Hurricane Earl Weakens Slightly; Still Threatens U.S. East Coast

September 1, 2010
(6 a.m. EDT) -- After hammering islands in the Eastern Caribbean earlier this week, Hurricane Earl is now spiraling toward the East Coast of the United States, where it is expected to bring heavy winds and rain in time for Labor Day weekend travel.

In its 5 a.m. advisory, The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is encouraging interests from the Carolinas northward to New England to monitor the progress of Earl, which has now weakened to a Category Three storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour. A hurricane watch is in place for the coast of Virginia from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Parramore Island. The center of Earl, however, is still forecast to stay at sea as the storm twists up the East Coast.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting that "with Earl expected to impact the East Coast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is deploying teams from the Carolinas to Maine in anticipation of storm surges, high winds and flooding."

Holland America became the first line to alter itineraries for ships in Canada and New England. Other lines are closely monitoring the situation. Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and NCL have all announced storm-related itinerary changes for Caribbean cruises departing late last week, this past weekend and Monday.

Hurricane Earl, the fifth in the 2010 Atlantic season, is moving toward the northwest at a 16 m.p.h. clip, and is currently located some 175 miles north of Grand Turk and 815 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The center of the Earl is expected to move northeast of the Bahamas today and tonight.

In the aftermath of Earl's Caribbean offensive, first-hand reports continue to appear on sites like StormCarib and Twitter, where Caribbean residents are posting photos and updates.

DearMissMermaid, a regular poster on Storm Carib, reprinted a note from a honeymooning couple on Virgin Gorda: "...blogs from around the islands are reporting significant damages due to high winds, rain and rising sea levels. Power is out across the islands and [there is] no potable water." In the U.S. Virgin island of St. Thomas, "Things look good," posted Storm Carib member Ronnie. "Downed trees. One capsized boat that I can see. Slight wind."

The Associated Press is reporting (via ABC News) that in Antigua, "at least one home was destroyed but there were no reports of serious injuries."

NBC news reported yesterday that "residents on the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten said Earl brought rain, wind and pounding seas on the coast, causing power outages and knocking down trees. There were also some reports of homes losing their roofs."

Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes

Holland America
Eurodam, which left from Amsterdam on August 19 on an 18-night transatlantic cruise, will sail an altered itinerary. On Friday, September 3, Eurodam will call at Halifax rather than Sydney, Nova Scotia. On September 4 and 5 the ship will be at sea and will remain out of the projected path of Hurricane Earl. The cruise will finish as planned on Monday, September 6 in New York, where passengers will embark for the next cruise, a 10-night Canada and New England voyage, as scheduled.

Maasdam, in the midst of a seven-night Canada and New England Cruise that left from Quebec on August 28, will sail a dramatically altered itinerary. On Tuesday, August 31, Maasdam departed from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island as scheduled, and the ship will now sail directly to Boston, the debarkation port, arriving the evening of Thursday, September 2. As a result of the early arrival in Boston, port calls at Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia, as well as Bar Harbor, Maine have been canceled. According to a statement from Holland America, "This will put the ship safely alongside in Boston ahead of the storm's anticipated arrival." Passengers will be allowed to stay onboard the ship until Saturday morning, the originally scheduled departure time. The statement from HAL adds that, "Subject to receiving approval from the various governmental agencies that are involved in the disembarkation process, [the line] will try and make it possible for guests who want to leave the ship on Friday to do so. No changes are currently planned for Maasdam's September 4 cruise from Boston, a seven-night Canada and New England sailing.

Holland America has tweaked the itinerary for Veendam, which departed from New York on August 29 for a seven-night Bermuda Cruise. On Friday, September 3, Veendam will depart Hamilton a few hours early, and the ship is scheduled to arrive in New York as planned on Sunday, September 5. Passengers embarking on the September 5 sailing will do so as scheduled.

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Miracle, which is currently on an eight-night Caribbean cruise roundtrip from New York, will now arrive back in New York on Friday, September 3, one day earlier than originally scheduled. The ship will dock overnight in New York (a sea day has been nixed), and the cruise will conclude on schedule on Saturday, September 4.

Carnival changed the itinerary for Carnival Dream, which departed from Port Canaveral on Saturday. Instead of sailing an Eastern Caribbean cruise with stops in Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten, the ship is sailing a Western Caribbean route to Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Costa Maya.

Carnival Pride, which left from Baltimore Sunday, will no longer visit Grand Turk today (Wednesday) as originally planned. The itinerary will now include Port Canaveral (Wednesday), Nassau (Thursday) and Freeport (Friday).

Carnival Victory is sailing a revised itinerary. The ship has canceled its call in St. Maarten and changed the order of some of its ports. Victory's new itinerary sequence is St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitt's and St. Thomas. The ship will return to San Juan on Sunday as originally scheduled.

Royal Caribbean
Monarch of the Seas , which departed from Port Canaveral on Monday, was unable to call on CocoCay, Bahamas on Tuesday. The ship will now sail directly to Nassau were it will stay until midnight tonight. The ship will spend Thursday at sea as it returns to Port Canaveral on Friday, as scheduled.

Majesty of the Seas, which departed from Miami on Monday, extended its port call in Key West, Florida on Tuesday until early this morning. It will spend the remainder of Wednesday at sea and call on Nassau on Thursday, September 2. The ship will return to Miami on Friday as scheduled.

Enchantment of the Seas, which left Baltimore last Thursday, called on San Juan on Sunday. On Monday, it visited Samana, Dominican Republic instead of St. Thomas as originally scheduled. It stopped in Labadee on Tuesday and spends Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at sea as it returns to Baltimore on Saturday.

Oasis of the Seas was unable to make its scheduled port calls in St. Thomas on Tuesday and St. Maarten today. Instead, the ship made an extended visit to Nassau on Sunday, spent Monday and Tuesday at sea, calls on Costa Maya today and Cozumel on Thursday. It will then spend Friday at sea as it returns to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, as scheduled.

Freedom of the Seas, which left Port Canaveral on August 29, will be unable to make its scheduled port calls to St. Thomas today and St. Maarten on Thursday. The ship called on CocoCay, Bahamas on Monday, as scheduled, spent Tuesday at sea, and will call in Grand Cayman today. On Thursday, Freedom will visit Cozumel. The ship will then spend Friday and Saturday at sea as it returns to Port Canaveral on Sunday as scheduled.

Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL has changed the itinerary for Norwegian Epic, which left from Miami Saturday. The ship will now call in Cozumel and Roatan in place of St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Epic's call in Nassau on Friday has been extended.

Because of the adverse weather, Norwegian Jewel did not stop at Great Stirrup Cay on Tuesday and instead docked in Nassau a day early. The ship stayed in Nassau overnight, and depending on the path of Hurricane Earl, there is a possibility that the ship will need to leave Nassau early today.

Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports

Conditions should begin to improve in Turks & Caicos today.

The latest NHC projections have Hurricane Earl brushing the East Coast of the United States and Canada on Friday and Saturday. The first tendrils of the storm are currently forecast to reach the coast of North Carolina by Friday morning, and Earl is then expected to move roughly parallel to the East Coast on Friday and Saturday. At this point, only Holland America has altered cruises for ships in the Canada and New England region. Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Cunard have to make any changes.

We'll keep you posted.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor

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