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Hurricane Irene: Cruise itineraries change; passengers stranded

August 24, 2011|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Damage to buildings and streets in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday after Hurricane Irene hit.
Damage to buildings and streets in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday after… (EPA )

Cruise ships in and around the Caribbean have been shuffling schedules and watching the weather to avoid crossing paths with Hurricane Irene, which became a Category 3 storm overnight.

Royal Caribbean has changed itineraries for six ships as of Wednesday and evacuated its private island stop CocoCay in the Bahamas. However it has not changed itineraries for ships departing Thursday through Sunday. Carnival too has modified stops on seven ships to avoid the hurricane currently near the Bahamas.

Passengers slated to begin a Caribbean cruise should keep in close contact with their cruise line and/or travel agent for up-to-date information on the status of their trip.

[For the record at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 24: A prior version of this post said was the blog of Royal Caribbean cruise lines. It is not affiliated with the cruise line.]

Sometimes abrupt changes mean leaving passengers in the lurch. Ouch.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas on Sunday left San Juan, Puerto Rico, earlier than its 8:30 p.m. scheduled departure. The port where the seven-day Caribbean cruise began was limiting traffic and forced the ship to leave early to dodge the storm, media reports say. The storm hit San Juan on Sunday and caused flooding and damage around the island.

"There was no way to notify our guests of this change in departure time," spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez says on, a blog not affiliated with the cruise line. "... [T]his decision was made by the Port of San Juan to ensure the safe transit of all guests and crew through the port."

No time for an IM, tweet or even an old-school phone call? Apparently not. USAToday reports that 145 passengers missed the cruise.

The blog goes on to recount passenger Nicole Washington's stunned surprise when the Baltimore resident arrived at the docks at 5 p.m. to board the ship and found gates locked and the ship gone. "There was nobody there," she said. "Everybody was gone and there was nobody there to tell me where the ship was."

Royal Caribbean says Washington should have contacted the cruise line to check on the status of the sailing, according to the blog. In this media report, Washington says she hadn't checked in with the cruise line that day but had received prior e-mails and contact from Royal Caribbean about her cruise.

So what happened to stranded passengers? Those who had booked flights with the cruise were contacted and accommodated at a hotel in San Juan courtesy of the Royal Caribbean. Those, like Washington, who hadn't, were out of luck.

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