August 30, 2023

Hurricane Idalia Travel Disruptions

Hurricane Idalia roared ashore Wednesday morning as a Category 3 tropical cyclone in Florida's Big Bend area, bringing "catastrophic storm surge" along the coast and damaging winds inland, according to the National Hurricane Center. The entire northern half of Florida is under a state of emergency.

The hurricane has already caused a mess for some travelers. Tampa International Airport closed Tuesday ahead of the storm, and flights at other airports have also been impacted into Wednesday. Several cruises and theme parks have had to adjust operations for the safety of guests and employees.

Here's what travelers should know.

Are Florida airports open?

• Tampa International Airport is closed to all commercial airline traffic and will remain so until crews can assess any damage after the storm passes, with a tentative plan to reopen Thursday morning.

“The airport, including the main terminal and airsides will be closed to all visitors and is not equipped to function as a shelter,” the airport, which closed on Tuesday, said in a statement.

• Orlando International Airport remains open and operational and also advises travelers to check with airlines for flight status.

• Jacksonville International Airport is currently open and operational, though travelers are advised to check with their airlines for the latest flight information.

• Southwest Florida International Airport near Ft. Myers is open but notes some airlines have canceled morning flights and advises travelers to check with their airlines.

Are airlines offering waivers due to Idalia?

The following airlines are offering travel waivers for passengers booked to fly to parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas in the coming days. Check with each carrier for the exact terms of the extra flexibility.

• Alaska
• Allegiant
• American
• Avelo
• Delta
• Frontier
• JetBlue
• Spirit
• Southwest
• Sun Country
• United

Are Disney parks in Florida open?

• Walt Disney World theme parks are operating under normal conditions, however, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water park, Winter Summerland Miniature Golf and Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf will be closed Wednesday.

Disney's resort hotels remain open, but guests of Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground have been asked to store outside items and camper awnings.

"At this time, change and cancellation fees imposed by Disney will be waived for check-in dates of August 28, 2023 through September 4, 2023," Disney said in a statement. "Guests currently staying at our Disney Resort hotels whose travel plans have been impacted by the storm may receive a discounted rate to extend their stay through the evening of August 31, if needed, by visiting the front desk."

Additionally, Florida residents evacuating from the storm and first responders assisting with it are eligible for a 50% discount on new bookings through Aug. 31. The resort also offered to serve as a staging area for the state's storm recovery efforts.

• Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island water park are closed early on Tuesday and will remain closed Wednesday. Busch Gardens tentatively plans to reopen Thursday and Adventure Bay plans to reopen Friday.

“Precautions are in place following the parks’ comprehensive weather preparedness plan to ensure the safety of our animals and ambassadors during this time,” Busch Gardens posted on its website, with a similar warning on Adventure Island’s site. “If this affects your trip, be sure to review our Weather-or-Not Assurance and check back for more updates.”

• LEGOLAND Florida will remain open Wednesday, but its website notes, "While LEGOLAND Theme Park, Water Park, Peppa Pig Theme Park and our LEGOLAND hotels will be open as planned, guests may experience limited park operations on Wednesday due to changing weather conditions."

The resort's hurricane policy allows guests to cancel or rebook visits without penalty if the National Hurricane Center issues a tropical storm or hurricane warning within seven days of guests’ arrival.

• SeaWorld Orlando will have abbreviated hours, from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday. Like its sister park Busch Gardens, the park's website notes plans are in place to protect the park's animals and ambassadors amid the storm.

SeaWorld's new Weather-or-Not-Assurance policy, unveiled last week, gives guests a 12-month return window if inclement weather causes parks to close early or adjust operating hours, rides are closed for at least 60 minutes due to weather, or the heat index reaches 110 degrees or more.

• Universal Orlando Resort was operating normally Wednesday with one exception: no early park admission to allow for additional preparations related to the storm. Universal's hotels remain fully operational.

"We have plans and procedures for significant weather that are both time-proven and constantly updated – and those plans revolve around the safety of our guests and team members," Universal said in a statement to USA TODAY.

The resort's severe weather policy offers penalty-free rebooking and cancellations for vacation packages, hotel stays and tickets booked directly through Universal in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane warning or state of emergency declaration in the Orlando area within seven days of guests’ arrival.

Are cruise lines affected by Idalia?

The storm is also impacting some cruise sailings.

• Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady ship visited Grand Turk on Tuesday instead of Mexico’s Costa Maya “for the safety and comfort” of its guests and crew, a spokesperson said in an email. The ship is currently on a five-day, round-trip sailing from Miami, according to CruiseMapper.

“Our arrival and departure times remain unchanged, giving (passengers) the same amount of time to explore off the ship,” the spokesperson said.

• Disney Cruise Line also altered the itinerary for Disney Fantasy, which is currently on a week-long sailing from Port Canaveral.

“Instead of visiting Cozumel, Mexico, George Town, Grand Cayman, and Falmouth, Jamaica, the Disney Fantasy is visiting Tortola, British Virgin Islands, on Tuesday and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Wednesday,” a spokesperson said in an email. The ship will stop at the line’s private island, Castaway Cay, on Friday as planned.

• Celebrity Cruises, which is also part of Royal Caribbean Group, is also amending Celebrity Equinox’s current six-day voyage from Fort Lauderdale, stopping in Falmouth rather than Grand Cayman.

• Royal Caribbean International’s Grandeur of the Seas — which is currently on a week-long sailing from Tampa — will skip a stop in Costa Maya and postponed its Monday visit to Cozumel until Thursday, according to a Royal Caribbean Group spokesperson.

• MSC Cruises is also swapping MSC Meraviglia’s visits to Miami and Nassau, a spokesperson said in an email. The ship, which is on a two-week cruise from New York, will now visit Nassau on Wednesday and Miami on Friday.

The line’s MSC Seaside skipped a planned visit to the line’s private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, on Tuesday and extended its stop in Nassau. The ship is on an 11-day cruise from Port Canaveral.

• Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Conquest will also change course during its current four-day cruise from Miami, according to a spokesperson. The ship visited Bimini on Tuesday in place of Key West; will spend Wednesday at sea instead of a stop in Cozumel; and stop in Nassau in place of a sea day on Thursday.

Carnival Valor’s planned stop in Costa Maya on Monday was canceled. The ship, which is on a five-day cruise from New Orleans, visited Cozumel on Tuesday.

Carnival Paradise and Carnival Elation, which left Monday from Tampa and Jacksonville, respectively, will also “remain a safe distance from the storm,” according to the cruise line's spokesperson. “Each ship will return to port when it is safe to do so."

Their next cruises are set to depart on Thursday.

Copyright 2023 USA TODAY. All rights reserved. From By Eve Chen, Zach Wichter and Nathan Diller.

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