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Day One Of Hurricane Season

You can set your calendar by this blog. It’s Hurricane Season. Every June 1, or thereabouts, we provide you with the obligatory outlook for the season that starts today…obligatory because, while hurricanes seldom affect cruise ships that can outrun them, the fact remains ships are on waters that can generate such storms.

So…

NOAA — officially known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — is the most credible organization for predicting, tracking and keeping records of North American hurricanes. This year, NOAA says “below normal.” Normal is 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

Before anybody on North American shores dares to get complacent, these are weather predictions and everybody knows how often the weatherman are wrong — just ask one how many times he (or she) was blamed for mis-predicting weather. In any case, here is what “below normal” means over Atlantic waters:

Named storms — 6 to 11
Hurricanes — 3 to 6
Major hurricanes — 0 to 2

Between today and November 30, NOAA estimates there’s a 70 per cent chance it will be correct in projecting “below normal” with a 20 per cent chance of “near normal” and a 10 per cent chance of “above normal.”

It’s called hedging your bets.

Predictions are all about the temperature of ocean water. The warmer the water, the more chance of a hurricane. Apparently, El Nino is expected to suppress the hurricane season and if you can figure out how, you should head for meteorological university, yet hurricanes in the Pacific are expected to be more plentiful:

OdileNamed storms — 15 to 22
Hurricanes — 7 to 12
Major hurricanes — 5 to 8

Peak season on both coasts is early August.

The first storm (Ana) has already arrived in the Atlantic and the next one will be called Bill. Since they’re all done alphabetically, if Wanda arrives it’s not going to be a “below normal” season. The first storm in the Pacific will be Andres…and Zelda would be No. 24, at the other end of the list.

Last year, NOAA predicted 8 to 13 named storms (there were 8), 3 to 6 hurricanes (there were 6) and 1 or 2 major hurricanes (there were 2). That was in the east. Out west in the Pacific, which always seems to be something of a hurricane afterthought, there were 22 storms, 16 hurricanes, 9 of them major.

Anybody who cruised into Cabo San Lucas last September will never forget Hurricane Odile (above), which reached category 4 with winds of 140 miles per hour.

In the news…

• Quantum of the Seas makes a splash in Dubai on 53-day global trip
• Hong Kong pulls plug on supplying on-shore power for ships…too costly

Today at portsandbows.com: Another look at Carnival Vista, arriving next spring

Celebrity Millennium
7 nights
June 21, 2015
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Oceanview: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.celebritycruises.com

Coral Accident Rocks Carnival 

There was a time when, if the world lost some coral reefs to human carelessness, it was greeted with a reaction akin to a shrug of the shoulders and dismissed with “too bad.”

As we have become more environmentally aware, and responsible, that has changed. So when a cruise ship (Carnival Magic) accidentally destroys a field of coral estimated to be almost 12,000 square feet in size, it’s a big deal.

This happened in late August. The Magic dropped anchor near Grand Cayman, where every cruise passenger is taken ashore in small boats (tenders) to protect what is a playground for deep-sea divers, not to mention the life forms that live among the coral. The problem occurred when the Magic’s anchor hit bottom inside a restricted area, guided there by a local pilot in one of the pilot boats that escort cruise ships to and from ports.

Near George Town, Grand Cayman, there are four areas where it’s safe to anchor…where the coral has already been destroyed. The Port Authority directed the pilot to the southernmost area. The pilot directed the captain of the Magic. Because of high winds, the pilot missed the designated area by about 600 feet.

So did the Magic.

The ensuing damage from the anchor’s crashing into coral, then being dragged through it Coraluntil the ship stopped, then being dragged from it when the Magic left is enough that it will take five or six decades to restore coral that disappeared in three hours.

Under Marine Conservation Law, it is illegal to damage coral with an anchor.

So it was an accident, the damage is done and the blame game hasn’t peaked yet.

Officials at the Port Authority say it’s not their fault…the pilot was directed to the safe area. Carnival, which hires the pilots through an agency, can likely maintain at least some degree of innocence because it was the pilot who directed the Magic’s captain. However, the cruise line is only saying it’s “in discussions with the shipping agent.”

This isn’t like an environmental disaster, like oil spill that requires millions of dollars to clean up. This is damage done. No fine is going to restore the coral and the biggest concern of environmentalists is to make sure it can never happen again.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): “While it is difficult to put a dollar value on some of the benefits coral ecosystems provide, one recent estimate gave the total net benefit of the world’s coral reef ecosystems to be $29.8 billion/year.”

