Paula Weakens to a Tropical Storm, Continues to Spark Itinerary Changes

October 14, 2010

<img src="" border="0" width="260" height"208" align="right">
(12:45 p.m. EDT) -- Paula, the sixteenth named storm of the active 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season, has weakened to a tropical storm as it passes over the northern coast of Cuba.

In its latest update, the National Hurricane Center reports that Paula is currently located about 110 miles west-southwest of Havana, Cuba. Maximum sustained winds have slowed to about 70 miles per hour, demoting Paula, the ninth hurricane in the Atlantic this year, to a tropical storm. The latest NHC tracking shows the storm weakening as it turns inland or continues to hug Cuba's coast, and Paula could be a tropical depression by Friday.

Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes

Carnival Cruise Lines tweaked itineraries for Carnival Imagination, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Legend, Carnival Valor and Carnival Conquest. Today, it announced a new change for Carnival Destiny.
Carnival Destiny has rearranged the order of its port calls to stay away from the storm. It will be at sea Friday, in Cozumel on Saturday and in Key West on Sunday.

Carnival Imagination was supposed to call in Cozumel on Wednesday and be at sea today (Thursday), but instead was at sea yesterday and is calling in Nassau today.

Carnival Valor, which was in Grand Cayman on Tuesday, headed east to say out of Paula's path. The revised itinerary includes stops in Ocho Rios (Wednesday) and Nassau (Friday). The original voyage called for stops in Roatan, Belize and Cozumel.

Carnival Legend, which was in Grand Cayman on Tuesday, altered its original itinerary, which called for stops in Cozumel (Wednesday), Roatan (Thursday) and Belize (Friday). The ship will now call in Ocho Rios on Thursday (a three-for-one trade).

Carnival Ecstasy will no longer call in Progreso and Cozumel as originally planned. The ship swapped two ports for one and called in Veracruz on Wednesday instead.

Carnival Triumph also swapped two ports for one to avoid Paula. Instead of stopping in Progreso and Cozumel, the ship visited Key West on Wednesday.

Carnival Conquest's revised itinerary features calls in Montego Bay (Wednesday) and Key West (Friday) instead of Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel as originally planned.

Because some cruises have been dramatically altered, Carnival is offering compensation to some impacted passengers. Company spokesman Vance Gulliksen tells us that, "In addition to receiving a refund of government fees and taxes for the ports missed, guests on the Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Legend, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Valor will receive a 20 percent discount on a future cruise." Per Carnival's inclement weather policy, Imagination and Destiny passengers won't get compensation because the line maintained the original number of scheduled calls (rather than reduce that number, as in the other cases).

Holland America has altered the itinerary for Ryndam due to the expected effects from Hurricane Paula. The ship is no longer calling in Belize City, Roatan or Costa Maya as originally planned. The revised itinerary includes visits to Half Moon Cay (HAL's private resort island) on Wednesday and Grand Turk on Thursday.

Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Solstice is sailing a modified itinerary. Instead of visiting Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya and Roatan as originally planned, Solstice is stopping in Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, Labadee (sister line Royal Caribbean's private beach resort in Haiti) and Nassau.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line declined to make any itinerary changes.

Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports

All hurricane warnings have been discontinued, but a tropical storm warning is still in effect for the provinces of Pinar del Rio, La Habana and Ciudad De La Habana. Tropical storm winds are likely to spread across western Cuba today; however, there are no cruise ships currently scheduled to visit Havana. (While U.S. lines do not visit Cuba's capital, British lines Fred. Olsen and Thomson Cruises do make calls there.)

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas, a swath that includes Key West. Winds could increase over the lower and middle Florida Keys late today. Carnival has changed the date of Carnival Destiny's visit to the Keys to avoid the storm, but Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas is still expected in Key West Friday as scheduled, according to a company spokeswoman.

We'll keep you posted.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor