Harvey strands about 20,000 cruise ship passengers at sea

Four cruise ships carrying about 20,000 passengers remained stuck at sea on Sunday as torrential rain and flooding continued to ravage the southern coast of Texas.

High winds and rain, combined with widespread flooding, have devastated several cities, including Houston.

"The four cruise ships — two of which were due today — those are everyone's highest priority," interim port director Peter Simons told the Houston Chronicle on Saturday.


One of the ships, the Liberty of the Seas — which is part of the Royal Caribbean International fleet — has been redirected to Miami, Florida, a communications official said.

A total of 4,451 people are stuck onboard until the ship makes port in Florida, and the cruise line is given the all-clear to return to Galveston. Royal Caribbean said they anticipate the "Liberty" will be able to return to Galveston on Sept. 1, conditions permitting.

"We are doing all we can to help guests adjust their travel arrangements and appreciate their patience during a stressful time," said Owen Torres, manager of communications with Royal Caribbean Cruises.

The Liberty of the Seas also has canceled the next sailing of the ship, originally planned to embark on August 27, and guests will be refunded. Royal Caribbean says this is the only ship impacted in their fleet by Hurricane Harvey.

According to local police in Galveston, Texas, officials hope the ships are not able to make port while there is still significant flooding because roadways out of Galveston are blocked and people getting off the cruises would be unable to leave the island. Many of the passengers' cars that are parked in the cruise terminal lots are stuck there because of flooded access roads.


Police said it would be a bad scenario to bring thousands of cruise goers into the city and be unable to get them out of the area.

Meanwhile, people who were planning to get on those cruises — some from Texas and others from out of state — are in a holding pattern in Galveston, now waiting to hear if their cruises are canceled or if they should try to go home.

The port of Galveston, where a few Carnival cruise trips begin and end, was closed because of Harvey.

The storm also forced the U.S. Coast Guard to close multiple ports along the Texas Gulf Coast, including those at Houston, Galveston, Texas City, Freeport and Corpus Christi.

The Carnival Freedom and Carnival Valor were at sea away from danger and briefly stopped in New Orleans on Saturday to replenish fuel, fresh water and supplies.

Fox News' Lauren Blanchard contributed to this report.