Rick Weakens from Hurricane to Tropical Storm

October 19, 2009
(11 p.m. EDT) -- Rick, once a Category Five storm with winds of 180 miles per hour, has been downgraded to a tropical storm. Maximum sustained winds have fallen to 70 mph.

According to the National Hurricane Center's 8 p.m. PDT (11 p.m. EDT) update, Rick is located some 290 miles south-southwest of the popular cruise port of Cabo San Lucas. Additional weakening is expected over the next couple of days. The NHC's five-day forecast (pictured right) has the center of Rick making landfall over the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula by late Tuesday or early Wednesday (then reach the mainland by late Wednesday). A tropical storm watch, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours, is in place for southern portions of the Baja Peninsula. The watch area includes Cabo San Lucas.

With previously recorded wind speeds of 180 miles per hour, Rick is the second strongest Eastern Pacific storm on record after 1997's Hurricane Linda, whose winds reached 185 mph.

Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes

Norwegian Star's call to Cabo San Lucas was cancelled today (Monday); the ship instead remained at sea. The ship will call on Mazatlan tomorrow as originally scheduled.

Carnival Splendor, which set sail Sunday from Los Angeles' Long Beach port for the Mexican Riviera, will sail a revised itinerary to avoid Rick. The ship will visit Ensenada on Monday, Puerto Vallarta on Thursday and Cabo San Lucas on Friday. The original schedule was Puerto Vallarta (Wednesday), Mazatlan (Thursday) and Cabo San Lucas (Friday).

Carnival Spirit, which left Sunday from San Diego for Mexico, will also sail an altered itinerary. The eight-day cruise will now operate as follows: sea days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Acapulco originally scheduled for Wednesday); Acapulco on Thursday; Manzanillo on Friday; at sea on Saturday; Long Beach on Sunday; return to San Diego on Monday.

Sapphire Princess will sail an altered itinerary as follows: Monday at sea; Tuesday, San Francisco; Wednesday, Catalina Island; Thursday, San Diego; Friday, Ensenada, Mexico; and Saturday, Los Angeles.

Holland America's Veendam and Statendam are scheduled to be in the region this coming week -- Veendam earlier in the week, Statendam after transiting the Panama Canal. A Holland America spokeswoman tells us that "Veendam is on a chartered sailing and is planning to call on Cabo San Lucas as scheduled [on October 19]. Options for Tuesday and beyond are being discussed. Other itinerary changes are likely for both ships but are not fully determined yet. We should know more by mid-morning Monday."

Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas is set to depart San Diego on Monday. According to the most recent weather forecasts, the ship will be able to depart on time and head south to Ensenada, Mexico. However, Royal Caribbean said in a statement that "it is too early to know if the storm track will permit the ship to continue to visit Cabo San Lucas on Thursday. Should the ship be unable to visit Cabo San Lucas, an alternate itinerary will include stops in Ensenada, Los Angeles and Catalina Island.

Mariner of the Seas was scheduled to go to Cabo San Lucas on Tuesday, but instead proceeded directly to Puerto Vallarta. According to a spokeswoman for the line, RCI "has not made a determination yet on the rest of the itinerary. It is possible that Mariner will with do Mazatlan Thursday and Cabo San Lucas on Friday, or dock overnight in Puerto Vallarta."

Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports

There are a few other ships currently sailing Mexican Riviera cruises. Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow visited Acapulco yesterday, October 18. A representative from Silversea told us that "the ship arrived into Acapulco yesterday and found beautiful weather. So far so good. No changes yet."

NCL's Norwegian Star is scheduled to visit cruise ports in the region. NCL has made changes to Norwegian Star's cruise (see above), but a spokesperson for the line says there are no changes for Norwegian Sun at this time.

Stay tuned.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor