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Fog in Galveston


MidwestIA
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Has anybody experienced fog in the Galveston port? We just drove from Iowa to Galveston and the fog is thick! My husband made a joke about our cruise being delayed, as it appears it will be a problem tomorrow when the Liberty is supposed to be coming in. So now I’m worried about my (our) vacation. Has anybody else experienced delays due to fog? How long were the delays, what is the protocol, what does RCI do?

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Royal can't change the weather.  The port is operated by the local port authority and under command of the US Coast Guard.  If the port authority and/or USGC close the port due to fog then all ships, cargo, tanker or cruise ship can't use the port until it is re-opened. 

What do they do?

If they can predict a fog condition they sometimes speed up and cruise at full speed on their return to Galveston in an attempt to beat the fog.

They will listen to the USCG and follow instructions provided to them by the local port pilots and USCG.

If they are in port when USGC closes the port, they can't leave and will remain tied up at the pier.  If they are returning to the port when the port closes, they will get as close as they can and hang around waiting for the USCG to re-open the port.  

Understand Royal is not in charge or in a position to force a decision.  They must wait for instructions and based on what they are told they will decide how to proceed.  Typically the port will suggest something like "We anticipate the port re-opening in 3 hours" but that is not a guarantee or promise because they have to wait to see how conditions change.  Based on estimated times Royal will devise a plan based on those estimates.  

As much as it is out of your control, it is also out of the cruise line's control.

How long will the delay be?

That is like asking how long will it be cloudy, or sunny, or raining, or snowing.  They can use computers to model fog conditions but in the end mother nature dictates how long fog hangs around.  It all depends.  As soon as it's deemed to be safe, the port will re-open and pilots will board ships to assist them into the port.  It all depends.  Royal has no choice but to wait and follow instructions from the port, pilots and/or USCG.

My stories:

My first cruise from Galveston in 2013 occurred as a tropical storm passed by.  Cruise ships were delayed by a few hours but eventually returned to port.  We were advised to delay our arrival to the port to embark.  As we prepared to leave that day a tanker ran aground in the channel in the crappy weather and closed the port.  We spent the night tied up at the pier in Galveston.  We set sail in the morning and they reversed the order of our ports of call so that we could still make them all.  

I just experienced a 10 hour delay in Tampa returning on Brilliance due to fog - it was that bad.  We circled around just outside of the port waiting for the port to re-open.  Basically we had an extra sea day and arrived at the terminal at 5:00pm instead of 7:30am.  Next cruise guests were told not to come to the port until 7pm.  We were kept fed like any other day and they planned activities and entertainment to keep us occupied.  They carry extra food and beverage for just such an event.  

I follow James Van Fleet on twitter.  He is Royal's Chief Meteorologist and will sometimes tweet about fog delays.  

It's not unusual for Royal to expedite their return to Galveston in an attempt to beat the fog and get back into the port before they close it.  This when they can predict fog conditions.   

Here are some tweets from @JamesVanFleet over the past few weeks for Liberty/Galveston:

(Not for your cruise but roughly two weeks ago)

IMG_0562.thumb.jpg.93131488306ebcbd4a504cd6a5d484a2.jpg

 IMG_0561.thumb.jpg.b93e88a503c565aeeccab12288c4aa4f.jpg

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I recommend anyone departing out of Tampa or Galveston, book a hotel room for the night you return and your plane trip out in the afternoon the next day.  Especially if you're cruising in fog season (I think I saw a video a while back that fog season is between december and march)  That way if you experience fog delay, you're covered.  The hotel room you can usually cancel a day ahead without penalty if the arrival is delayed due to fog but your flight isnt in jeopardy.  

Royal cant control the weather, and if the port is closed due to fog, its the coast guard closing the port.  This is for safety,  While you may not see the fog immediately, the fog is somewhere ahead and its so thick that visibility is next to nil.  Usually it burns off fairly quickly but if it's really bad and hangs around a while, they've closed the port for everyone's safety.

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We had a fog delay back in 2014 on Navigator of the Seas out of Galveston.  Here's a look at our day: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2014/02/09/navigator-of-the-seas-live-blog-day-1-embarkation-day

The short of it is, nothing anyone can do about it, but it is a risk of cruising from Galveston in Jan or Feb.  Just bring your patience and sense of humor.

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