(Updated 7:30 a.m. EDT) -- Irene, the ninth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season, strengthened to hurricane force overnight, prompting a number of Eastern Caribbean islands to issue storm watches and warnings and sparking itinerary changes by Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean.
According to the National Hurricane Center's 7 a.m. EDT advisory, Irene is some 40 miles west-northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Maximum sustained winds from the storm have reached 75 mph, and the storm is expected to intensify.
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Royal Caribbean has reversed the itinerary for Oasis of the Seas, which left Fort Lauderdale on Saturday for a week-long Western Caribbean cruise. The ship will now spend Sunday at sea; visit Cozumel on Monday; spend Tuesday at sea; call on Falmouth, Jamaica on Wednesday; and visit Labadee, the line's private peninsula, on Thursday. Oasis will spend Friday at sea before returning to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday as scheduled.
Freedom of the Seas, which left Sunday from Port Canaveral on a week-long Western Caribbean cruise, will also sail a reversed itinerary. The ship will now call on Cozumel (Tuesday), Grand Cayman (Wednesday), Falmouth, Jamaica (Thursday) and Labadee (Friday).
Oasis' sister ship, Allure of the Seas will visit all the ports originally scheduled on its week-long Caribbean cruise, but in a slightly different order. The ship will now call on Nassau, Bahamas on Saturday instead of Monday. Visits to St. Thomas (Wednesday) and St. Maarten (Thursday) will take place as planned.
Royal Caribbean has scrambled the order for Serenade of the Seas' seven-night Southern Caribbean cruise, which left from San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday. The ship will now visit Aruba (Tuesday), Curacao (Wednesday), St. Kitts (Friday) and St. Thomas (Saturday).
Carnival Miracle, which embarked from New York on an eight-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Thursday, will be sailing an altered itinerary. Instead of visiting San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk, the ship will call on Grand Turk (Monday) and Half Moon Cay (Tuesday).
Weather Outlook: Possible Affected Ships and Ports
The latest NHC projections show the storm passing through Puerto Rico early early Monday before reaching the east coast of the Dominican Republic midday Monday. A hurricane warning is in effect for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and tropical storm warnings are in place for the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and Haiti.