8/18/21 Update @ 5:15 P.M. Eastern: Grace is officially a hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. The storm passed the Cayman Islands earlier today, bringing heavy wind and waves:
More video from Grand Cayman this morning… From Chuck Bryant pic.twitter.com/JYpADa9ucF
— James Spann (@spann) August 18, 2021
Hurricane Grace is now about 200 miles east of Cozumel, set to make landfall overnight.
The impact on the cruise industry also continues. Already Royal Caribbean announced three of its ships — Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Symphony of the Seas — all had to adjust scheduled stops in Cozumel (see earlier updates below). Independence of the Seas is said to have an update tomorrow for their anticipated port stop on Friday.
Meanwhile, Carnival representatives told Cruzely.com that Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze will skip their scheduled stops in Cozumel tomorrow. Instead, the ships will spend the day at sea. Both ships are set to arrive back in Galveston on Saturday.
8/18/21 Update @ 9:35 A.M. Eastern: Tropical Storm Grace is still just a tropical storm, but only barely. Sustained winds are 65 mph. It is now forecast to be hurricane strength (74+ mph) when it makes landfall near Cozumel on Thursday morning.
Last night Royal Caribbean announced two more itinerary changes:
- Adventure of the Seas will skip Cozumel on Thursday. Instead it has a day at sea on Wednesday, with a stop in CocoCay on Thursday.
- Allure of the Seas was also scheduled for Thursday. It will now spend the day at sea.
We have a request in to Carnival regarding updates for Carnival Vista and Breeze and will update when we hear more.
8/17/21 Update @ 4:45 P.M. Eastern: Tropical Storm Grace now has sustained winds of 50 mph. It is forecast now to reach hurricane status before making landfall near Cozumel.
Royal Caribbean has made the following changes to itineraries according to James Van Fleet, Chief Meteorologist for the cruise line…
- Symphony of the Seas (originally scheduled for Cozumel on Wednesday): Sea day on Wednesday, half day at Nassau on Thursday, CocoCay on Friday.
- Independence of the Seas (scheduled for Cozumel on Friday): A decision will be made on Thursday regarding Friday’s stop. There is concern that seas will be too rough to dock in Costa Maya on Thursday.
Update for @RoyalCaribbean Guests on #SymphonyoftheSeas / #IndependenceoftheSeas and #Grace. For SY: Wed is now a Sea Day, Thur is half day in #Nassau (1pm-8pm), Fri at #CocoCay. For ID: Decision will be made Thur as we need to see if there is damage in Coz before Friday’s call. pic.twitter.com/E5VTmOqJnp
— James Van Fleet (@JamesVanFleet) August 17, 2021
For more than a year cruise lines haven’t had to worry much about tropical weather impacting their schedules. But now that ships have returned to sailing, it coincides with the height of hurricane season. And as of now, there is a storm bearing down on Cozumel, one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean.
Tropical Storm Grace passed over Haiti and is currently sitting near Jamaica, heading west at 16 miles per hour. Forecasts as of now show it hitting Cozumel — about 700 miles away — with a direct hit early on Thursday morning.
The current maximum sustained wind is 45 miles per hour. The good news is that the anticipated forecast still has Grace at tropical storm strength when making landfall. Even so, storms can quickly intensify in the warm waters of the Caribbean. Some models do show the storm as a Category 1, and a few even at Category 2 strength within 36 hours.
Of course, cruise lines are watching the storm closely.
Royal Caribbean has several ships in the area. Symphony of the Seas is scheduled for Cozumel on Wednesday. Adventure of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are set for Thursday. Independence of the Seas is supposed to port on Friday.
In addition, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista are scheduled for stops in Cozumel on Thursday. Norwegian Gem is slated for Friday.
Royal Caribbean’s Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet has kept regular updates via Twitter. He said that his cruise line plans to have an update later today about the impact on ships as they are having meetings to finalize plans.
Will have that update later today. We are having meetings on this soon to finalize.
— James Van Fleet (@JamesVanFleet) August 17, 2021
One concern is that as of last night he expressed worry that Grace could strengthen above the current tropical storm status that most models show at the moment. That would mean a hurricane hitting Cozumel.
Evening @RoyalCaribbean Guests. As I am tracking #Grace, Models are handling the speed and location of the storm pretty well. However, for me with little to no wind shear ahead, I think the storm is likely to be stronger than Models anticipate as this comes through the #Yucatan. pic.twitter.com/U2d3mNkfoo
— James Van Fleet (@JamesVanFleet) August 16, 2021
At this point it seems likely there will be at least some disruption in schedules. The current forecasts show a landfall around 2 a.m. Thursday morning, however, the impact of the storm will be felt well before and after that time.
We wouldn’t be surprised if ships have to adjust their routes to different ports or simply add in another day at sea to wait out the storm. The good news is that the Cozumel cruise piers are on the leeward side of the island, so it should provide some protection from severe damage due to the storm.
One thing is for sure: With seven different ships set to call on Cozumel from Wednesday to Friday, the timing of Tropical Storm Grace could not be more perfect to cause disruption for port calls in Cozumel.