(Updated 7:40 a.m. EDT) -- Hurricane Irene, the ninth named storm and first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season, is steadily increasing in strength as it swirls toward the southeastern Bahamas. Weather conditions have forced Carnival and Royal Caribbean to alter itineraries for nearly a dozen cruise ships.
According to the National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. EDT advisory, Irene is some 105 miles southeast of the popular cruise port of Grand Turk. Maximum sustained winds are now 100 mph, and the storm is expected to intensify into a major hurricane with winds in excess of 125 mph as it chugs toward the Bahamas.
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Pride, which left Baltimore on Sunday for a week-long Bahamas and Florida cruise, will sail a revised route. The ship will now visit Port Canaveral (Tuesday, instead of Wednesday) and Freeport (Wednesday), after which the line will determine the remainder of the itinerary based on Irene's projected path.
Carnival Triumph, which sailed from New Orleans on Saturday for a week-long Bahamas and Florida cruise, is swapping its Bahamas calls for visits to Western Caribbean ports. The new route includes stops in Key West (Tuesday, as planned), Cozumel (Wednesday) and Progreso (Thursday).
Carnival Destiny, which departed Miami on Monday for a five-night cruise to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau, will instead visit Key West (Tuesday), Cozumel (Wednesday) and Costa Maya (Thursday).
Carnival Conquest, which left Galveston on Sunday for a week-long Bahamas and Florida cruise, will now sail a Western Caribbean itinerary. The new route calls for visits to Costa Maya (Wednesday), Cozumel (Thursday) and Progreso (Friday).
Carnival Victory had to cancel Monday's call at St. Thomas and is proceeding to Barbados for its scheduled call on Wednesday. Spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the line is still evaluating the remainder of the itinerary. Victory is on a seven-night cruise from San Juan.
Carnival Liberty, in the midst of a seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami, is stopping at Grand Turk Monday instead of spending the day at sea as originally planned. The line is evaluating the remainder of the itinerary.
Carnival Miracle, which embarked from New York Thursday on an eight-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, is sailing an altered itinerary. Instead of visiting San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk, the ship is now calling on Grand Turk (Monday) and Half Moon Cay (Tuesday).
Royal Caribbean has reversed the itinerary for Oasis of the Seas, which left Fort Lauderdale on Saturday for a week-long Western Caribbean cruise. The ship is now visiting Cozumel on Monday; spending Tuesday at sea; calling on Falmouth, Jamaica on Wednesday; and visiting Labadee, the line's private peninsula in Haiti, on Thursday. Oasis will spend Friday at sea before returning to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday as scheduled.
Freedom of the Seas, which left Sunday from Port Canaveral on a week-long Western Caribbean cruise, is sailing a reversed itinerary. The ship is now calling on Cozumel (Tuesday), Grand Cayman (Wednesday), Falmouth, Jamaica (Thursday) and Labadee (Friday).
Oasis' sister ship, Allure of the Seas, is visiting all the ports originally scheduled on its week-long Caribbean cruise, but in a slightly different order. The ship will visit Nassau, Bahamas on Saturday (August 27) instead of Monday (August 22). Visits to St. Thomas (Wednesday) and St. Maarten (Thursday) will take place as planned.
Royal Caribbean has scrambled the order for Serenade of the Seas' seven-night Southern Caribbean cruise, which left from San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday. The ship is now visiting Aruba (Tuesday), Curacao (Wednesday), St. Kitts (Friday) and St. Thomas (Saturday).
Weather Outlook: Possible Affected Ships and Ports
The core of the storm will be passing just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti early Tuesday before reaching Turks and Caicos Tuesday night and the Bahamas early Wednesday. A hurricane warning remains in effect for the Turks and Caicos, the southeastern and central Bahamas and the north coast of the Dominican Republic.
The current forecast shows the center of Irene making landfall Saturday afternoon somewhere near the South Carolina and North Carolina border. This is, however, an early projection. Meteorologists expect the storm's effects to be widespread along the East Coast.
We'll keep you posted if there are additional itinerary changes.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor