(Wednesday, October 2, 3 p.m. E.D.T.) Hurricane Lili, now located some 325 miles south of New Orleans, has been upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane with winds spinning in the 135 m.p.h. range. Forecasters are predicting it to make landfall somewhere between New Orleans and Galveston.
The storm now is having a major impact on a handful of cruises currently underway -- bigger, we mean, than simply flopping itineraries or spending an extra day at sea. At this point, Carnival has announced that it is bringing Celebration back to Galveston this afternoon -- that's a day early. Carnival's Holiday, slated to return to New Orleans tomorrow, will also pull in sometime during the afternoon. In both cases, passengers will receive pro-rated refunds for the unused day of their cruise.
The post-cruise transportation impact of the early return will not pose much of a passenger problem according to Carnival's Jennifer De La Cruz because Galveston and New Orleans are "huge drive-in markets. The majority of passengers are getting into their cars and driving off," she says.
Passengers slated to sail on four day Western Caribbean voyages scheduled to depart tomorrow on both ships will have to wait: Carnival has converted these trips on Celebration and Holiday into three day cruises-to-nowhere that will depart from their respective Galveston and New Orleans ports on Friday. Passengers are being offered the option to cancel. Says De La Cruz, "guests will have the option canceling with full refund or taking the abbreviated 3-day voyage. If they go for the shortened cruise, they will get a 50 percent refund of their cruise fare and a 50 percent discount off a future cruise."
Affected travelers are currently being notified by either their travel agent or by Carnival itself.
What happens to Celebration and Holiday once they disembark passengers this afternoon? Celebration will head back out to sea rather than tie-up and weather the storm in the port of Galveston. The ship will position itself just out of range of the storm -- and within an easy enough distance to return quickly once Hurricane Lili has moved onward. Holiday, on the other hand, will remain at the dock in New Orleans; the Mississippi River is being closed to port traffic at the Gulf of Mexico.