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Ten Tips for Cruising in Hurricane Season
My Best Advice for Hurricane Season Cruisers
The itineraies of dozens of ships were disrupted when Irene stirred up the sea all the way from the Leeward Islands to Nova Scotia. It could happen again this year. Yet, many people still cruise during hurricane season. Sme of us do regularly... and even during the most active weeks!
You can find some really decent fares during the time when the tropics are the most active. And, if you are willing to take a risk that may or may not materialize, make the associated trade-offs, and follow a few tips, you can find a cruise for much less during these times than you will during high season, when prices are higher and ships tend to sail fuller.
What are some of those risks? What trade-offs might you end up making for the monies you save? Here are my tips for happy cruising during this special time of year.
My Times at Sea Have Included Some During Hurricane Season
I've taken my share of voyages during hurricane season. Most of them were smooth sailing under sunny skies. But not all.
On one, we missed a port completely, and visited another one two days late. You'll find a little more about it later on this page. That same cruise was scheduled to return to Port Canaveral on Sunday. Instead, we docked in Fort Lauderdale on Monday.
During another, there were some unexpected rough seas... VERY rough. No one had seen them coming. Even the National Weather Service had predicted that the storm in question would dissipate, and quietly go away... not strengthen.
Our first night out turned into a Wild Ride on the Freedom of the Seas. But, we still had a wonderful time, in spite of a few challenges.
The key to having a wonderful time - no matter what - is preparation and attitude.
Is It For YOU?
Taking a cruise during hurricane season - especially during the peak period of August through October - has its risks. But, it can also be something of an adventure.
If you are willing to accept the risks, and know how to prepare for possible adventure, then it's a great time to be at sea, in my opinion. Ships may be less crowded, and you can find some good deals. Those add up to a big plus in my book.
What about you?
Please take a minute to answer the following poll.
Would You Go That Time of Year? - I do!
Would you cruise during hurricane season?
Risks and Trade-Offs for Those Discounted Fares
It's great to get a good deal, and, yes, I do book during hurricane season. Sometimes you get a pretty good deal
There ARE risks inherent this time of year. But is it just a crap shoot?
No, not really. Lots of things CAN happen, and they've happened to me. But, they haven't ruined my vacation. Why? Because I not only knew and accepted the chance I was taking, but prepared for some possible consequences of a tropical system interfering with some aspect of my trip.
NEXT: Some of the things you could encounter.
Some of the Risks You Take
When you schedule a voyage during hurricane season, you are accepting some risks, whether you realize it or not.
What follows is a list of some of the things that could happen during the season (June through Nov) and particularly during the most active, or peak, part (generally, early August through October) of the season. That is not to say that all (or any) of them will happen during a given week or weekend, but they COULD. And they HAVE.
A Short List of Possibilities
A number of things could happen if a tropical cyclone affects your cruise. Here are some of them:
1 - Travel to and from your port of embarkation could be affected.
2 - Your ship could have to leave port hours earlier than the stated time.
3 - There could be changes to your itinerary.
4 - You might be sailing on rough seas and in stormy weather.
5 - Your voyage could end a day or two earlier or later than planned, or even return to a different city than the one you left from.
6 - You could return to a city that was hit by a storm. There could be flooded streets, making getting out of the city difficult. Power could be out, and stores could be damaged, making routine purchases difficult.
NOTE Most Caribbean and Mexican Riviera cruises begin, sail, and end just as planned, even during the season. But ONE tropical system could cross your path and bring LOTS of changes with it.
Read on for my tips for cruising during hurricane season, and how to be ready for some of the ways severe weather can affect your cruise.
As promised, here are those ten tips for taking a cruise during hurricane season.
1 - Travel insurance
Travel Insurance is a MUST
Travel insurance is something you buy hoping you don't have to use it. But, you need to purchase it especially when cruising the Caribbean in peak hurricane season
Get yourself Travel Insurance, not "Trip Protection." . For complete coverage, buy it from your Travel Agent at the time you first book your cruise. That's what we do.
Trip Protection (usually available from the cruise line) isn't the same thing, so be aware of that.
Here's a sample some of what the two will cover. Travel Insurance covers all of them. Trip Protection usually covers only things like the first three.
1 - Travel Delays, Flight Changes and Rebookings
2 - Lost or delayed luggage
3 - Cancelled cruises.
4 - Medical Emergencies at sea or on foreign soil.
5 - Medical Evacuations.
The last two are NOT covered by MediCare or most employer-provided plans, either. Each of these can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars,.
2 - Pack for the unexpected.
Pack Like a Survivor
You Will Survive Like a Champ if You Pack Like a Survivor!
Create a list that fits your personal circumstances - a list of extras to pack just in case you encounter very inclement weather, or problems in returning home afterwards. Here is a partial list to get you thinking:
1 - A sweater or jacket, an extra pair of durable long pants, tennies, and a rain poncho, in case you have to be in the weather of a tropial system.
2 - An extra battery for your cell phone and other electronics, in case you return to a port that's been hit, and there's no power for chargers.
3 - Several extra days of perscription medicines.
4 - Important phone numbers, including that of your travel agent.
Things to Get Your Packing Started off right
Expandable luggage is the way to go. Most people bring back more than they took.
Not an absolute essential - but one of these sure is nice to have!
3 - Arrive at LEAST a day early
Play It Safe - By Extending Your Vacation a Day or Two
Say you are supposed to sail from Miami on Sunday. Plan to get to your Miami Hotel on Friday or Saturday. Here's why:
If a tropical storm system is headed for south Florida, your ship's schedule may change drastically. The previous cruise may end early, and yours may start early.
Ports usually close to incoming sea traffic 12 hours in advance of the anticipated arrival of gale force winds. The Coast Gurad will ORDER ships out to sea by a certain time. Your ship's captain must obey these orders. if you aren't on board, you just aren't. End of story.
What's the worst that can happen?
If you plan to arrive at your port of embarkation with only a couple of hours to spare, and there's a storm, your ship could sail without you. Oooooh that would be a BAD thing!
If you arrive early, and there's no tropical weather system, you get an extra day or two to relax before boarding your ship. (Just TRY to convince yourself that's a bad thing.)
4 - Take Along a Motion Sickness Remedy
I Don't Get Seasick - But I Do Take Some Gin-Gins Along
I always take along a couple or three bags of Ginger People Hard Ginger Candies.
Now, so far, I have not been prone to seasickness, even in stormy seas.
But, I always try to remember to take some with me, anyway, in case my luck runs out. In addition, I have them available to give to others who may be hit with bouts of nausea or vertigo. I've been able to help out a few shipmates in this manner.
Sailors have long used ginger for motion sickness. They must know, because I've taken these along on many cruises, and given them to others who found them helpful.
And, unlike some other remedies - particularly those that label themselves "systems" - these are very affordable.
They also come in a "Spicy Apple" variety, which I think are tastier than these.
For further information, and more remedies, see About Getting Sea-Sick on a Cruise.
5 - Do you absolutely, positively HAVE to see a certain port?
Then, don't count on a hurricane season cruise to get you there.
A Story About Missed Ports
Yes - Your Itinerary Could Change!
It was a weekend cruise during the wicked 2004 hurricane season.
The ship left a couple of hours early (see tip #3), the seas were a little rough (see tip #4), and we never made it to CocoCay, because the little island was being hit by Jeanne's outer bands.
Then, it was announced Nassau was being hit, and that we wouldn't be going there the next day. Some passengers began expressing hostility.
Yes, they were on a cruise... being waited on hand and foot ... being entertained, being catered to ... eating delicious food. Yet, they were UTTERLY MISERABLE, and outright ANGRY. Yes, they were angry that the Captain had the temerity to steer the ship into safer waters. They paid to stop at Nassau, and by golly they wanted to go to Nassau - storm or no storm.
So it was, that the passenger population was split into two groups.
One group was working themselves up into a lather and making themselves miserable because something unexpected had happened and nobody was fixing it for them.
The other group was clearly enjoying the unexpected adventure into which the weather had suddenly thrust them.
Which group would you have been in? If it was the miserable group, perhaps going to sea when mother nature might throw you a curve ball is not for you.
Tropical Storm Force Winds on a Cruise Ship
Don't forget to pack some rain gear - Just In Case
Make sure any rain hat you get has a chin cord or other way to tie it on. Even a snug fitting hat can be gone in seconds during tropical storm force winds.
An inexpensive, even disposable, rain poncho with a hood is not a bad idea. It won't take up much room in your luggage.
If you need it, you'll be glad to have it. Take along one for each member of the family.
6 - Plan Shore Excursions Wisely
Book Your Tours through the Cruise Line
For booking shore excursions, go through the or Cruise Line, or an independent operator that you ALREADY know is reliable.
Especially for new cruisers, shore excursions are exciting. They give you the opportunity to do and experience new and exciting things.
Whether you plan on water activities, like snorkeling or jet sking; or city or adventure tours, you can choose to book through the ship or on your own through an independent tour operator. Sometimes you'll save quite a bit by using an independent. (Check recommendations, though)
If there is a tropical system, your ship may have to substitute one port for another, or miss a port entirely, in order to avoid sailing into dangrous waters. Or, it may have to shorten the planned time in a specific port, and leave early by order of that port's authorities.
If you have booked your excursions through the cruise line, and your itinerary changes, your money will automatically be credited back to you.
If you decide to book with an independent tour operator, consider these things:
- Make sure they will refund any monies paid if your ship's itinerary changes. Get it in writing.
- Avoid independent tours that end very near sailing time. ALWAYS leave yourself extra time, in case your tour operator runs into problems.
7 - Stay Tuned In
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Tropical systems can develop at any time, and intensify quickly. Beginning several days before your scheduled departure, watch the weather like a hawk! If there is even the hint of a storm forming or a low developing, you want to know about it.
A good friend found out by watching the local Miami weather that the ships had been ordered out of the port of Miami in the morning, although her ship was scheduled to sail at 5 PM. Thank goodness they came a day early, AND kept an eye on the weather. Thanks to her dilligence, they made it to the ship in time.
You can check for changes on line with the cruise line's website.
Consider joining a good cruise forum. They will usually be all over anything that can affect a ship or its itinerary, and get it posted quickly.
8 - Make Flexible Return Plans
Make Flexible Travel Plans for Your Return Home
Your cruise could return a day or more earlier or later than was scheduled because of tropical weather.
Whether you're driving or flying, there are things to take into consideration. Read on to find out.
Tips for Getting Home in Case of a Weather Emergency
IF YOU ARE DRIVING HOME
Before leaving to board the ship, check the location you are parked in... if it's under a tree, and a hurricane is on the way, you might want to re-think your parking place. Look for a high and dry spot, if possible.
Fill your tank before boarding. A lot can happen while you are at sea, and if one of those things is a hurricane hitting your port, there may be no gas to be had on your return.
IF YOU ARE FLYING HOME:
Make sure the air tickets you purchase are changeable without a large fee. If your original flight was to leave on Sunday afternoon, but you are still at sea on Sunday, you're gonna need a different flight. If you booked your flights through the cruise line (or your travel agent did) they will take care of your re-booking arrangements. Otherwise, it's up to you, even from the middle of the ocean.
IN EITHER CASE:
Keep your calendar free for a couple of extra days
Don't make crucial plans for the day or day after your voyage is scheduled to end. For example, don't make an important appointment for the Monday after a cruise that is supposed to end on Sunday. If your ship is a day late coming in, or if air travel is disrupted, you will miss your appointment. Give yourself a couple days of leeway.
9 - Extra Cash
Stash Some Cash for After Your Cruise
Keep some folding money for after the cruise, just in case. Folding money means just that - NOT credit or debit or even an ATM card.
If your post-cruise return plans must change, you may need extra cash. And changes in plans due to hurricanes or tropical storms hitting the city where you disembark, just about REQUIRE that you have CASH funds.
In the aftermath of a hurricane, cash is king. This is because if there is a power outage, those stores, restaurants, and others, that do manage to open may not be able to process credit card charges. In addition, even if you are able to find an ATM at a location with the power to operate it, the machine is unlikely to have any cash remaining. So, plan to have enough cash to survive for several days when you get off the ship.
10 - Bring these important accessories:
A Great Attitude
A Sense of Adventure
It's YOUR Cruise - Make of it What You Will
This goes back to the little story in Tip #5.
It's YOUR cruise, and you yourself can make it or break it when things don't go just as expected. It's all in your cruising attitude.
if you are bound and determined that you are on a cruise, and by golly, it's gonna be a good one, it probably will be. If you are convinced that outside forces will determine your happiness at sea, well, you are at their mercy. It's up to you.
My Most Important Tip
So, my most important tip for enjoying yourself is to bring along a positive attitude, and your best sense of adventure. If you do, even a nasty weather system probably won't be able to defeat you.
Enjoy every minute - whether you're planning a weekend getaway or a month long voyage!