(1:20 p.m. EDT) -- Tropical Storm Alex (the storm formerly known as Hurricane Alex) may be over land in Mexico, but its presence is affecting weather farther south in the Caribbean -- and preventing cruise ships from calling in ports such as Costa Maya and Belize. How can a storm have such far-reaching effects? Cruise Critic investigated.
Here's the background: On Wednesday, June 30, Oasis of the Seas was prevented from calling in Costa Maya due to high wind and waves. On Thursday, July 1, Carnival Dream was also unable to visit Costa Maya, and Carnival Valor could not call in Belize -- both due to weather. All three ships substituted sea days for the missed calls, and will continue their itineraries as scheduled.
A spokesman for the port of Costa Maya, Cesar Lizarraga, says "very strong winds from the southeast and southwest" affected the coastline of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo -- yet the storm is located north of these regions. (Interestingly, nearby Cozumel was unaffected because its port is in a protected area, while the Costa Maya port terminal is more exposed, facing open ocean.)
So where's the wind coming from? We spoke with Matthew East, a meteorologist with News 14 Carolina, who explained how Alex could impact Caribbean weather. "One of the main drivers of wind is what is called pressure gradient. Due to Alex's low barometric pressure, the difference in pressure between Alex and the large Atlantic high pressure was significant, and it was the main culprit in those winds and associated increased surf today," he said. "So, while Costa Maya was not directly impacted by Alex today, the weather today was certainly largely driven by Alex."
Meanwhile, Alex itself is directly impacting cruises sailing into and out of Galveston.
The takeaway for cruise travelers is that while Alex lingers, weather and sea conditions could be less than ideal -- so as always during hurricane season, prepare yourself for the possibility of missed ports, particularly in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
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Rough Seas in the Caribbean Cancel Cruise Calls
July 1, 2010