Hurricane season here on the eastern seaboard of the USA runs from June 1 through November 30, with the peak storm producing time running from mid August to late October. The season begins a couple weeks earlier on the Pacific side. Why would one go on a cruise during this time? Well, many just don’t have an option given school schedules. Should you avoid cruises during hurricane season? I say no. In fact, I have one booked for late August, did the same last year, and have taken several cruises during prime hurricane months. As I get ready for my upcoming
Booking a cruise during the season does not come without some risk. You might be faced with dropped or reordered ports of call, an eastern Caribbean itinerary might turn into a western itinerary, or some mix of it all. Unless your port of embarkation is taking a direct hit on sail away day, your cruise is likely to depart right on time. There have been instances of extended or shortened cruises when a port of embarkation was impacted. The least likely thing to happen is that you find yourself at sea in the middle of a hurricane. Cruise lines are going to do their best to avoid the storm, thus the potential for itinerary changes. I have personally been impacted on three cruises by a hurricane, missing ports of call in Cozumel and Grand Cayman as well as getting an extra sea day. My reasonable experiences aside, I do take some steps to ensure I enjoy my hurricane season cruises.
Consider travel insurance – I have a personal threshold for travel insurance. Most short Bahamas cruises do not meet that threshold, but hurricane season can impact that equation. If you are worried about the potential for tropical weather to take away your dream cruise, you might want to take a look at travel insurance. The peace of mind of having protected your vacation investment may be worth the price for you.
Stay informed – In the week or two prior to my hurricane season cruise, I begin regularly monitoring the tropical weather on the National Hurricane Center’s website. I am a bit of a weather geek, and like reading up on weather forecasts, storm reports, etc. This is not something I “obsess” over, but monitoring storm trends the week or so prior to your cruise can give you a heads up that you might need to take some action.
Plan your port arrival accordingly – I always recommend flying to port the day before your cruise. I’ve called this the cheapest travel insurance you can buy. In keeping with staying informed, monitor your airline’s website for impacts to flight schedules. If the storm is headed towards your embarkation port or just brushing nearby you might be able to change your flight to travel in an extra day earlier than planned, hunker down, and board your ship on time, or be in place if your ship’s departure is delayed. Of course, a very severe storm impact to your port of embarkation might negate the value of this, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Keep an open mind – Flexibility is key to a successful cruising experience during hurricane season. It’s easy to be disappointed by a skipped port of call. If you’re fortunate, you might get directed to an alternative port of call or get an extra day at sea. Your ship’s captain and crew will be doing their best to find nice weather and calm seas for you to enjoy your vacation. In the end, the worst day I ever had on a cruise ship beat my best day at work by a wide margin. Happy sailing!
-MJ, July 30, 2013