Gulf of Mexico oil spill is one of the nation’s worst environmental crises on one of its busiest coastlines. Primarily, it affects cruise vacationers departing from Galveston, Texas or New Orleans, Louisiana. Norwegian Cruise Line does not have ships departing from New Orleans until November 2010. Royal Caribbean International’s Voyage of the Seas does not return to Galveston until the end of November 2010. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is monitoring the situation as it has some itineraries that sail to the Florida Keys.
Carnival Cruise lines’ has altered two of its ships’ departure times so it is traversing the oil spill during the day. Carnival has ports of call in New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama for its Caribbean itineraries. Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the oil spill “is not affecting our operations,” and that ship captains have been successful in avoiding the oil spill. Ship captains do not have the latitude to deviate course, and ships are equipped to conduct hull cleanings, according to Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival Cruise Lines says it does not anticipate any interruptions in its normal cruise schedules. For scientific research, Carnival is planning to install hydrocarbon sensors to detect oil contamination in the Gulf of Mexico waters. This installation is part of a long-standing agreement with Seakeepers Society, an ecological group.
Cruise ships’ hulls have to be inspected for contaminated hulls. If oil is found, a vessel must be cleaned immediately. In Port of New Orleans, firefighting ships are ready to spray down any ship’s hulls found with oil. Most ships have avoided oil contamination by sailing in open waters. Spokesman Chris Bonura of Port of New Orleans said, “There have been two or three vessels that needed to be cleaned – out of 600 or 700 since the spill began.”
Fort Lauderdale’s Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trade group, says no cruise ship has altered its itinerary because of the Gulf oil spill. CLIA is an industry group with representation of 97 percent of the cruise capacity of North America. Precautions are being taken by local officials in Port Everglades just in case the oil creeps around the Florida Keys up to the East Coast where major cruise ports are located.
For up-to-date information on effects of the oil spill on Florida, visit http://www.fla-keys.com for NOAA oil slick maps and questions and answers.
Miami Herald: Gulf oil spill raises concerns for cruise lines
Travel Market Report: Clients wary of Gulf Oil spill, but still cruising
MSNBC: Cruise industry so far unaffected by oil spill