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Winter storm delays cruise ships impacting over 10,000 passengers


Inclement weather off the coast of Florida delayed and rerouted numerous ships over the weekend, impacting thousands of passengers. 

An unusually powerful storm during what is supposed to be the dry season, moved across Florida and the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday night, bringing record-breaking rain and high winds. While not a hurricane, it looked a lot like a tropical storm and brought record rainfall to Florida.

Passengers onboard cruise ships detailed the rocky conditions they were subject to, with some guests reporting sailing through waves around 12 feet! 

The storm impacted travel, including cruise ships as the worst of it happened over the weekend, which is the traditional time of the week for ships turnaround to start a new sailing.

Read more: 25 Tips to deal with bad weather on a cruise

Numerous ships were impacted, both during their sailings and upon returning to Florida


Per a TikTok posted by @real_diehl_travel, the last group was called to disembark Carnival Celebration at 4:40pm on December 17, 2023. This meant that those who thought they planned ahead by booking late afternoon flights had to reach out to customer service to be rebooked. Plus, those scheduled to depart on December 17 faced delayed embarkation procedures. 

Carnival Celebration wasn't the only ship impacted. A TikTok posted by @thecruisespotter reveals that Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas didn't sail into port until after Carnival Celebration. Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady was delayed, too, arriving just before Carnival Celebration. These three vessels alone can hold around 10,100 passengers at double occupancy. 

In addition to late disembarkation, there were reports of missed ports of call. TikToker @lorira87 posted a video on December 12 stating that Carnival Dream's scheduled visit to Costa Maya was canceled.


Opening the door to her balcony cabin, she says, "It's been storming this whole cruise...Right as we pulled [into Costa Maya] and we could see the port, on comes the ship's Captain and he says, 'Well, I've got some important information...because of unsafe weather conditions, we will not be stopping at the port.'"

Similarly, those sailing onboard Disney Wish over the weekend were also unable to dock at their private island, Castaway Cay, according to TikTok user @yogatravelheather. While not onboard the ship, she shows the dark clouds looming over Jacksonville, Florida, showing that the storm reached further than just the southern tip of Florida and The Bahamas. 

Despite no longer being within hurricane season, this is a great reminder for all cruisers, as flexibility is of utmost importance, regardless of when your cruise is scheduled.  

Read more: The 9 Roughest Seas In The World For Cruise Ships

Carnival Freedom's cruise to nowhere

Carnival Freedom at sea

Perhaps one of the most drastic itinerary changes that has resulted from this winter storm was the impact on Carnival Freedom's 4-night cruise to The Bahamas on December 14, as it turned into a cruise to nowhere. 

While originally intended to visit Princess Cays and Nassau, the ship's team deemed that due to high winds and rough seas, safely docking in The Bahamas was not possible.  

Despite Carnival Cruise Line's best efforts to visit replacement ports of call, they were unable to do so. All port fees and applicable taxes were refunded to the guests, as well as $200 in onboard credit. 

Rather than cruise to The Bahamas, MSC Meraviglia docked in Boston after departing from New York

Meraviglia aerial

While not a cruise to nowhere, the night before setting sail, passengers onboard MSC Meraviglia's December 16 sailing to The Bahamas were informed that, instead, they'd be cruising to New England. 

@peace.n.justyce took to TikTok to inform non-cruisers about the change to their itinerary. It wasn't the tropical vacation she was hoping for, as instead of visiting Florida and The Bahamas, the cruise was set to dock in Boston for three days before continuing on to Portland, Maine and St. John, Canada. 

She ended up canceling the trip after researching each port and realizing it wasn't the itinerary for her. 

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