An intensifying tropical cyclone east of Cairns, Australia is staying off the coast of the continent, but it is causing significant disruptions to port visits and itineraries for cruise ships sailing through the region on Carnival Cruise Line’s Luminosa and Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas. Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle continues to gain strength and size, with the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), which is part of the U.S. Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, describing “deep central convection with formative banding wrapping around an obscured low-level circulation center” in their latest update on the storm system.
The latest forecast from the JTWC brings Gabrielle south into the area between Australia and New Caledonia; the storm appears to be on an eventual collision course with the North Island of New Zealand over time. The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) agrees with the JTWC forecast, saying that Gabrielle is expected to intensify and move onto a track towards the southeast with increasing speed in the next day or two, likely bringing it near or over Norfolk Island during Saturday and Sunday. The storm is rated as a Category 2 event and is forecast to become a Category 3 storm by tomorrow. The BOM forecast maps out an area where “very destructive winds” will exist, but the area of such winds remains over open waters before a possible arrival on New Zealand next week.
Unfortunately for guests sailing through the region on Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, the track of the growing storm is right through planned itineraries in the region.
For passengers on board Carnival’s Luminoso, guests are getting $200 on-board credit and 50% of their cruise fare paid as a future cruise credit due to their itinerary change. Rather than pursue their South Pacific itinerary, the Luminoso is spending time at sea before returning to Brisbane.
A tropical cyclone is impacting cruise passengers off of Australia’s east coast. @CarnivalCruise deviated from their #Luminoso itinerary & is providing $200 & 50% off future cruise credit for impacted passengers not able to enjoy their original itinerary as planned. pic.twitter.com/k0SGP59Jnq
— the Weatherboy (@theWeatherboy) February 8, 2023
Guests of Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas are also seeing their cruise plans change, although as of now, the cruise line isn’t offering any compensation for the disrupted vacations. Ovation changed their itinerary to arrive in Noumea 2 days early before heading south to be far away from the cyclone. Quantum completely changed their itinerary, abandoning plans to visit Noumea, Port Villa, and Mystery Island on an international sailing, changing them to a domestic cruise with visits only to Hobart and Sydney.
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While the decision to cancel the international itinerary for Quantum of the Seas was made the day before, the cruise line decided to only inform guests of the changes once they boarded. Royal Caribbean emailed passengers near departure time a message that read, “Along with our Chief Meteorologist, James Van Fleet, we’ve been monitoring the developing tropical cyclone Gabrielle in and around Vanuatu and New Caledonia. To maintain a safe and comfortable journey, we’ve modified our itinerary and will now visit Hobart, Tasmania and Sydney, Australia.” They added, “We’re sorry for the last-minute change caused by the weather – your safety remains our top priority. As a reminder, being onboard a ship is one of the safest places to be because we are faster and can move out of the way of any inclement weather.”
Passengers took to Facebook to write about their displeasure of the situation. Jono Apollo wrote, “We are very disappointed with the way this has been handled. The staff have been great but the upper management have been very difficult to deal with and get any answers from. We found out after checking in about the change. We have splashed out and paid for the VIP as well as other on board luxury however still no compensation of any sort. Maybe next time we will spend our money some where else.” Kerrie Gebert wrote, “This is absolutely heartbreaking. This was our very first overseas holiday that we have been planning for over 12 months. The kids were so excited to say they left the country.” Tamara Loxton disagreed, writing,” …We’re having a great time. The weather is perfect which it wouldn’t be if we were on the original itinerary.”
The South Pacific cyclone season runs annually from November 1 through April 30, though storms can and occasionally do form outside those dates. So far this season, six storms have formed in the region, affecting Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, and Vanuatu. Additional storms are likely to form in the coming weeks.