World’s Busiest Cruise Port Closes as Hurricane Hits Florida

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Port Canaveral has been set to Port Condition Zulu ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Idalia, closing the port to all operations until further notice.

This is not an unexpected step, as the threatening storm has grown in overall wind field size and strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane even though it is still hours away from making landfall in Florida.

Port Canaveral Closes

As of 9 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, Port Canaveral is at Condition Zulu and closed to all marine and shoreside operations. Sustained gale force winds are expected at the port within 12 hours as Hurricane Idalia approaches landfall on the other side of the state.

Only one cruise vessel, Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas, was in Port Canaveral today. The ship was visiting the port as a day stop from 12-9 p.m. but safely departed as the port finalized its closure. Oasis of the Seas is sailing a 7-night Perfect Day Bahamas cruise from New York.

Cruise Ships in Port Canaveral, Florida
Photo Credit: Robert Michaud / Shutterstock

Fortunately, no vessels are scheduled for Port Canaveral on Wednesday, August 30, just as Hurricane Idalia will be strongest in the region. If the storm had threatened the port over the busy Labor Day weekend, as many as 10 vessels might have been rerouted or cancelled – four on Friday, three on Saturday, and three on Sunday.

On Thursday, only MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside is scheduled for the homeport. By then, Hurricane Idalia should be well out of the area and port operations resumed, if there is no significant damage and it is safe to reopen.

Brevard County, where Port Canaveral is located on Florida’s central Atlantic coast, is under a state of emergency, as are more than 40 counties in the state as Hurricane Idalia approaches. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the entire coast of the county and stretches north into North Carolina.

Hurricane Idalia Update

Just an hour before Port Canaveral closed, Hurricane Idalia was located 160 miles (257 kilometers) southeast of Tampa. With maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour), the storm is moving north at 16 mph (26 kph) and continuing to strengthen.

The storm is forecast to begin a curve to the east in the early hours of Wednesday morning, bringing it to landfall in the Big Bend area of Florida early Wednesday. At that time, the storm may be a major Category 3 hurricane, but will quickly degrade as it moves northeast over land through Wednesday and into Thursday.

Hurricane Idalia
Hurricane Idalia

While Hurricane Idalia’s track is well away from Port Canaveral, the storm’s wind field is significant and strong winds are likely to be felt throughout much of the central and northern Florida peninsula. Evacuations are being ordered and shelters opened throughout the state where appropriate.

Other Florida Ports

In addition to Port Canaveral, Port Tampa Bay is also at Port Condition Zulu with all operations closed, as is Jaxport in Jacksonville.

Read Also: Two Hurricanes Affecting Multiple Cruise Ships and Ports

All ports will inspect and evaluate their facilities and operational capabilities as soon as the storm has passed and it is safe to do so. When appropriately cleared, each port will reopen as soon as possible.

Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, as well as PortMiami, are well away from the storm and operating normally. Vessels from both ports, however, have had itinerary adjustments due to Hurricane Idalia.

Any cruise travelers with sailings from Florida homeports in the next few days should stay in close contact with their cruise line for potential itinerary updates or schedule changes due to port operations or storms.

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