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About 20,000 cruise passengers stuck at sea because of Harvey

About 20,000 cruise passengers are in limbo after Hurricane Harvey forced the Port of Galveston to shut down, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The port closed to all vessels starting at noon Friday, in anticipation of “gale-force winds,” tentatively stranding four cruise ships that had planned to dock in Galveston over the weekend.

Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas began making its way back to Galveston from Cozumel, Mexico, on Friday — but was “keeping a safe distance behind the storm,” cruise line spokesman Owen Torres told The Washington Post.

“We are actively monitoring path and progression of Hurricane Harvey and will make sure to inform our guests of any itinerary changes,” Torres said. “Our intention is to keep with our original schedule for our return to Galveston on Sunday. However, we will return to Galveston only when it is safe to do.”

The Carnival Freedom and Carnival Valor — both scheduled to arrive in Galveston on Saturday — remained at sea as of Saturday morning, with plans to stop in New Orleans to replenish fuel and supplies, a Carnival representative said in an email. The cruise line said it would give passengers the option of disembarking at New Orleans but was “strongly encouraging” them to remain on board.

The Carnival Breeze, which is scheduled to return to Galveston on Sunday, docked in Cozumel overnight Friday and had plans to travel toward Galveston on Saturday afternoon, the cruise line said.

“The next scheduled voyages for Carnival Freedom and Carnival Valor will be shortened with itineraries to be determined,” the cruise line said. “Guests who sail on modified voyages will receive a prorated refund equal to the number of cruise days missed. Those who wish to cancel may do so without penalty and receive a future cruise credit.”

Hurricane Harvey updates: Texas hit by powerful storm, heavy rain

Hurricane Harvey is on track to be the strongest storm to strike the United States in 12 years. It’s forecast to make landfall on the Texas coast late Friday or early Saturday. Follow along for updates on preparations, evacuations and forecasts.

Visit the Capital Weather Gang for more on the storm.