If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm. – Frank Lane
Once again we’re coming up on that season that is most dreaded by cruisers…hurricane season! And right now Tropical Storm Beryl is approaching. So, what will happen if a hurricane just happens to coincide with your cruise? What if you can’t return to the port that you sailed out of? And what about after a hurricane? Will you be able to go to your scheduled ports?
Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through November 30th. Peak hurricane season is from mid-July through early October. Your best chance to avoid a hurricane is obviously to cruise between December 1 and May 31, but that’s not always possible, and sometimes the best price deals are in the summer. The southern Caribbean is less likely to be hit by a hurricane, but you still have to sail through the rest of the Caribbean to get there, so that may not be your answer. So, what are the options?
First of all, a cruise will rarely be cancelled because of a hurricane, so it’s unlikely that you won’t get to cruise after all. It would happen only if the hurricane were bearing down on the home port and it was unsafe to depart, or if there was fear of destruction of the home port in the hurricane. The odds are with you that you will actually be able to get on that ship and depart. But, they would refund your money if the Cruise Line did have to cancel the cruise.
Also, your ship will not cruise right through the middle of a hurricane, if you’re worried about that. The nice thing about a ship is that it can travel around bad weather and even outrun hurricanes, so that’s what they’ll do. Most cruise lines will have their own meteorologist on shore who will be tracking every move that the hurricane makes, and then informing the ship’s Captain of the best and safest route to take to stay away from the storm. You may however experience fairly rough seas (not likely huge waves, just choppy ones), so be prepared with your seasickness remedy of choice. If your ship does sail at the time that a hurricane is in the Caribbean, and you still want to cancel on your own, you will be stuck with high penalties, possibly the entire amount you paid for your cruise. Check with your cruise line to see what their policy is. You should be able to find it on your cruise contract. But there’s no need to worry, the cruise line knows what it’s doing, and they want to keep you safe.
Another possibility is that your itinerary may change, according to where the hurricane is heading. If your ship’s Captain believes that it’s safest for the ship to get back to its home port before the hurricane hits, you may have your cruise shortened. The Cruise line will usually compensate you for your lost time with a future credit. If the hurricane would happen to hit between the ship and your home port, and your Captain believes that it’s unsafe to return, your cruise may then be lengthened. Your itinerary could also change if the hurricane is predicted to hit the port itinerary that you were supposed to stop at. The Captain may decide to take the ship in a different direction to a different port that is safer, or you may even get an extra sea day. You won’t be compensated for changes in the ship’s itinerary, again read the fine print on your cruise contract. Safety is far more important than keeping the advertised itineraries when it comes to a hurricane. It’s always best to be flexible when it comes to cruising. After all, there’s nothing to complain about. You’re not at work! You’re cruising in the Caribbean. What could be better?
After the hurricane, if a port is badly damaged, such as St. Martin was last year, itineraries may change for future cruises also until the port is repaired, and conditions are favorable for tourists. We were scheduled for St. Martin last year just after the hurricanes, but ended up in St. Thomas instead, where there was not as much damage. We did manage to dock in Puerto Rico that same cruise, but you could see that there was a lot of damage, and places without power. Please be patient when these things happen. Remember, it’s not just an inconvenience to you, it’s a tragedy for the islanders who have to literally try and pick up the pieces after the hurricane.
You can also get trip insurance to cover things like cancelled flights to get to your cruise in case of hurricane, but compare companies, plans, and coverages before you buy your insurance to be sure that you will actually be covered for what you want covered. You can check out Insure My Trip (Affiliate link below) which will allow you to compare multiple policies at the same time to see what’s best for you. We always buy trip insurance because it also can cover medical, lost luggage, and other things.
Have a great trip, and don’t worry about hurricanes. Odds are, they won’t affect your trip at all.