(8:00 p.m. EDT) -- The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Hurricane Bill to a category-two tropical cyclone. Bill, which was listed as a category-three tropical cyclone yesterday, continues to surge through the Western Atlantic and is expected to pass between Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast early Saturday morning.
A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning, issued Thursday by the Bermuda Weather Service, are still in effect, meaning that tropical storm conditions are expected in the area within the next 24 hours, and hurricane conditions are possible. 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 105 miles per hour -- down from 115 m.p.h. this morning -- and is currently located about 200 miles southwest of Bermuda and about 600 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, which departed Cape Liberty yesterday (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 nearing the end of a seven-night Caribbean sailing, stayed at sea Wednesday, rather than visiting regularly scheduled St. Maarten. The ship also skipped its planned sea day Thursday and, instead, called in Grand Turk. No other Carnival ships have been affected yet, and Carnival Triumph, Carnival Miracle and Carnival Pride, sailing from the U.S. this weekend, are expected to depart on schedule.
Norwegian Cruise Line slightly altered schedules for its current Bermuda sailings on Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Majesty, both of which departed Bermuda a bit early -- 5 p.m. -- Thursday. 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. A notice on NCL's Web site says Norwegian Spirit will depart as scheduled from Boston on Friday but may arrive in Bermuda later than scheduled, depending on the path Bill takes.
Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports
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. Predictions say Bill could dump up to five inches of rain on Bermuda -- which has already begun to see tropical storm-force winds -- and may also cause rough weather and surf in Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. The tropical cyclone is expected to pass offshore of the coast of New England Saturday night into Sunday morning. (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.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor