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What Happens If a Hurricane Comes During My Cruise?

When it comes to cruising, first-time cruisers understandably have lots of questions. Some of those fears might make a person decide that cruising isn’t the best choice. For that reason, beginning today, we’re launching a new series called First-time Cruisers Ask…. We’ll look at one topic each week that focuses on a particular fear some have regarding cruising. Today’s question is: What happens if a hurricane comes during my cruise? 

That’s a valid concern. After all, recent years have seen some devastating hurricanes hit the Caribbean and southern United States. In 2018 alone, there were 15 named storms (such as tropical storms), 8 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. It’s no secret that hurricanes can cause tremendous amounts of damage. 

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, it caused $92 billion dollars in damage and claimed more than 3,000 lives. It’s no wonder a person new to cruising might have reservations about boarding a ship. So what happens when a hurricane forms in the path of your cruise itinerary? Is there anything you can do to prevent being in a situation where you might find yourself in the middle of a hurricane? You might be surprised by the answers. 

When Does Hurricane Season Begin? 

One thing you can do is to book your cruise outside of hurricane season. In the Atlantic, hurricane season officially begins on June 1 ending on November 30. The Eastern Pacific season runs from May 15 through November 30.

That’s a pretty wide window that lasts almost the entire second half of the year. Just looking at the calendar and how destructive hurricanes can be, “on paper” it’s not looking good for cruising. Don’t worry, like most things “on paper”, the reality is much different. 

For the purpose of our discussion, we’re going to focus on Atlantic hurricanes. They are the ones that get the most attention and affect more cruising locations. 

Hurricanes in the Atlantic start off as small storms off the coast of western Africa. As they make their way across the ocean, they pick up intensity. Most die out in the middle of the Atlantic far, far away from anywhere cruise ships venture. Or they take a path far away from populated areas.

The ones that do have enough energy to make it to land are called tropical storms. If they reach the warmer waters near the Caribbean, they can pick up strength and become hurricanes. 

Is there any good news in that? Believe it or not, yes, there is. Although hurricane season lasts from June to November, most hurricanes that impact travel don’t appear until late August through October. So the likelihood of a hurricane disrupting your vacation is limited. 

What You Can Do

This is a good reason to use a cruise travel agent. They’re familiar with when hurricane season is and can steer you in the right direction. The Dream Team here at J’s Dream Travel are ready to guide you through that process. 

The safest option is to book your cruise outside of hurricane season. So your window would be between December and May. And there are a few advantages to booking a cruise during this period. 

Prices Are Lower

In summertime, kids are out of school. Many families use this time to vacation because it might be the only opportunity they have to be together for an extended period. For this reason, there are fewer people traveling during the winter months. The cruise lines – much like hotels – need their staterooms booked in order to make money. This makes cruising in winter months attractive to some cruises. 

Crowds Are Smaller On the Ship

Following up on the reason prices are lower is that children are in school in winter. As such, the crowd sizes will be significantly smaller. This is good for pool times, buffet lines, shows and most other activities onboard a cruise ship. 

There is a caution. While crowds are smaller during winter months, it’s also true that some major holidays fall during that period. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, Easter. That last one is where you, as a cruiser, need to check the calendar. Spring Break falls during the Easter holiday. And cruising is a big draw for Spring Break. There will be so many people on the ship that it will seem like you’re cruising during the summer.

Outside of those special days, cruising in the winter months is a great way to steer clear of hurricanes.

Crowds Are Smaller At Ports of Call

Deserted beach

The same thing that makes crowds smaller on cruise ships make crowds smaller at ports of call. There simply aren’t as many people on cruise ships that pull into port. 

There’s also another reason people who live in colder regions will appreciate. If the temperatures at home are below 40 degrees where you live, the temperatures will be 60 degrees or higher in the Caribbean. For the locals on the islands, they stay out of the water and off the beaches for the same reason people who live in colder climates stay out the water. For them, it’s cold (it is their winter). So it’ll be like having a private beach. If you are crowd averse, this might be a very good reason to cruise outside of hurricane season.

Cruise Lines Are Ready For Hurricanes

If cruising off-season doesn’t appeal to you or you simply can’t make your schedule work for that time period, there’s no reason not to cruise during hurricane season.

Modern cruise ships have sophisticated GPS systems and weather forecasting technology that would make your local TV station jealous. If a storm is brewing at sea, even if it isn’t hurricane or tropical storm strength, the ship can steer clear of it. Rough weather isn’t good for the cruise business. 

Hurricanes and tropical storms are rarely so large that there are no places to travel. Should a storm suddenly appear, the cruise line will redirect to another location. That island will not be on the itinerary. But it gives you a place to visit should your original port become unavailable.

The possibility exists that despite the cruise line’s best efforts, the storm may be so big there won’t be any ports where the ship can be redirected. If this happens, using that fancy weather forecasting system the captain has at his disposal, he will move the ship to a calm area of sea. Your port day (or days) will become a sea day. These are some of the things you can do if the ship has to venture out into the open sea.

The Ocean Is a Big Place

Looking at a hurricane from a satellite view is amazing in a frightening way. Yet, as large as it is, the ocean is larger. As we’ve shown, there’s no reason to stop cruising during hurricane season. The cruise line, captain and crew will do everything in their ability to ensure your vacation on the seas will be as pleasurable as humanly possible.

Book Your Cruise In Or Out of Hurricane Season

Cruising is one of the best ways to vacation. J’s Dream Travel works with multiple cruise lines with varying specialties. We can customize a vacation package that will give you the best vacation you can imagine.

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