The first tropical disturbance has formed in the Caribbean just northeast of the Turks and Caicos, just 10 days before the official beginning o of the 2023 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season. How will it impact cruises in the coming days?
Tropical Disturbance Begins Hurricane Season
While the 2023 Hurricane Season officially begins on June 1, the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida is tracking the first area of disturbance of the season.
The impacted region is northeast of the Turks and Caicos and extends further to the north-northeast, but could cause rough weather for cruises in the area for the next few days.
The likelihood of the system gaining strength to develop into an official tropical storm is less than 10%, but nevertheless it will be closely monitored and updates issued as necessary.
Ports Possibly Impacted
It doesn’t take a fully developed tropical system – storm or hurricane – to potentially impact cruise ports and cause itinerary changes, diversions, or cancellations. In fact, any type of strong weather or winds can cause safety concerns, and cruise lines will make adjustments to keep their ships, guests, and crews safe in severe weather.
For this first tropical disturbance, ports in the Turks and Caicos, including Grand Turk, may see some impact. Because the area of disturbance is likely to continue moving to the northeast, Bermuda may also be impacted in the days ahead.
Cruise ships with routes through the impacted area, such as sailing toward Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, may also make changes to their itineraries to avoid worsening weather, perhaps by changing the order of ports of call or adjusting days at sea to move ahead of or behind rougher seas.
At this time, there have been no announced changes for any cruise ships or ports of call due to this severe weather.
Not the Year’s First Storm
While routine issuance of tropical weather updates begins on May 15 and continues through the end of hurricane season on November 30, this first disturbed weather area is not actually the first potential subtropical storm of 2023.
A subtropical storm off the northeastern US coast in mid-January was reevaluated earlier this month and found to be sufficiently developed for the designation and has been officially classified as storm AL012023 for recording purposes. AL is the designation for Atlantic, 01 is the number of the storm for the season, and 2023 is the recorded year.
That mid-January storm had no impact on cruises, as it was located well offshore and away from cruise routes at that time of year.
2023 Hurricane Outlook
The official hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, though dangerous storms can and do occur outside those calendar dates. In fact, at least one tropical storm has formed in every month of the year. In 2016, Hurricane Alex formed in mid-January, strengthening to a Category 1 storm before dissipating several days later.
The 2023 storm outlook is relatively average, with a total of 13-15 named storms expected. Of those, 6-7 are likely to become hurricanes and 2-3 may strengthen to “major” storms rated as categories 3, 4, or 5.
These predictions are based on overall global weather patterns, particularly ocean temperatures that facilitate storm development and strengthening as well as wind currents that create shearing forces to inhibit storms or steer their course.
Read Also: How a Hurricane Could Affect Your Cruise
Global conditions are continually monitored and predictions will be updated throughout the season.
Cruise lines also have their own meteorological teams and monitor all weather conditions that may possibly impact ships, ports of call, homeports, or other cruise operations. While Royal Caribbean recently dismissed their chief meteorologist James Van Fleet, the line does still receive updates and information to make weather-related decisions.
All cruise travelers should stay updated on weather conditions as they prepare for a cruise, and remain flexible with their travel arrangements and expectations if weather is a concern.