While many people will cruise during hurricane season without any severe weather or disruptions to their cruise voyage, there always seems to be some cruises each year that have itinerary changes or rough seas because of hurricanes. The goal of this post is to help you plan for a cruise that could be potentially disrupted in some way by a hurricane or tropical storm.
This section is designed to give information and tips if you are on the ship during tropical weather.
If you find yourself onboard your cruise ship during a hurricane or tropical storm you do not need to panic. Many cruise ships will make an effort to avoid sailing into the storm and instead keep the ship in calmer waters. This is for the comfort of all passengers and the safety of the ship. However, this does mean cruisers onboard will not feel any motion. You may feel the ship rocking, but it should not be nearly as bad as the waters directly affected by the storm. The closer you are to the storm the worse the waves will be. Furthermore, most modern cruise ships have stabilizers that can help the ship minimize rocking while the ship is in rougher seas. Stabilizers are mechanical and help the ship stay better balanced. However, even if the ship's stabilizers are being used the ship could still face rocking and swaying.
Your cruise ship may close the outside public decks as a safety precaution if winds are too high, the ship is rocking too much, or the ship deems there is a safety concern with letting people freely walk on the outside decks. Be prepared for this possibility, but keep in mind there are probably other things you can do in the interior spaces of your cruise ship. If there is rain outside most people will probably stay inside anyways.
Some cruise ships will make weather announcements during the cruise if severe weather is expected. This is dependent on the captain or cruise director on your ship. If your ship is not making weather announcements during the cruise and you want to know the weather you have a few options to try and get information. The first option is you can ask the Guest Services desk. In my past experiences, I have asked the guest services desk for weather information and the crew member working the desk was able to give me an update on the wave heights, expected precipitation, and temperatures. Another option for weather information you have is to pay for internet on your cruise ship and look up weather information relevant to the area you will be sailing to.
In order to avoid hurricanes and tropical storms cruise ships may have to operate on an altered itinerary. In the past, cruise lines have cancelled ports of calls and made that particular cruise day a sea day. In other cases, when possible, cruise lines have swapped a port of call with another port of call. There are many factors that go into a cruise line's decision when making itinerary adjustments such as wind speeds, wave heights, and whether the ship can be safely docked in a port of call. Sometimes the local authorities will make the decision to not allow a ship to dock because of weather conditions that could hinder the process of safely docking the ship. When the local authorities of a port make the decision to not allow a ship to dock, they will often communicate this decision with the ship and cruise line.
Part 2: Before Cruising
This section will give advice for before a cruise if you are expecting a hurricane or tropical storm to impact your vacation or ship's homeport.
Before Cruising: Could The Cruise Be Cancelled & How Would I Find Out?
Many cruise lines will make an effort to avoid cancelling a cruise, but in some cases cancelling is the only option a cruise line has. A decision to cancel a cruise could be based on the storm's expected landfall, how close landfall is to a cruise's departure date, port authority storm procedures, and more.
Many cruise lines will email guests about a cancellation or post information online. There are a few cruise lines that use a text alert system to give notifications to subscribed guests. If you feel like you are missing important information and a storm is likely to impact your voyage in some way, you should call your cruise line directly. Make sure your cruise line has correct contact information on file in order to communicate with you. If your cruise line has on online check-in process this is often a way to gather accurate contact information. As you enter your contact information double check you enter all information correctly in order to insure the cruise line's records are accurate.
Before The Cruise: Can I Voluntarily Cancel?
The specific answer to this question will depend on your cruise line. In many cases, your cruise line will allow you to cancel, but not receive a refund. This is because you are voluntarily cancelling on a voyage that is still going to sail and you are held to the cruise line's cancellation policy. In some cases, cruise lines will show compassion and allow cruisers to cancel without a penalty, but this does not happen with all cruise lines. However, if the cruise is cancelled by your cruise line they should be providing you with a refund and compensation.
Driving To A Cruise Homeport Where The Storm Is Expected To Hit: Things To Do
If your cruise is still sailing and the storm is expected to make landfall around your departure port there are a few things you can do:
- Parking: Flooding could occur at the place you park your car. If you can, try to park in a covered parking garage on a level higher than the ground. This will help protect your car from some flooding, but is does not guarantee your car will be 100% safe. Your car could still be damaged by water in many ways, including higher than expected floodwater. Don't forget that the wind can damage your car or blow objects into the glass.
- Take Valuables Out Of Your Car: Before leaving your house to cruise, take valuables out of your car. You should not leave valuables in your car at any time, but in this case your car could be washed out from flooding or looted after the storm.
If You Live In the Storm's Impact Area - Prepare Your Home
If you live in the area the storm will affect or potentially destroy, you need to prepare your home before cruising. I recommend doing tasks such as unplugging electrical devices from the walls to minimize your loss from a power surge, boarding windows, and storing objects that could be damaged easily in a safer place. There may be other tasks you must complete depending on your home's location and your own personal storm preparation plans. Some people have to deal directly with flooding, high winds, and other things. Make sure you prepare your home to minimize any damage that may occur while you are gone.
You know your area's potential for hazards the best. Make sure you properly secure your home and exterior belongings pre-cruise. Monitor your local weather and pay attention to instructions from local officials.