Weather.com reports that Hurricane Irene strengthened from tropical storm status early this morning to become the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season as it moved offshore of Puerto Rico, where it has already produced widespread tree and power line damage across the island.
Irene is forecast to become stronger over the next five days, because its center is expected to move over less land in the Caribbean. It is expected to track toward Florida and the Southeast U.S. Thursday into the weekend.
Cruise lines are already scrambling their ships' itineraries to avoid the effects of the storm.
Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Miracle, which departed from New York on Thursday for an 8-night Eastern Caribbean cruise stayed at sea yesterday instead of making a scheduled port call at San Juan, Puerto Rico. Today she is at Grand Turk instead of St Thomas and she is expected to visit Half Moon Cay tomorrow.
Carnival Liberty is also sailing an altered itinerary. She joins Carnival Miracle today in Grand Turk and it may be necessary to cancel scheduled San Juan and St Thomas port calls later this the week.
Royal Caribbean has reversed the Western Caribbean itinerary of Oasis of the Seas, which sailed from Fort Lauderdale on Saturday for a 7-night cruise. The ship will now visit Cozumel today, spend tomorrow at sea, visit Falmouth, Jamaica on Wednesday; and Labadee on Thursday. Oasis will spend Friday at sea before returning to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday as scheduled.
Freedom of the Seas, which departed Sunday for a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral is also sailing a reversed itinerary. The ship will call at Cozumel on Tuesday, Grand Cayman on Wednesday, Falmouth, Jamaica on Thursday, and Labadee on Friday.
Allure of the Seas will call at the ports on its scheduled 7-night Caribbean cruise, but will mix up the order. The ship will visit Nassau, Bahamas on Saturday instead of today. Visits to St. Thomas on Wednesday and St. Maarten on Thursday are expected to remain unchanged..
Serenade of the Seas' 7-night Southern Caribbean cruise, which left from San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday will also be altered with visits to Aruba tomorrow, Curacao on Wednesday, St. Kitts on Friday, and St. Thomas on Saturday.