Isidore Hovers in the Yucatan

September 23, 2002

Tropical Storm Isidore -- it has been downgraded from a hurricane as its speeds slowed while it passed over Mexico's Yucatan peninsula -- is still wreaking havoc with cruise ship itineraries. While cruise executives report little to no damage to major ports like Grand Cayman and Cozumel, ships are still, in some cases, bypassing them. "We are deviating away from the Yucatan in general," explains Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz.

For the most part, passengers on ships in the Western Caribbean who had expected to visit Cozumel and, in some cases Grand Cayman, can forget about it, at least this week. Cruise lines are varying their replacements; Norwegian Sun will stay at sea instead of a call at Grand Cayman today. Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas will replace today's scheduled visit to Cozumel with a stop at Labadee (its private island in Haiti); it will also bypass the Cayman Islands, heading to Ocho Rios instead.

Carnival faced an interesting conundrum in altering the itineraries for one of its ships. Jubilee will be bypassing the legally required international port stop as required by the Passenger Services Act. The ship, sailing a five day voyage out of Galveston, was originally slated to visit the Mexican ports of Playa del Carmen and Cozumel; instead, Jubilee will spend two days in New Orleans. "It is certainly not unprecedented in cases of extreme weather situations to bypass the regulation," says Carnival's De La Cruz. "In this case it is an exceptional scenario." It has happened before; De La Cruz recalls, several years ago, that stormy weather transformed one ship's regular Los Angeles-based Mexican Riviera itinerary into a trip up the Pacific coast to San Francisco.

Tropical Storm Isidore, which meteorologists expect may regain its hurricane-strength speeds as it returns to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is also creating headaches for embarkation cities, such as New Orleans, Tampa and Galveston. No one, at this point, can predict where the storm will head next; landfall is, however, anticipated to occur Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, a new tropical storm -- Lili -- is developing in the southern Caribbean near Barbados. It is expected to intensify. Cruise executives are keeping a close eye on it though no one is reporting any alterations in itineraries at this point.