Hurricane Humberto Causes Cruise Ships to Alter Course

Five-day forecast for Hurricane Humberto.

PHOTO: Five-day forecast for Hurricane Humberto. (Photo courtesy of National Hurricane Center)Hurricane Humberto, which has developed over the weekend from a Tropical Storm into a full-blown, Category-1 hurricane, is making its way toward Bermuda, forcing cruise lines operating in the region to reroute their ships.

According to CruiseCritic, Humberto has thus far affected two Carnival Cruise Line itineraries that were scheduled to be sailing in Bermuda between Wednesday, September 18, and Friday, September 20.

Carnival Pride, which left Baltimore on September 15, is now spending two days at sea before sailing on to visit Grand Turk and the Dominican Republic’s Amber Cove, rather than Bermuda, as was originally intended.

Carnival Sunrise, departing today from New York City, will stop in Charleston, South Carolina, on September 18 before spending a previously-unscheduled day at sea. Sunrise will then spend a single day in Bermuda on Friday, September 20, by which time the storm is expected to have moved on, before cruising back to New York by September 22.

Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas is also scheduled to weigh anchor in Bermuda on September 21, after Humberto is forecast to have already moved away from the island.

While no warnings are currently in effect, the National Hurricane Center anticipates the need to a Tropical Storm Watch for Bermuda later this afternoon, as Humberto continues to gain strength and move east-northeast over the next two days or so.

With sustained wind speeds of 85 mph, the hurricane was this morning sitting about 710 miles outside of Bermuda but is expected to reach the north end of the island by Wednesday night. Humberto is expected to peak as a major hurricane within the next 36-48 hours, with forwarding speed intensifying through Thursday, September 19.

Other effects of the storm include large swells, which will affect portions of the northwestern Bahamas and the southeastern U.S. during the upcoming few days. People in those areas should be aware of dangerous surf conditions and potentially life-threatening rip currents.

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Cruise Lines Could Face Major Drydock Challenge Following Hurricane Damage

Grand Bahama Shipyard

The cruise industry could be looking at a monumental impact to their operations following Hurricane Dorian if the Grand Bahama Shipyard’s capacity is taken offline or further limited following an April incident.

The go-to-yard for drydocks and refurbishments in the cruise industry is partly owned by both Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises.

It is ideally located in the Bahamas, meaning little out-of-service transit time on the way to or from various deployment regions, including the Caribbean in the winter.

The yard is regularly used by cruise vessels from almost all cruise lines for mandatory class drydocking and refurbishment work.

There are few alternatives for big vessels in the region. Shipyards in Newport News, Virginia, and Mobile, Alabama, both have facilities that can handle larger vessels but are generally used for naval purposes and are known to be well booked ahead of time.

Deytens, located in South Carolina, has also played host to the expedition and luxury ships and mid-sized vessels over the years.

Costs at U.S.-based facilities are also higher, and there are challenges in bringing in skilled labour and large amounts of the hotel and marine supplies from foreign countries that are needed for large scale refurbishments, which often see spending of up to $3 million per day in supplies and labour.

With reported widespread damage in Freeport, operations to the yard could be impacted. Housing both permanent and temporary workers could prove challenging unless accommodation vessels are brought in.

Another expensive option could be the Boka Vanguard, a semi-submersible heavy transport vessel operated by Netherlands-based Boskalis, which helped provide a platform for emergency repairs to the Carnival Vista earlier this year.

In Curacao, Damen Shipyards offers a drydock option and has plenty of cruise experience.

Cruise lines could also choose to wet-dock their vessels at industrial piers just about anywhere. The upside being the vessel would be empty and available for hotel refit. Crane access could be limited making logistics of getting supplies off and on the ship challenging.

However, classification societies require ships to come out of the water at regular intervals for inspection.

The most likely option, however, is the regular drydock facilities in Europe. The question is whether they have available space when needed, and the impact of moving ships that were scheduled to drydock in the Bahamas to Europe, mixing up some itineraries and deployment.

Cancelling a scheduled drydocking for the third or fourth quarter of 2019 or early 2020 and replacing it with a normal sailing would also pose challenges with a short booking window.

Royal to deliver 20,000 meals daily to Grand Bahama

Devastation in the Abacos, northern Bahamas
Damage caused by Hurricane Dorian.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has forged an ambitious plan to deliver 20,000 meals a day to Grand Bahamas residents who are labouring to recover from Hurricane Dorian.

The first ship, the Empress of the Seas, is scheduled to arrive on Sept. 4 with 10,000 cold meals, which will be tendered in for distribution ashore. Thereafter, the plan is to raise the number of meals to 20,000.

Following the first effort by Empress, the Symphony of the Seas and the Celebrity Equinox will both be visiting Grand Bahama on Friday.

Each day, Royal will take one of its ships headed for the Bahamas or the Caribbean and divert it for several hours to deliver on the commitment.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of RCCL, said paying guests won’t notice any difference in the foodservice on board, but the itineraries will be tweaked for the near future so that a sea day may be substituted for a certain port call or vice versa.

Fain said the plan was hatched mid-morning on Wednesday as company officials considered how they could best provide relief.

“It’s hard to get your hands around what total devastation is like,” Fain said in an interview. “You don’t even know what the issues are.”

But one certain thing, Fain said, is that people need to keep eating, and many no longer have the means to feed themselves.

“If the refrigerator is out if the stove won’t turn on, what do you do? They need good, warm healthy food. Now they may not be receiving our normal cruise line fare, but they will think this is the best dinner they’ve ever had,” Fain said.

Royal Caribbean will cook the food in its ships and coordinate with a cargo operator that will be delivering water and canned goods separately. The distribution will be handled by the Bahamian government, by churches, by the Bahamas Feeding Network, a Nassau-based entity that has a long-term partnership with RCCL, and by chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen.

Fain said that the plan is still coming together and that given the chaotic post-storm conditions in Freeport, will have to be modified as needed.

“There are going to be problems, but we’re determined to figure it out,” Fain said.

The tentative plan also calls for kitchen equipment to be brought to Freeport to begin making meals onshore at the Grand Bahama Shipyard, where there’s an existing kitchen for 500-600 employees, and at the kitchen at the Grand Lucayan Resort.