including the Florida Keys and Key West.
Stay tuned to Cruise Hive for further updates on Hurricane Ian’s impact on cruise travel, ship itineraries, and port closures.