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Cruise ship passengers forced to evacuate Royal Caribbean's private island early due to bad weather

06 Feb 2024
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean passengers that were visiting its private island on Tuesday had to leave earlier than expected.

Bad weather forced passengers to leave CocoCay
Photo by Tim Morrison

CocoCay is a private island in The Bahamas that is operated by Royal Caribbean exclusively for its guests.  Celebrity Cruises will begin visiting the island as well later this year.

Read more: Guide to Perfect Day at CocoCay

Rain storms passing through the tropics are quite common, but the wind in this case appeared to be the issue as photos posted by passengers show waves crashing against the pier and rocks.

Oasis of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas were visiting the island for the day when an announcement was made for guests to return to the ship.

Guests returning to the ship
Photo by Katie Eisterhold

According to posts on social media, a rapidly moving storm was approaching the island and that caused the cruise line to make the decision to cut their day short.

It appears the announcements were made around 1:00pm over the island's speaker system to return to the ship.

The Bahamas Department of Meteorology indicated a deep low-pressure system is moving northeastwards across the Northwest Bahamas while dragging a cold front. They're expecting continued bouts of unsettled weather, consisting of heavy to severe thunderstorms with strong gusty winds, heavy downpours.

Bahamas forecasters are predicting the low to gradually strengthen and the pressure gradient behind it will tighten to produce increasing winds up to gale force through Wednesday.

The Bahamas Department of Meteorology added the potential for seas to rise as high as 16 to 20 feet offshore, along Atlantic exposures on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tami Golden wrote on Facebook, "It was announced over a public address system to please return the ship."

Bad weather forced passengers to leave CocoCay
Photo by Sheri Lynn Monroe

Katie John added, "they were going to call everyone back to the ship via speakers on the island and close everything down due to wind and deteriorating weather."

"Glad they did, because not too long after they got everyone back, the waves were crashing over the pier, and the wind increased to 35mph."

Jessica Aguiar Oliveira said that guests that had booked anything extra would be refunded their costs due to the day being cut short.

Guests leaving COcoCay
Photo by Natasha at Mad Hatter Adventures

Many guests were understanding of the change in plans, "Royal Caribbean staff was amazing and it was so organized to get everyone back to the ship safely," wrote a Facebook user named Natasha.

"Sometimes weather happens and we can’t do anything about it. All 10 of us ladies are safe and we are departing shortly to head on a sea day a little early! "

Based on social media, it appears Freedom of the Seas was able to undock and leave while Oasis of the Seas remained docked.

Cococay on a bad weather day
Photo by Missy Billingsley

Missy Billingsley wrote that Oasis of the Seas acted as a wind blocker for the relatively smaller Freedom of the Seas, "The captain literally told us that we were going to be the block for the Freedom to get outta here."

Rainbow near Allure of the Seas
Photo by Beci Mahnken

Other Royal Caribbean ships have been re-routed already to avoid the path of the storm. Allure of the Seas is cancelling a scheduled visit to Nassau, Bahamas on Wednesday and will instead remain at sea.

Winter weather in the Caribbean

Rum Cay in The Bahamas

January and February are about as far from hurricane season as you can get, but that doesn't mean bad weather doesn't occur.

This time of the year is usually associated with a lack of precipitation, as winter is the dry season for the tropics. However, cold fronts can still bring with storms with them.

Part of the rationale for building a pier at CocoCay was to prevent high winds from cancelling port stops. Having a dock makes it easier for cruise ships to visit a port of call, as opposed to tendering.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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