Freak Bahamas Tornado: Is There Cruise Impact?

March 30, 2010

(11 a.m. EST) -- A tornado touched down yesterday on Grand Bahama Island during a fierce thunderstorm, causing a crane to collapse at the Freeport Container Port, which shares the Freeport Harbour with the cruise port and terminal. The incident at the container port resulted in three deaths and several more injuries, according to media reports.

In response to the adverse weather conditions, Carnival Cruise Lines canceled Carnival Sensation's scheduled call in Freeport yesterday. The ship spent the day at sea instead, and is visiting Nassau today as planned. (Nassau is located on New Providence Island, some 120 miles southeast of Freeport; it was spared from the worst of the weather system and today's forecast calls for partly cloudy skies.) A spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line tells us that Norwegian Sky is calling in Freeport today as scheduled. A Holland America Line spokeswoman says it is business as usual in Freeport for that line as well.

We also touched base with Bahamas tourism representatives for more information on what impact the dangerous weather system may have had on Bahamas attractions and beaches, but did not receive a response.

Meanwhile, also on the Harbour (on the north side of the same bay as the container port) is Freeport's busy Grand Bahama Shipyard, a popular destination for cruise ship refurbishments. In the past few years, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, Seven Seas Mariner, Carnival Glory and Majesty of the Seas, among others, have undergone multi-million dollar overhauls at GBS. The yard's dry docks are currently occupied by two ships, Holland America's Zuiderdam and Statendam. Carl Rotkirch, Chairman and CEO of Grand Bahama Shipyard Limited, tells us today via telephone that the tornado did not damage the facilities there or the ships; the only impact was an hour-long power outage. The refit schedules for these ships will not be impacted by the tornado.

According to weather forecasters, while hurricanes are common in the Bahamas, tornadoes are pretty rare. Pat Butler, a forecaster with the Bahamas Meteorology Department, told the Associated Press that they occur about once every three years in the island chain.

Stay tuned.

--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor, and Dan Askin, Associate Editor