(10 a.m. EDT) -- According to AccuWeather.com, tar balls -- pieces of the Gulf oil slick that have broken off -- are beginning to enter the Gulf Stream and could loop up over the next few weeks to reach the shores of the Bahamas and South Florida, both popular spots for cruise calls and turnarounds.
So far this month, tar balls from the Gulf oil spill have reached Alabama as well as beaches near Pensacola, Florida, near the cruise ports of New Orleans, Mobile and Tampa.
Which ports and ships could be affected?
We're keeping a close eye on ships that call on Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas, as well as those that turn around regularly in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Mobile, New Orleans and Tampa. Lines include Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Disney Cruise Line.
What's the cruise impact?
Spokespersons for all of the above-mentioned lines have said that cruises continue to sail as scheduled and that they are continually monitoring the situation.
As a precaution, Carnival -- which stands to bear the greatest impact, as it sails from Mobile, New Orleans and Florida ports -- has been sailing through oily areas of the Gulf during daylight only, according to spokesman Vance Gulliksen. This has led to slight changes in departure times. However, Carnival ships are still sailing in many other parts of the Gulf of Mexico (where the is no oil) during nighttime hours.
Cruise Critic member Rockhound62 posts, "Just got back from a cruise out of (and back to) Mobile ... on the way back you could see an oily sheen covering the water at sunset the evening before we docked. The water churned up by the boat was a dull olive green, a color we hadn't seen all trip. There was a slight smell, but not overwhelming. They say the oil forms a layer thinner than a human hair on the water, and this is what we were seeing."
Still, spokesman Vance Gulliksen tells Cruise Critic today that Carnival ships have been able to successfully sail around the spill and have not had to undergo hull cleanings.
What should I do?
At this time, all cruises are sailing as usual; stay tuned for new reports and more in-depth analysis throughout the week.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor