At least a dozen cruise ships in the Caribbean have been forced to divert in the face of one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the region in almost 10 years.

Hurricane Matthew is forecast to hit Haiti, home of Royal Caribbean International’s private beach resort Labadee, Jamaica and Cuba early this week before heading north to the Bahamas and the US east coast.

The category-four hurricane is bringing winds gusting up to 150 mph together with as much as 25 inches of rainfall, prompting flash flood and power failure warnings.

Strong winds and flooding have affected the Jamaican capital of Kingston while airports in Haiti were shut and 1,300 emergency shelters constructed amid evacuation warnings.

The hurricane is forecast to hit Cuba tomorrow (Tuesday) with the historic city of Santiago de Cuba in its path. All cruise ships have been warned to avoid the hurricane area due to damaging winds and high seas.

Carnival Cruise Line’s ship Carnival Elation had calls at the private island of Half Moon Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas cancelled and replaced by Key West in Florida and Freeport.

Other Carnival itineraries have been altered while Royal Caribbean has made changes to sailings by Allure of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas.

Ships belonging to Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises are also reported to be affected while Fathom ship Adonia is due in the region this week.

Disney Cruise Line, which changed a sailing of Disney Dream away from the area to the western Caribbean and Mexico, said: “While it’s too early to tell if any future itineraries will need to be adjusted due to Hurricane Matthew, we are always prepared to visit alternative orts or spend days at sea to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued travel alerts over the weekend for Cuba, the Bahamas and Jamaica where hurricane alerts have been imposed.

“A hurricane warning is now in place for parts of Cuba,” the FCO said. “Hurricane Matthew is forecast to bring hazardous sea and weather conditions to parts of Cuba from around 3 October. The Civil Aviation Corporation in Cuba has announced some airport closures from noon on October 2.”