Sunday, February 25, 2024

Cruise to Bahamas Diverted to Chilly New England and Canada Due to Weather

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NEW YORK – Passengers aboard the MSC Meraviglia cruise ship likely envisioned azure waters and warm breezes when they booked passage to the Bahamas this week. Instead, they found themselves bundled up against bone-chilling winds and gray skies after the vessel was forced to chart a dramatically different course along the New England and Canadian coasts.

The change of plans was prompted by a “rapidly worsening” winter storm system that made safe travel to the intended tropical destination impossible, according to MSC Cruises USA. With thousands of vacations on the line, the company said it opted to sail north rather than cancel the cruise outright.

The revised itinerary came as an unwelcome shock to many guests, including Lakeya Allen of Bloomington, Illinois and her three children. They received word of the about-face around 8:30 p.m. Friday evening, just hours before their early morning flight to New York City to board the awaiting ship.

“I rushed to Walmart to try and get my family winter clothes,” Allen told CNN. “I grabbed whatever I could, but Walmart was closing early that night, so we had to just bring what we had packed. We still have shorts, bathing suits and sunscreen with us.”

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In a statement, MSC said passengers were given the choice to either cancel for a future cruise credit or sail on to the new stops in New England and Canada. Canceling outright would have meant scrapping “thousands of people’s vacations,” the company said, leaving the detour as the only workable option.

Still, the change represented a major disruption to many guests’ plans, including Allen’s. She had been arranging the trip since February as a special Christmas gift. Family members were even slated to meet them in New York and on the island destination.

Initially, travelers tried making the best of it, she said, with kids plunging into the ship’s outdoor pool during a stop in frigid New York City. But the thrill soon faded.

“Now everyone has congregated around the indoor pool so that pool is crowded,” Allen remarked.

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The Meraviglia spent the first two days of its erstwhile tropical cruise navigating New England ports, calling on Boston and Portland. Allen said her family mainly stayed onboard Sunday as cold rains drenched Boston. The next day, they ventured into town with other passengers seeking warm layers before setting off for Canada.

“We’re in Portland now and on TikTok trying to find what to do in Portland or what’s in this area because we didn’t plan for this,” she said. While acknowledging the ship’s beauty, Allen added, “I just wanted to be in the sun.”

According to posts from Port Saint John, the vessel is slated to dock along the chilly Canadian coast on Thursday with the mercury expected to peak at a mere 27 degrees Fahrenheit.

Itinerary changes are common in the cruise industry with ships frequently skipping ports due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. The flexibility allows companies to keep sailing rather than cancel. Still, passengers are often caught unaware, left scrambling when their long-planned vacations take an unexpected turn.

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MSC’s ticket contract underscores the uncertainty, bluntly stating “The Carrier does not guarantee that the Cruise Ship will call at any or every advertised port or follow any particular route or time schedule.”

While course corrections usually unfold in the same region, this week’s emergency pivot from the sunny Caribbean to the frozen climes of New England and Canada represented an exceptionally dramatic change. As climate change fuels weather extremes, trips marketed as escapes from winter may increasingly find themselves wandering straight into winter’s grip.

For Allen and her family, the last minute detour has so far meant braving bone-chilling temperatures in light clothes alongside crowds of equally disappointed travelers. Instead of dipping their toes in golden sands, they are left googling how to fill the long, dark hours in an unfamiliar frozen port.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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