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Cruise ships, airlines make way for Hurricane Irene

If you had Caribbean dreams in your travel plans for this week, they’re fading rapidly into reality with the arrival of Hurricane Irene, a powerful storm that has targeted Puerto RIco, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and potentially the entire Eastern seaboard of the U.S.

As of this morning, the National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane warnings and watches for several of the Caribbean islands, with the chance for a direct hit over the next 48 to 72 hours on popular tourist areas of the Bahamas like Freeport and Nassau.

And we won’t even talk about weekend scenarios that could bring Irene close to the Outer Banks and right up the coast, causing havoc for last-minute beachgoers and snarling flight plans from North Carolina to New York. But it’s way too early to go there.

For now, if you had plans for flights to the Caribbean this week, most airlines are offering travel waivers that allow passengers to rebook flights free of charge for a specific period. It varies depending upon the airline, the city and your travel dates. Although, honestly, if the Bahamas gets hammered, do you still want to spend the weekend there even if the airport is open?

As for cruise travelers, passengers who sailed from Baltimore Sunday aboard the Carnival Pride on a 7-day cruise to the Bahamas are facing itinerary changes.

Today, the ship is in Port Canaveral a day earlier than scheduled. And tomorrow, it plans to try to make Freeport, although a spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines said the itinerary was “a work in progress,” dependent on the path of the storm. The ship had planned a stop in Nassau on Thursday, but that’s looking less likely.

Cruise travelers on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas are returning from a trip to Bermuda later this week, with the next cruise scheduled to depart Thursday for the eastern Caribbean. A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean said it has not made any changes to that cruise’s 9-night itinerary, which calls for stops in Puerto Rico,  St. Thomas, Dominican Republic and Haiti.

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