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Irene Strands Thousands Of Tourists In South Florida

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FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Long lines and a long journey lie ahead for thousands of cruise ship passengers who docked in Port Everglades early Sunday morning only to find they couldn’t get home.

Hurricane Irene crippled flight schedules up and down the east coast over the weekend, forcing thousands of cancellations.

“Unfortunately the city is shut down, the airport was shut down and we won’t be able to access transportation until Tuesday and Wednesday when we needed to get back today,” said Marc Kress.

It was an unexpected situation for Kress and his family who just got back from a week long cruise on the Allure of the Seas.

“It is unbelievable to experience a hurricane when we were worried about Caribbean hurricanes, it’s just an unusual circumstance for sure,” said Kress.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go from here,” said Donald Kesler, an Allure of the Seas passenger who found out his flight home was canceled.

With bus lines and train systems shut down or reduced, many will have to wait it out for a few days in South Florida before they can fly out later in the week.

“We’ll be in Ft. Lauderdale until Wednesday,” said Earline Brown.

Brown said it’s both a blessing a curse for herself and her traveling companion Geneva Jones who are both from Philadelphia.

“Cause we’re still on vacation,” said Brown looking on the bright side.

“I’m frustrated cause I want to get home, get to my house and see what my house looks like,” said Jones.

Kress said while the delay is irritating, he could be stuck some where much worse than sunny South Florida.

“Roll with the punches, extended vacation we’re in Florida, got to live it up,” said Kress.

Fort Lauderdale International Airport reported that 44 arrivals and 48 departures were canceled on Sunday.  Many passengers aboard the Allure of the Seas, which docked Sunday morning at Port Everglades, are being forced to make alternative travel plans to get home.

Miami International Airport officials report there were 59 arrival and 45 departure cancellations due to weather conditions related to Hurricane Irene.

When a big storm threatens to delay or cancel your flight, here are some tips:

1. CHECK YOUR STATUS

To avoid getting stranded at the airport, check your flight status early and often. Check at least once on the day you’re flying and again before heading to the airport.

2. PREPARE

Once you’re ready to head to the airport, come prepared. Write down your flight number and departure time. Do the same for similar flights. This will make things easier if the airline lets you change your flight for free and you need to rebook with an airline agent.

3. WORK ALL THE ANGLES

If you’re already at the airport when your flight is canceled, it’s time for double duty. Walk over to customer service. While in line, dial the customer service number. You’ll probably reach someone on the phone before getting to the front of the line. Want a third option? Try Twitter. Some airlines have already begun to help stranded passengers over the social media site.

4. CAREFUL ABOUT CHANGES

If you push back your flight, be sure about your new plans before you lock them in. Otherwise, you’ll be out $150. Many airlines only waive change fees once in bad weather.

5. VOUCHER OR CASH

If you cancel your booking altogether, the airline might offer you a voucher for a future flight. But you can ask for cash instead.

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