Florida Cruise Ports Shut Down for Hurricane Irma

September 10, 2017
Miami Beach, South Beach, Florida

(Updated 9:20 p.m. EDT) -- Florida cruise ports have closed for Hurricane Irma, a powerful hurricane (at one point a Category 5), which flooded Key West early Sunday and is now pounding mainland Florida. 

Miami, Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Orlando (Port Canaveral), Palm Beach, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville (JaxPort) all ceased operations Friday. Key West also has been closed and evacuated.

The storm -- which maintained Category 5 status most of the week, with winds reaching up to 185 mph -- tore through the Caribbean and Bahamas, devastating islands such as St. Maarten/St. Martin, Tortola, Barbuda and Key West in its path.

All cruise ships originally scheduled to disembark/embark at a Florida port between Friday and Monday have been either diverted or canceled. Cruise ships do not stay in port during major hurricanes or storms because of the possibility of damage; all ships leave well in advance of Coast Guard warnings.

On Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard set Port Condition Zulu for the ports of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach; Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville all reached Zulu status Saturday. Zulu is a full lockdown that prevents all ships from entering the port; it is classified as a "danger condition" (following readiness and warning conditions, during which ports and cruise lines prepare and evacuate) and is issued when gale-force winds (39 to 54 miles per hour) are expected within 12 hours.

Florida's ports will remain closed until USCG conditions have been lifted, generally when gale-force winds have passed and each facility's Captain of the Port (COTP), along with the Port Heavy Weather Advisory Group (PHWAG), deem it's safe to reopen. At this point, there's no predication when that will be.

A state of emergency was declared for Florida earlier this week, while a hurricane warning is in effect for the Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay. A storm surge warning is also in effect for the Keys, Tampa Bay and North Miami Beach.

Among the ships that departed Thursday with passengers from previous sailings are Norwegian Escape and MSC Divina, both of which are heading away from the storm to seek refuge.

Additionally, the majority of Monday departures have been bumped to Tuesday. Below is a breakdown of the next scheduled call dates, for each Florida port.

  • Miami: September 12
  • Fort Lauderdale: September 12
  • Orlando: September 12
  • Palm Beach: September 12
  • Tampa: September 12
  • Jacksonville: September 28
  • Key West: September 14

Cruise Critic is in contact with all the cruise lines and ports, and will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

--By Gina Kramer, Editor

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