HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) _ Cruise ships boomed warning bells and rushed out of Bermuda after a tropical storm watch was issued for the island Wednesday.

Forecasters predicted Tropical Storm Arlene will pass within 60 miles of Bermuda around lunchtime Thursday, not a direct hit but close enough for islanders to feel its winds and rain.

``It's a bit too close for comfort,'' said Ed Loder of the Bermuda Weather Service.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the strongest winds would probably stay east of Bermuda, although the storm is 200 miles wide.

Arlene, the first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, lost some of its punch as it churned toward Bermuda on Wednesday.

At 2 p.m. EDT, it was centered about 140 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and was moving to the north-northwest at 8 mph. Its top sustained winds were down to 45 mph, from 50 mph three hours earlier. Storm-force winds extended 105 miles from its center, down from 145 miles at 8 a.m. EDT.

Cruise ship captains hauled their ships out of harm's way.

Celebrity cruise line's Zenith Horizon sailed to Miami and the Norwegian Crown and Norwegian Majesty were headed to home ports in New York and Boston. The Nordic Empress, which was expected Wednesday, bypassed Bermuda and sailed on to the Bahamas.

Hardware stores were doing a brisk business in batteries and portable lights after the storm warning was issued Wednesday, as Bermudians prepared for possible power failures.