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Ten Tips for Cruising in Hurricane Season

Updated on September 12, 2014

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.

Photo: TS Bremen life ring with stormy waves by Liebgard (cc)

Life's Short magnet
Life's Short magnet

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?

See results
| Source

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.

Source

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.

Source

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

Olympia Luggage  Tuscany 3 Piece Spinner Expandable Luggage Set
Olympia Luggage Tuscany 3 Piece Spinner Expandable Luggage Set

Expandable luggage is the way to go. Most people bring back more than they took.

 
RFID Blocking Executive Organizer Passport Case
RFID Blocking Executive Organizer Passport Case

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

Biscayne Bay, viewed from the Port of Miami
Biscayne Bay, viewed from the Port of Miami | Source

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 storm moving in on a tropical island
A storm moving in on a tropical island | Source

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

Source

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

and

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.

A pretty day for cruising - no storms around!
A pretty day for cruising - no storms around!

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!

For Your Comments - Do You Have a Tip to Share?

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    • CruiseReady profile image
      Author

      CruiseReady 2 years ago from East Central Florida

      Oh, most cruises don't run into stormy weather. I hope someday your wife will reconsider.

    • senditondown profile image

      Senditondown 2 years ago from US

      On my first (and only) cruise experience we ran into a hurricane between Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The ship was remarkably stable through it all and we were just fine, however, my wife said "Never again"!

    • steadytracker lm profile image

      steadytracker lm 3 years ago

      One of the biggest pieces of advice that I could ever offer one is to always have a "jump kit" on hand. You never know when you may need it. This kit should include essentials like water, blankets, flashlights and non-perishable foods. Great Lens. Thank you for sharing.

    • geosum profile image

      geosum 3 years ago

      Great lens. Lots of good ideas. We've incorporated most of them in our past cruises. Got stuck in Miami unexpectedly once - but that was due to snow in the DC area and our flight was cancelled.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      These are excellent tips that will work with any type of travel.

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 4 years ago from South Africa

      I'm definitely not known for being brave lol

    • OUTFOXprevention1 profile image

      OUTFOXprevention1 4 years ago

      I'll bag the cruise and take a trip to Europe ;)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing critical info to this first time cruiser! Your the best!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      good information

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm not sure I said this before, but I would stay on dry land during a hurricane. That's a lot of deep water. :)

    • KayeSI profile image

      KayeSI 4 years ago

      Great advice! Thank you for the info AND for your sweet visit. Have a blessed week.

    • profile image

      TeachersInsuranceSpecialists 4 years ago

      My best tip would be to have adequate insurance for your valuables. That way you can have a peace of mind while you enjoy your vacation!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I am a chicken I don't think that I could go sailing during the hurricane season. (But then of course I am such a chicken that I don't fly or sail lol).

    • CruiseReady profile image
      Author

      CruiseReady 4 years ago from East Central Florida

      @ReviewNook: Sure hope your next cruise turns out to have much more favorable weather!

      (Hurricane season ends on Nov 30)

    • ReviewNook profile image

      ReviewNook 4 years ago

      My family and I once went on a cruise which left port from Miami to the Bahamas on New Year's eve. New Year's eve was GREAT on the ship....the weather the rest of the week....L-O-U-S-Y!! It probably wasn't hurricane season, but I probably could have really used some of these crusing tips for hurricane season! Great information here!

    • lclchors profile image

      lclchors 4 years ago

      fantastic advice

    • playercoach profile image

      playercoach 4 years ago

      The wife and I love to take cruises. Thanks for the helpful tips here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Just thought I let you know I shouted this on FB.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Sounds like good advice

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I've cruised during the season, but have never been affected by it.

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 5 years ago

      Great tips. Although I wouldn't want to take a chance on cruising in the Caribbean during this time of the year.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      haha! That last tip is the best of all!

    • CruiseReady profile image
      Author

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      @zeutron11: Most of the time we do, too. But there have been exceptions.

    • profile image

      zeutron11 5 years ago

      Excellent info. Always had smooth sailing during hurricane season.. must be lucky!

    • profile image

      beannie64 5 years ago

      Great info here. Thanks .

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Good information about hurricanes and cruises.

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 5 years ago

      I'll have to pass this on to my cruising friends.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      My husband and I went on a Windjammer cruise many years ago (in May, so before hurricane season). Several years later, that ship with its captain and crew actually went down and was lost in a hurricane. They had let the passengers off in port then tried to outrun Hurricane Mitch, but Mitch stalled and the Fantome went down with 31 crew aboard. That broke my heart when I learned about it. It was not publicized much, but it's a true story and there's even a book about it. Odds of our being on that cruise at that time? Pretty slim. I'd go again. It was one of the most fun weeks of my life.

    • profile image

      nealberk 5 years ago

      Very little risk, really, in cruising during hurricane season. If you count the number of hurricanes and the days that the hurricanes are likely to be in the same spots you are, in reality the risk is very minor.

      With that said, we have sailed three times in hurricane season. Once we arrived at the private island right after the hurricane passed the area so the water was not crystal clear. Once we chased a hurricane so several nights were a bit rocky.

      No big deal in either case. We just changed our excursions to land based ones in the first case and enjoyed the motion in the second.

      Now some friends of ours were sailing out of Galveston when Ike hit. They got back -late- to a total shambles of a flooded car and a difficult time getting home. Would they have done it differently, no. They now have an adventure to remember that was admittedly inconvenient but ultimately memorable.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens full of useful information. Having lived in Florida all but one year of my life, I personaaly would avoid hurricane season.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      I actually felt seasick just thinking about taking a cruise during a hurricane. But it is for the risk-takers and has it owns benefits. Congrats on the Purple Star. Interesting reading.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 5 years ago from San Francisco

      I've never been on a cruise, may not ever have the opportunity, but your lens title sucked me in, and your lively writing style kept me going, making it easy to travel (with the help of a good imagination) with you. What fun this was! I think if I *were* to go on a cruise, I would want to take it in hurricane season. After all, I love the wind. Maybe we'd catch a bit of it.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Wow! This sounds pretty adventurous!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 5 years ago

      Very interesting for the brave

    • sidther lm profile image

      sidther lm 5 years ago

      I love the advice! Very nicely done and great tips on cruising during hurricane season!

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 5 years ago from McLaughlin

      I love cruising so I love learning about cruising!

    • CruiseReady profile image
      Author

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      @ShamanicShift: Thank you!

    • profile image

      BeyondRoses 5 years ago

      I'm thinking the hurricane season runs into fall ... so most cruises are during the season? Would not want to be on a cruise during a hurricane, too much adventure for me :) Always love your great cruise tips ... Good tips for anytime of the year :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens! I've always wanted to take a cruise, I think the ship itself would be enough of an adventure so anything on land would just be icing on the cake! I'm definitely going to remember this information if I ever get around to it! Thanks so much for an informative lens.

    • profile image

      hamshi5433 5 years ago

      Oh dear Hurricane season cruise! I don't think I can cope that, plus am too scared haha :D

      But for those who enjoy such rides, this is one beautiful and informative guide!:)

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 5 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      My husband refuses to go on a cruise since he was on a ship for two years in the military. I would love to, even in hurricane season. Great tips.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I especially like # 10, which can be applied to all of life, "Bring important cruise accessories: A Great Attitude and A Sense of Adventure", very cool! All great tips, I don't think I would plan my first trip during hurrricane season but to those who will , your tips would be important to pack.

    • CruiseReady profile image
      Author

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      @Diana Wenzel: I couldn't agree more!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Excellent tips. I would, and have, cruised during hurricane season. Only one night of rough seas. I would be in that group of passengers enjoying the adventure no matter what. Life is too short to get all worked up over a change in plans. I say "get over it!" If you are lucky enough to be on a cruise at any time of the year, be grateful and count your blessings. Okay... I'll get off my attitude soapbox now. Ha!

    • profile image

      moonlitta 5 years ago

      Hm I'm just leaving, and it looks a bit like in the hurricane season today, biiig gray clouds and thunders away... So I chose your tip, pack like a survivor:) And off to the , well, bus station...! Have fun this season!

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