Recapping Hurricane Dorian’s Havoc for Cruise Lines

Note: To help with relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, see our article here.

That cruise lines have to deal with the potential for hurricanes is no surprise. The Caribbean is the most popular spot in the world for cruise travel, with Florida being the busiest state for departures. Both areas sit in the heart of the path of hurricanes.

What is a surprise is when one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded (185 mph winds) snakes a path through the area, slows to a standstill, and then turns to travel up the length of the eastern seaboard.

Dorian full color satellite

That’s precisely what happened with Hurricane Dorian as it went from what was thought to be a relatively minor storm into a Category 5 monster that created havoc as it churned through the ocean.

The impacts of Dorian on the Bahamas is well known, and the area will continue to struggle for years to recover. Frankly, the impact on cruise lines is minimal compared to the human cost. If you can, we’ve highlighted ways here that you can give to help the area.

Still, many people have an interest in all the ways that cruise lines had to adjust to one of the most historic storms on record. We’ve highlighted the impacts of Dorian on the cruise industry specifically, with a recap of how big changes were forced to deal with the unpredictable and unprecedented storm.

Shifting Cruise Itineraries

Without a doubt the biggest impact on cruise lines and passengers were the itineraries that had to be adjusted to avoid the storm. All major cruise lines experienced major shifts in their cruise schedules because Dorian affected a number of homeports in Florida, as well as ports of calls in the Bahamas for extended periods.

Changes started small with several lines simply moving their routes to areas that were out of the way. That means ports like Nassau were cancelled, instead sending passengers and ships to areas like Key West or Mexico that were out of the way of the growing storm.

However, as the storm strengthened and bared down on the Bahamas and Florida, more drastic measures were taken. Homeports like Miami, Port Everglades, and Port Canaveral were closed when the storm neared, so ships couldn’t dock to let passengers off or start new cruises.

A number of ships extended their cruises they were already on to stay in safe waters and let the storm pass. One of the most drastic changes came for the Norwegian Breakaway. The ship left Miami on August 25, and was planned to return on September 1. Due to the hurricane that date was extended, and eventually the cruise ship ended up porting in New Orleans on September 3 to allow passengers off the ship.

Believe it or not, there are still ships being impacted by Dorian. Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, for example, has had to adjust its schedule, forgoing stops in Nova Scotia with a port of call in Quebec and ending the cruise in Boston a day later than planned as Dorian moved up to the coast.

In short, cruise lines have had to adjust dozens of sailings for the better part of two weeks to keep passengers safe from the storm.

Cruise Cancellations

While most passengers had their cruises adjusted, including having trips cut short or extended to work around Hurricane Dorian, others had their cruises completely cancelled.

Cancelled cruises due to weather are a rarity. After all, if the weather is bad in one spot is bad, then the ship can sail to calmer waters. But with Dorian, some trips were extended to a point that the next cruise wouldn’t have the time it needed to sail.

Mariner of the Seas, for instance, sails short trips from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas. After one trip had to wait until September 5 to get home, the next sailing (originally scheduled for September 2) was cancelled.

In total, we counted at least five cruises from major cruise lines that had to be cancelled due to the storm. Considering that a cruise ship can bring in more than a million dollars in revenue each day, having to cancel a cruise is an enormous expense.

Cruise Line Islands

While cruise ships are the most visible part of a cruise line, most major lines also operate private islands for their guests. Many of these islands — including Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay, Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay, and Disney’s Castaway Cay — sat dangerously close to the path of the storm.

In response, the cruise lines cancelled stops and shut down the islands to visitors. Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay closed on August 28 and didn’t reopen until September 7. Disney’s Castaway Cay, which was less than 50 miles from the eye of the storm, isn’t scheduled to open up until September 12.

Cruise Line Relief Efforts

Fortunately for all the havoc that Dorian has caused, it does show the good that people and cruise lines can do.

Already all the major cruise lines — Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Disney — have stepped up to put up at least $1 million for hurricane relief. For many ships this includes making stops on cruises to drop off meals and supplies, including thousands of meals.

What Hurricane Dorian brought to the area in just days will take years to recover from. If you’d like to help, you can see several options for donating here.


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