Hurricane Bill Heads North, Bermuda Issues Storm Warnings

August 21, 2009
Update, 6:15 a.m. EDT: Hurricane Bill is still a Category Three storm, with maximum wind speeds of 120 miles per hour.

(6:30 p.m. EDT) -- Hurricane Bill continues to surge through the Western Atlantic, albeit in slightly weakened form. The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the center of the now-Category Three storm will pass between Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast early Saturday morning.

In its latest move, the Bermuda weather service has issued a tropical storm warning, meaning that tropical storm conditions are expected in the area within the next 24 hours. This morning, the agency also issued a hurricane watch, which means that hurricane conditions are possible, typically within the next 36 hours. Cruise lines have altered itineraries in anticipation of the storm.

According to the 5 p.m. advisory from the NHC, Hurricane Bill has maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour -- down from a high of 135 m.p.h. yesterday but up from 120 m.p.h. this morning -- and is currently located about 595 miles south of Bermuda and about 1,080 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes

Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, which will depart Cape Liberty today (Thursday), will sail a revised itinerary that will visit San Juan on Sunday; St. Maarten on Monday; St. Thomas on Tuesday; and Kings Wharf, Bermuda, on Thursday.

Carnival Glory, which is currently in the middle of a seven-night Caribbean sailing, stayed at sea Wednesday, rather than visiting regularly scheduled St. Maarten. The ship will forego its previously planned sea day today and, instead, will call in Grand Turk. No other Carnival ships have been affected at this time.

Norwegian Cruise Line has slightly altered schedules for its current Bermuda sailings on Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Majesty, both of which will depart Bermuda a bit early -- 5 p.m. -- today. No changes have yet been made to weekend itineraries for Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Majesty or Norwegian Spirit, which are all scheduled to sail Bermuda voyages from the United States' East Coast during the coming week.

Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports

The NHC is forecasting that Bill could strengthen over the next 24 hours, possibly regaining its Category Four status. Islands in the Eastern Caribbean are experiencing large swells, and Bermuda, the East Coast of the United States and the Atlantic Maritimes of Canada may begin to feel the effects of the storm in the next few days. (See above for impacted itineraries.)

The NHC's "five-day cone," a map that outlines the possible movement of the storm over the next five days, shows Hurricane Bill passing over Nova Scotia on Sunday and the eastern coast of Newfoundland on Monday morning. Holland America's Eurodam and Maasdam, and Princess Cruises' Tahitian Princess are scheduled to be in the area next week -- just after Bill's currently scheduled arrival -- but it's still too early to tell if cruises will be impacted.

Stay tuned.

--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor