Update: Downgraded Isaac Forces Another Itinerary Change

August 29, 2012
(7:00 a.m. EDT) -- Tropical Storm Isaac hit New Orleans on August 29 -- seven years to the day after Katrina devastated the port city. Downgraded from a Category One hurricane, Isaac is still causing a dangerous storm surge and heavy rains, leading to widespread flooding in the northern Gulf Coast, including New Orleans. The National Hurricane Center is warning of severe weather and flooding as the storm moves further inland.

The port of New Orleans closed on Monday (Aug. 27) at 5 p.m. and remains closed. Carnival Cruises Lines has had to postpone today's (Aug. 30) departure of Carnival Elation by one day and sail from the Port of Mobile tomorrow. A message on Carnival's website states: "Our scheduled 4-day cruise will be shortened to a 3-day Fun Cruise @ Sea departing on Friday, August 31, 2012. Please proceed to the Port of New Orleans and plan to arrive between 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM on Friday. The parking garage at the port will be open. Buses will take guests and their luggage to Mobile."

The line is also offering a number of refunds and discounts to passengers who opt to take the cruise.

The port of New Orleans is the fourth major cruise embarkation port affected by Isaac. Tampa , Miami and Fort Lauderdale closed over the weekend, reopening yesterday. The closures caused some ships to remain at sea, sparking delays to their subsequent turn-around departures.

According to the National Hurricane Center's 1 a.m. update, Isaac is packing maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour. Government officials have declared a state of emergency and a mandatory evacuation is underway in some areas. Forecasters say the storm could dump 11 inches of rain along the coast, with up to 19 inches in isolated locations.

Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes

Carnival Cruise Lines

Other than Elation, Carnival Conquest is the only other ship currently sailing from New Orleans and its next sailing isn't until Sunday, Sept. 2.

Due to the Tampa port closure, Carnival Legend's last sailing concluded in Port Canaveral on Sunday. Passengers leaving the ship, as well as those embarking on the next sailing, were bused 2.5 hours by complimentary motorcoach between the ports. The current sailing departed Port Canaveral on Aug. 26 and is sailing a modified itinerary. The ship will scrap a call on Cozumel for a sea day on Tuesday. On Wednesday, a call on Belize will be swapped for a call on Grand Cayman, and Friday's call will be Cozumel in place of Grand Cayman. Although the Aug. 26 cruise will depart from Port Canaveral, it will end in Tampa, as scheduled, on Sunday, Sept. 3.

Due to port closures in Miami, Carnival Valor's current sailing will now operate as a five-night cruise, which departed Aug. 27, rather than a six-night voyage, scheduled to depart Aug. 26. The itinerary will include Grand Cayman and Montego Bay. A scheduled call on Key West has been cancelled. Passengers who opted to sail on this voyage received a two-day prorated refund of their cruise fare, a $50-per-person onboard credit, refund of all government fees and taxes for Key West, a second onboard credit of $25-per-person (meal allowance) and a gratuity adjustment for Sunday and Monday. Customers who elected to cancel received a full refund or a future cruise credit equal to the amount of their cruise fare.

Carnival Imagination's Aug. 24 three-night cruise remained at sea until Monday afternoon when the port or Miami reopened. The ship then departed, several hours late, on its scheduled four-night cruise to Cozumel and Key West. Passengers received a one-day prorated refund of the cruise fare, an onboard credit of $25-per-person (meal allowance) and a one-day gratuity adjustment.

Carnival Destiny, which departed on a five-night voyage from Miami on Saturday Aug. 25 added a third day at sea and will only call at one port – Ocho Rios – on Aug. 28. Carnival Dream, which departed on a seven-night sailing from Port Canaveral on Saturday Aug. 25, skipped its Nassau call on Sunday in favor of a sea day. The ship will now pay a visit to St. Maarten (instead of St. Thomas) on Tuesday (Aug. 28) and St. Thomas (instead of St. Maarten) on Wednesday (Aug. 29), and a sea day originally scheduled for Thursday (Aug. 30) will be replaced with a call on Grand Turk.

Carnival Sensation's current voyage is sailing the following modified itinerary: a sea day on Monday (Aug. 27) replaced a previously scheduled call on Freeport; a two-day call on Nassau will be cut short on Wednesday (Aug. 29), and a call on Freeport will be substituted for it.

Royal Caribbean

With Isaac lashing Florida this past Sunday, Allure of the Seas' Aug. 19 sailing stayed at sea for an extra two days and returns to Port Everglades today. That means the ship's next sailing, which was supposed to depart on Sunday, departs this afternoon. Embarkation for the shortened sailing will run from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The new itinerary will be as follows: Wednesday, Aug. 29, at sea; Thursday, Aug. 30, Cozumel; Friday, Aug. 31, at sea; and Saturday, Sept. 1, Nassau, Bahamas. Details of the line's compensation to passengers affected can be found on the Cruise Critic Lido Deck blog.

Monarch of the Seas departed from Port Canaveral as scheduled yesterday but is sailing a modified itinerary. The ship will spend Wednesday, Aug. 29 at sea, and then call on CocoCay, Bahamas, instead of Nassau on Thursday, Aug. 30.

Majesty of the Seas departed Miami several hours behind schedule, but is sailing its usual itinerary.

Mississippi River Ships

The itinerary for American Queen, a riverboat that sails the Mississippi, will proceed as scheduled, departing from Memphis on Thursday, Aug. 30. Because New Orleans has declared a state of emergency and has begun evacuations, those booked on the sailing who originally planned to fly into New Orleans should alter their travel arrangements to arrive directly in Memphis instead.

The only other riverboat to sail the Mississippi is American Cruise Lines' Queen of the Mississippi, which is currently doing seven-night cruises between St. Louis and St. Paul on the Upper Mississippi.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Gem changed the order of its ports, calling on Great Stirrup Cay on Tuesday (Aug. 28), Nassau on Wednesday (Aug. 29) and Port Canaveral on Thursday (Aug. 30).

Port Update

Despite being forced to close while the storm raged nearby, the ports of Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) suffered no damage whatsoever. Port Canaveral also was spared, as were ports in Jamaica and the Bahamas – despite gale force winds and several inches of rain.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor