Seabourn Spirit departed about two hours early from Cairns yesterday to avoid Tropical Cyclone Larry, a Category Five storm which devastated areas of Queensland in northeastern Australia overnight with wind gusts up to 180 miles per hour according to CNN.com. The hardest hit area, the city of Innisfall, is just 60 miles south of Cairns.
"It was a near thing for Spirit," Seabourn spokesman Bruce Good tells us. The captain of the ship wanted to leave at noon, but the cruise line was not able to get everybody onboard that early, as the ship was scheduled to depart at 6 p.m. According to Good, a message was run on the national news asking passengers to arrive at the pier as early as possible. By 3:50 p.m., all guests were onboard and the captain set out north (away from the cyclone). Seabourn Spirit is currently sailing on calm seas.
"It must have been a terrible storm," says Good, "and we certainly hold our best wishes for everyone affected by it."
This cyclone is the strongest to come ashore since 1974's Cyclone Tracy, according to Australia's ABC News Online, though no deaths have been reported (residents in coastal areas were evacuated over the weekend). A narrow band of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the main attractions for tourists to Cairns and outlying areas, has also sustained damage and could take as long as 20 years to recover.
Orion Expedition Cruises' Orion also departed from Cairns well before the storm came ashore. At this point, other cruise lines with ships in the region -- such as Princess and Holland America -- have not reported itinerary changes. We'll keep you posted.
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Seabourn Spirit Narrowly Misses Cyclone in Australia
March 20, 2006