Cruise ships in the Caribbean are on alert after an area of low pressure centered over the Virgin Islands spawned Subtropical Storm Olga on Monday, posing a sudden threat 10 days after the 2007 hurricane season officially came to an end. A tropical storm warning is currently in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic with the southern coast under a tropical storm watch, prompting at least two cruise lines -- Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean -- to alter itineraries.
NCL has canceled today's scheduled port call at La Samana in the Dominican Republic for Norwegian Dawn; the ship will instead spend the day at sea, according to a NCL spokesperson. As a result, the ship is now set to arrive in Tortola at 8 a.m. Wednesday -- three hours ahead of its original schedule. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas will bypassing the line’s private island of Labadee, Haiti, because of high winds, according to a RCI spokesman.
Other cruise lines that sail in the region include Costa Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival and Princess; none report changes to their Caribbean itineraries thus far.
The storm was moving west of Puerto Rico near 15 miles per hour as of 8 a.m. today, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Maximum sustained winds were near 40 m.p.h. with stronger gusts. Rainfall totals from Olga are expected to reach up to six inches in parts of Puerto Rico and could be as high as 10 inches for isolated areas of Hispaniola after the storm passes over the island later today and into tonight. The storm's heavy rains could produce dangerous flash floods and mudslides across Hispaniola.
A relatively quiet 2007 hurricane season officially came to a close November 30 after producing 14 named storms and just six hurricanes. Subtropical Storm Olga is expected to weaken after hitting Hispaniola, and is unlikely to develop into a rare December tropical storm. The last time that happened was 2005 when tropical storm Zeta formed on December 30.
Cruise Critic will continue to update any itinerary changes as they are announced.
-- by Michael Potter, Assistant Editor