Irma Forces Cruise Operators to Reroute or Cancel Sailings in the Caribbean

By Costas ParisFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Hurricane Irma, which has intensified into a Category 5 storm with winds up to 185 miles an hour, is forcing cruise lines to cancel or divert sailings as it barrels toward popular Caribbean destinations and the Florida coast.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. said Tuesday it plans to cut short two Caribbean trips to avoid the storm. The 2,000-passenger Norwegian Sky and the 4,250-passenger Norwegian Escape will return to Miami on Thursday, instead of Friday and Saturday, respectively.

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Norwegian also said scheduled sailings of both ships over the weekend were canceled. Guests will receive a refund for the missed days and discounts for future cruises. "Safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance," it said in a statement.

Carnival Corp. revised the itineraries of four ships -- three on weeklong sailings from Florida and one from Baltimore -- sending them to westward Caribbean ports instead of eastern stopovers. "We are watching Irma closely, but we are not canceling any sailings as of now," a spokeswoman said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is also rerouting one ship toward western port calls and is evaluating five sailings to the Caribbean, Bermuda and Cuba.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma is a "potentially catastrophic storm" that will barrel toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico starting Thursday and make its way toward Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Cuba later in the week.

The storm is also affecting sailings of Geneva-based MSC Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Line, whose ships are skipping dockings in some Caribbean ports or diverting to other destinations.

Tanker, container and dry bulk operators are also monitoring the storm saying they will reroute ships as necessary. A number of operators had to change sailings to the Texas coast last week to avoid Hurricane Harvey.

"We are turning west to avoid Irma," said Anastasios Poulos, the executive officer of a Greek-owned crude tanker sailing toward Puerto Rico. "We've got very strong waves and winds. Hoses are blowing off the ship. It's too dangerous to stay on the course."

Write to Costas Paris at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 05, 2017 18:20 ET (22:20 GMT)