Benefits include food, protection from storms, and habitat, spawning and nursery grounds for species of the sea…not to mention the income and jobs that come with all of that.

One thing you can be certain of — this story is not over.

Today at portsandbows.com: Another ship going Far East

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
November 9, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $39
www.carnival.com

Hurricane Season 101: Below-average Year

Life is learning, right? Every day, almost any place. Even here, reading this blog. Even here, writing this blog.

Hurricane season starts June 1, and that always gives cruisers reason to be nervous, even if it shouldn't. Yesterday, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) made its annual prediction. The prediction is 2014 will be near or below normal, as hurricane seasons go.

Here's why:

"The main driver of this year’s outlook is the anticipated development of El Niño this summer."

El Niño? Really?

This is where the learning comes into play. El Niño causes warmer water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean…and warmer temperatures on land, too. However, it also causes "stronger wind shear" and that affects the trade winds and the climate in the tropical Hurricane Humberto 2013

- Photo courtesy of NOAA

Atlantic, where most cruise ships and most hurricanes go. Stronger winds suppress the cloud systems coming off the coast of Africa, where hurricanes seeds are planted, so to speak.

Now, to us, this sounds a little contradictory.

Warmer ocean temperatures and higher winds are both associated with hurricanes, yet those very characteristics are going to reduce the risk this hurricane season…or the predicted risk.

A normal hurricane season is 12 storms with names, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In 2014, NOAA is predicting those numbers will be 8 to 13 named storms, 3 to 6 hurricanes and 1 to 2 major hurricanes. The experts say there is only a 10 per cent chance they will be wrong.

As for learning more about the contradictions, that's for another expert…and another day.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
June 22, 2014
Cape Liberty, NJ (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $749
Cost per day: $107
www.celebritycruises.com

The storm clouds that turned into a sunny season

Every year, the experts (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more commonly known as NOAA) make projections for the "hurricane season" — how many are anticipated, how many will graduate (?) from being just tropical storms, and how many of those will have names (that's bad).

And every year, as your guardians of all things that have anything to do with cruising, Hurricaneswe relay that information to you at cruisingdoneright.com.

Until this year.

The projections for 2013 were bad. It was going to be the worst year in history, or at least a long time, whichever was shorter. Between 7 and 11 hurricanes, 13 to 20 tropical storms with names. Three or four hurricanes could be Cat 4, which is not a name but a strength. The lower the better.

Guess what happened?

Two storms with a name. Thirteen tropical depressions. Only one made it to land. Great year, the best since '82, or a generation-plus. The U.S. Air Force Reserve flew 435 hurricane re-con missions, the fewest since 1966. 

Now we'd like to tell you that in our spare time we spend a lot of time looking into crystal balls and reading palms, and that the reason we didn't write anything about hurricanes in 2013 is that because we knew there wouldn't be any. But that's not true.

If it were, we would be crystal ball gazing and palm reading, not writing about cruise ships and cruise people.

Maybe next year…

Carnival Splendor
8 nights
January 28, 2014
New York (return): Port CanaveralNassauFreeport 
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $41
www.carnival.com

Rina and Friends, Just as Expected

The specter of Hurricane Rina and the fact that she’s disrupted more than a few cruise-ship schedules this week is a reminder about the approaching end of Hurricane Season.

Excepts…there’s still a month to go.

As Hurricane Seasons go, this one has seemed rather tame. Nobody even showed up until Irene, and that was the third week of August. She was a Category 3, but nobody paid her much attention because she didn’t cause much disruption, nor damage.

The arrival of Rina, which hasn’t reached Cat 3 status, caught everyone’s attention in the cruise business. As she peaked at Cat 2 while for the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico, a dozen ships changed direction, eight of them Carnival, and popular ports like Belize and Cozumel welcomed fewer visitors.

When the threat of hurricanes all began (June 1), predictions from NOAA (National Hurricane Center) were that there would be six to 10 hurricanes, three to six of them Cat 3 or higher. This was considered an “above-normal” prognosis.

Guess what?

With a month to go, there have been six hurricanes, three of them Cat 3 or higher — Irene, Katia, Ophelia. Maybe it hasn’t been so tame after all.

DAILY DEAL:
Norwegian Epic
7 nights
March 3, 2012
Miami return (St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau)
Inside  $719
www.ncl.com

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