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Hurricane Dorian dampens Labor Day travel in Florida: What you need to know

Posted: 3:43 PM, Aug 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-30 18:51:32-04
Hurricane Dorian dampens Labor Day travel in Florida: What you need to know

Vacationers headed to Florida for the Labor Day holiday and the unofficial close of summer are in for a nerve-racking weekend.

Hurricane Dorian is expected to slam the state as soon as Monday as a Category 4 storm after blowing through the northern Bahamas on Sunday.

Getting out of the storm's path will be tricky, as its path is still unpredictable with several days to meander over very warm water.

Flights and trains

American Airlines has issued a list of Florida destinations that may be affected by the storm. Full details of itineraries that qualify for waived change fees are listed on the airline's web site .

The advisory follows several previous waivers issued by American Airlines for destinations in the Caribbean.

Delta Air Lines has released an advisory for cities in Florida and Georgia , following previous waiver options for Caribbean destinations.

Southwest , JetBlue , Spirit , United and Frontier have also offered waivers on change fees for itineraries involving specific destinations in the Caribbean and Florida.

Flight tracking site FlightAware.com expects flight cancellations to increase in the region closer to Monday. "We would expect flights to and from Orlando, Miami, and other airports in that area to be most affected," FlightAware said in a statement.

Orlando International Airport will "cease operations" at 2 a.m. Monday local time, according to an airport statement. Airport officials have already identified staff who will remain inside the airport during the storm, according to a public statement. The airport is not an authorized shelter, and the statement advised passengers to make plans to find other accommodations before the storm hits.

Amtrak has canceled select Southeast service starting on Friday. Full details of which routes will be affected are available online .

Cruises

Royal Caribbean cruise line's private Bahamian island, Perfect Day at CocoCay , will be closed through September 4 so that local employees can secure and evacuate their families and homes, the company said on its website.

More than a dozen sailings had been impacted by the impending storm as of Friday morning. Royal Caribbean has listed each modification online with plans to update additional sailings as information becomes available.

Some cruises have modified itineraries due to the closure of CocoCay. Others have been extended or shortened or will have delayed departures.

"Please know, our guests and crew safety is our top priority and being onboard a ship is one of the safest places to be during a storm," Royal Caribbean said in an online statement. "We can sail out to sea and navigate around inclement weather. Plus, our ships have the latest technology, satellites, communication equipment, along with a team of experts who closely monitor the weather."

On its website, Carnival Cruise Line listed a series of sailings it is monitoring and modifying out of Port Canaveral, Port of Miami, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa in Florida and Charleston, South Carolina.

The cruise line's online advisory outlines how passengers aboard specific sailings can sign up for text alerts for more information.

Disney Cruise Line posted an advisory about several sailings on its website .

The company said that Disney Dream will set sail as scheduled on Friday, keeping a safe distance from the storm. The itinerary may be modified, depending on the storm's path.

The cruise line's August 31 Disney Fantasy sailing is expected to proceed as planned. The company is monitoring Disney Dream's scheduled September 2 sailing.

Norwegian Cruise Line has listed several modifications online to upcoming sailings on Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun.

Amusement parks and other attractions

In Orlando, about 50 miles inland from Florida's Atlantic coast, Walt Disney World Resort opened its much-anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land in Hollywood Studios on Thursday.

While Dorian's impact on the inland city packed with theme parks may not be as severe as in coastal communities, Galaxy's Edge faces a potentially soggy opening weekend and scores of disappointed fans who may opt to reschedule their visits.

Universal Orlando Resort is monitoring the situation. "At this time, we are pleased to inform you that Universal Orlando Resort remains open for our guests' enjoyment, but we will be updating our website, www.universalorlando.com , with any additional updates as we receive them," the company said in a statement.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, one of Central Florida's most popular tourist destinations, expects to be closed Sunday and Monday because of the storm. Special Interest Tours and some other experiences will not be available on Saturday, although the center plans to be open during its regular hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The center was moving its $650 million Mobile Launch Platform inside on Friday morning.

Leave the Keys

Florida Keys officials asked visitors Friday to leave the Keys -- which include Key West and Key Largo -- if they can, although they stopped short of ordering a mandatory evacuation, in a statement released Friday.

They also advised travelers with plans to visit the Keys to hold off until the storm has passed and fuel and other supplies can be delivered. The Florida Keys website will be updated when it's safe to return.

Change of plans

Some travelers are proactively canceling Florida plans.

Lindsay Wolf and her husband had planned to take their children, ages 8 and 10, kayaking and tubing on the Rainbow River with friends who had recently moved to the Ocala area, but the Atlanta family has made other plans.

"It was an easy decision to make to cancel the trip considering how large of an area the meteorologists are expecting the storm to make landfall," Wolf said.

She knew the rain would ruin their time in the sun, and the roads would be filled with evacuees heading north.

Luckily for her family, she found a hotel with an available room in Orange Beach, Alabama, "so we will still get sun and water," she said. "Plus, we will get out of there before any of the rain makes it there."

"The kids will understand one day, but last night our son didn't eat dinner and both kids cried their little eyes out."

Do I stay or do I go?

Visitors to Disney's Orlando parks have been talking about Dorian for days, said Deb Koma, who arrived on Wednesday to visit the new Star Wars land for her birthday.

Koma, former editor of Disney fan site AllEars.net, decided to follow her Lyft driver's advice and go home early. She switched her plane ticket home to Northern Virginia from Monday to Saturday.

Other visitors have decided to ride out the storm, Koma said. Hotel staff have advised them to stock up on bottled water and snacks, in case they're stuck in their rooms.

There's no word yet on whether Disney will close because of the storm.

"I talked to my hotel cast members last night, and they have not been told yet if they will be required to be part of a ride-out team" staying at the parks.

After the storm passes

Although it's unclear how hard Dorian will hit Florida, the city's tourism bureau promises that any closed theme parks close will reopen as quickly as possible.

"After the storm passes, our destination has a history of resuming operations quickly, with most businesses back to operation within a day or two," said Visit Orlando President & CEO George Aguel. "With so many attractions and activities to do here, visitors will still have plenty to experience, even if some businesses are impacted by the storm."

Travelers can go to VisitOrlando.com , call (800) 972-3304 during normal operating hours and follow @VisitOrlando on Twitter for destination updates.