December 20, 2018
(12:52 p.m. EST) -- At least two cruise ships will sail modified itineraries as a result of a severe weather system over Florida bringing heavy rain and damaging winds to the region, including some parts of the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas -- scheduled to depart today from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, respectively -- will replace their Saturday calls at Cozumel with ports closer to home. Instead, Independence of the Seas will visit the line's private island of Labadee, Haiti, and Brilliance of the Seas will stop in Freeport, Bahamas.
"Along with our chief meteorologist, we have been carefully monitoring a winter storm in the Caribbean causing inclement weather," a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Cruise Critic. "In an effort to ensure our guests have a safe and comfortable vacation we have modified our itinerary for Independence of the Seas. Instead of sailing to Cozumel, she will now visit our private destination, Labadee, Haiti, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday."
Additionally, "instead of calling to Cozumel, [Brilliance of the Seas] will visit Freeport, Bahamas, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday."
The line's chief meteorologist, James Van Fleet, cited four active tornado warnings in a Twitter post about the line's decision to reroute ships.
A tornado watch is in affect for much of central and west Florida, including Port Tampa Bay and Port Canaveral (east of Orlando), until 4 p.m. eastern standard time. Threats with this warning, according to the National Weather Service, include tornadoes, isolated hail and scattered winds up to 70 miles per hour.
Other weather advisories across the state include tornado warnings, severe thunderstorm warnings and flood warnings.
Carnival Cruise Line and Silversea Cruises, which also have ships in Florida today, confirmed they have not yet had to make any changes. Cruise Critic is awaiting updates from other lines, including Princess Cruises and MSC Cruises, and will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
Multiple weather reports predict the storm will clear before the weekend, with sunny skies returning on Saturday and lasting through Christmas Day.