Hurricane Season at Sea
It’s one month into 2012 hurricane season and Tropical Storm Debby, the fourth named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, is swirling through the northern Gulf of Mexico.
One cruise has been impacted at this point. Carnival Cruise Lines has altered the itinerary of Carnival Ecstasy, which departed Port Canaveral on Saturday. Instead of visiting Key West Sunday, the ship headed straight to the Bahamas where it stopped in Nassau on Sunday and will be in Freeport today, replacing an originally scheduled day at sea.
So what should cruise aficionados consider when booking a summer or fall Caribbean voyage?
1. Hurricane season in the Atlantic lasts a long time — from June 1 to November 30 — and it includes the summer, when school is out and many people are looking to get away with their kids. It’s not realistic to think vacationers will skip the beautiful region for six months.
2. It’s a great time for deals. It’s the cheapest time to cruise, and for a lot of people, that’s worth the risk.
3. It’s unlikely most travelers will be caught in a storm. If a hurricane forms, cruise ships have sophisticated weather tracking systems and can keep their distance from any rough weather. Ships can move. Unlike an island resort, which pretty much has to sit there and take it, ships move out of the way of the hurricane.
What happens if you miss your cruise because of a canceled flight to the port city or because the ship leaves early to escape the path of the storm?
Things can get tricky.
If you buy an air/sea package — or purchase the flight as part of the voyage — the cruise line will put you up in a hotel and help you get to the next port. Otherwise, it’s not obligated to do anything.
What should you do to keep a hurricane from ruining your cruise?
Buy adequate travel insurance with weather protection, but not necessarily from the cruise line. Ask your travel agent for help, or shop around for a good policy.
If you’re cruising during hurricane season, get to the departure city a day early so you don’t have to worry about missing the ship. If there is a storm that could affect the region you’re cruising in, stay close to your ship in case it needs to depart early.
Sailing during hurricane season requires a level of flexibility. You’ll want to plan accordingly for the possibility that what you’ve booked might not happen as expected. If your heart is set on visiting a specific destination or sailing a certain itinerary, you may want to think twice about booking sailings during hurricane season.
Don’t forget – adding travel insurance to the cruise fare can provide a financial buffer for changing plans, helping passengers make arrangements if a storm does interfere with their cruise vacation.