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(7:30 a.m. EDT) -- Ernesto, the fifth named storm of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season, weakened to become a tropical storm yet again after hurricane-force winds Tuesday prompted a number of Central American countries to issue storm warnings. The storm has already sparked itinerary changes by Carnival Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line.
According to the National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. EDT advisory, Ernesto is some 55 miles west-northwest of Chetumal, Mexico, which is some 200 miles south of the popular cruise port of Cozumel. Maximum sustained winds from the storm are at 70 miles per hour.
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Carnival Legend, which embarked from Tampa on seven-night Western Caribbean cruise on Sunday, is sailing an altered itinerary. Instead of visiting Belize and Mahogany Bay, Honduras, the ship is calling on Montego Bay, Jamaica (Wednesday) and adding a third day at sea.
Carnival swapped the order for Carnival Triumph's five-night Western Caribbean cruise, which left from Galveston on Saturday. The ship visited Cozumel on Monday and Progreso today.
Carnival also altered the itinerary for Carnival Dream, which departed from Port Canaveral on Saturday on a seven-night Western Caribbean itinerary. The ship called on Cozumel (Monday) as scheduled, but visited Progreso today instead of Belize, and will visit the Eastern Caribbean ports of Freeport (Thursday) and Nassau (Friday).
Disney Fantasy, which embarked from Port Canaveral on Saturday, is sailing an Eastern Caribbean itinerary rather than a Western Caribbean itinerary.
Weather Outlook: Possible Affected Ships and Ports
The latest NHC projections show the storm passing to the north of Honduras, through the Northern tip of Belize and across the southern Yucatan Peninsula where it will lose some steam. It is expected to regain hurricane strength when it emerges into the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico (Bahia de Campeche) on Thursday. A hurricane warning is in effect for coastal Belize and parts of coastal Mexico.
We'll keep you posted if there are additional itinerary changes.
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor