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Hurricane Irene bound for North Carolina, likely to delay Northeast cruises

(Updated 5 p.m. EDT) -- Hurricane Irene, a Category 2 storm packing winds of 100 mph, is now homing in on North Carolina and the Northeast. Hurricane warnings have now been extended up the coast to north of Boston, resulting in a number of changes for ships leaving from Northeast ports -- including early and late departures.

All told, dangerous weather conditions have forced lines to alter itineraries for dozens of cruise ships in the Northeast, Eastern Caribbean, Bermuda and Bahamas, with numerous lines contracting or expanding voyages to allow Irene to pass.

The National Hurricane Center's 5 p.m. EDT advisory places Irene some 265 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, N.C. Little strengthening is expected, but it remains a large and dangerous storm and is expected to retain hurricane status as it churns off the Mid-Atlantic coast.

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Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes


Holland America
HAL's Veendam, which left Sunday from New York on a seven-day Bermuda Cruise, will now depart Bermuda at approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday rather than Friday, and arrive in New York one day early on Saturday. Passengers will be able to disembark on Saturday or overnight until Sunday. There are currently no changes to Veendam's next cruise, a seven-night Bermuda sailing leaving New York on Sunday, August 28. The ship is scheduled to sail at 4:45 p.m. But, according to a statement from the line, "based on the storm's progress and intensity, departure may be delayed."

Maasdam, which is nearing the end of a 35-night roundtrip Boston sailing, remains on schedule. The ship is due to arrive in Boston on Saturday, August 27, at 7 a.m. Maasdam's next sailing, a Canada and New England cruise that leaves from Boston at 5 p.m. on August 27, also remains on schedule. According to HAL, itinerary adjustments will be made as storm conditions warrant, but any changes will not impact the time of departure from Boston.

 Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Summit, currently sailing a Bermuda cruise, will depart the island on Friday, August 26, in late afternoon. It's expected to arrive in its homeport of Bayonne, New Jersey, early on Monday, August 29 -- one day later than scheduled. As a result, Summit's next Bermuda sailing will depart Monday afternoon instead of Sunday. The line says passengers on the shortened voyage "will receive a letter at check in with the amount of onboard credit each stateroom will receive."

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Gem, due to return to New York Sunday from a week-long Bermuda cruise, will instead return to Manhattan on Monday morning, August 29. In addition, the ship will now depart Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. on its next voyage, instead of Sunday. Passengers are asked to arrive at the pier at noon on Monday. A Norwegian spokeswoman tells Cruise Critic that because this is a weather-related change, no compensation will be offered to guests on the storm-shortened cruise.

Norwegian Jewel, which is in the midst of a week-long Bahamas and Florida cruise, is returning to NYC early on Saturday, August 27, and will disembark passengers starting at 6 a.m. Then the ship will depart three hours earlier than scheduled -- at 1 p.m. (guests for the August 27 sailing are advised to arrive at the pier between 10 a.m. and noon). The line is cautioning that there may be changes to the itinerary as well.

Norwegian Dawn, sailing from Boston on Friday for a seven-night voyage to Bermuda, will depart as scheduled. The line warns that it may need to modify the itinerary if the path of the storm changes.

Norwegian Sky, departing Friday from Miami, will not call at Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island in the Bahamas, on Saturday, August 27. Instead, it will spend the day at sea.

Royal Caribbean
Explorer of the Seas will now depart from Bayonne, New Jersey, on Saturday, August 27, at 4 p.m., one hour earlier than originally scheduled. The ship is scheduled to sail a five-night Bermuda cruise.

Monarch of the Seas will not call on CocoCay on Sunday, August 28, because of damage to the line's private Bahamian island. Instead, the ship will overnight in Nassau and depart at 11 a.m. on Sunday, August 28.

Likewise, Majesty of the Seas will not call on CocoCay on Saturday, August, 27. The ship will spend Saturday at sea and call on Nassau the following day, as scheduled.

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Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Glory will leave New York on Saturday, August 27, two hours early -- at 3 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. In addition, the five-night Canada cruise will call on Halifax Monday and Saint John Tuesday instead of the other way around.

Carnival Fantasy, which left its Charleston, South Carolina, homeport Thursday, August 25, for a six-night cruise, will not be able to call on King's Wharf, Bermuda, on Saturday and Sunday. The ship will visit Cozumel (Sunday) and Key West (Monday) instead.

Carnival Fascination, which left its Jacksonville, Florida, homeport Thursday for a four-night cruise, will sail an altered itinerary. The ship now has a sea day on Friday, followed by calls in Key West (Saturday) and Freeport (Sunday) before returning to Jacksonville on Monday. A scheduled visit to Nassau was scrapped in favor of the stop in the Florida port.

Carnival Sensation, which left its Port Canaveral, Florida, homeport Thursday for a three-night cruise, will no longer call on Nassau on Friday and Saturday. The ship will instead spend two days in Key West (Friday and Saturday) and return to Port Canaveral Sunday morning as planned.

Carnival Pride, which left Baltimore on Sunday for a week-long Bahamas and Florida cruise, sailed a revised route and will now return to Baltimore a day early, on Saturday. According to the line, "All guests will be required to disembark early . . . and the ship will then be moved to an alternate location as directed by the U.S. Coast Guard." The next voyage will begin on Monday instead of Sunday. All passengers on the storm-shortened cruises will receive a one-day refund.

Port report
Irene has been on a destructive tear since forming Saturday, slicing through the Caribbean before veering north up the East Coast.

According to Reuters, 800,000 people in Puerto Rico -- half of the island's electricity customers -- were left without power Monday when Irene brushed the island's east coast, felling trees, swelling rivers over their banks and flooding some roads. Crews are still working to restore power to tens of thousands. Early Tuesday, Irene skirted the north coast of the Dominican Republic, bringing heavy winds, rain and surging seas.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Bahamas took a lashing. A report from the Nassau Guardian said the storm caused severe flooding, brought widespread power outages and "wiped 90 percent of the settlement in Lovely Bay, Acklins, off the map." There were no immediate reports of major injuries or deaths, but property damage was extensive, particularly on the smaller islands.

Weather Outlook: Possible Affected Ships and Ports
The core of the storm is now progressing northward toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A hurricane warning is in effect from the Virgina-North Carolina border to Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts, including the Outer Banks, portions of the Chesapeake Bay, the Jersey shore, New York City, Long Island, Nantucket and Boston. A tropical storm warning is in effect from north of Sagamore Beach to the mouth of the Merrimack River.

Forecasts show Irene's eye coming close to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, early Saturday, then heading north and skirting the New Jersey coast before crossing Long Island, New York, on Sunday. The last time a hurricane made landfall in the U.S. was in 2008, when Ike's 100 mph winds slammed into Texas, severely damaging the Gulf Coast, including the popular embarkation port of Galveston.

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