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How safe is cruising during the hurricane season?

Published:Tuesday | July 12, 2022 | 12:10 AM

For the trepid vacationer, the idea of taking a cruise during the hurricane season may seem an unnecessary risk. However, cruising during this period is considered quite safe with cruises rarely cancelled because of storms.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, is predicted to be another above-average period this year, with 14 to 21 named storms predicted, of which three to six could become major hurricanes.

With the Caribbean, a popular cruise region, heavily impacted by hurricanes, tropical storms and depressions, ports in the zone may be affected but cruise lines and ships are usually prepared for these instances.

Though the hurricane season lasts for half the year, most storms typically form in its peak season which lasts from mid-August to mid-October. Even then, booking cruises during this period is still fairly secure, and here’s why.

Cruise ships are equipped with technology that includes weather maps and satellite images and communication equipment that keep crews abreast of where storms are and their projected paths, which helps them to steer clear of those danger areas. While intended ports of call may be affected, cruise ships are generally able to easily navigate away from inclement weather associated with storms.

Once redirected, cruise ships may either call at other ports which are able to accommodate them or spend an additional day at sea to avoid a storm passing through the area. Even if ships do encounter rough waters while rerouting, stabilisers – which lift ships above choppy waters and prevent the movement from being too noticeable – and other vessel features, help them avoid tilting to either side.

A drawback, though, is that cruise lines are not obligated to compensate passengers for a change in itinerary, although some will offer minor compensation. In instances of shortened cruises, lines may offer a prorated refund. On the other hand, should the trip be lengthened bcause of poor weather, passengers usually have no additional charges for basic provisions such as room, food and entertainment.

What’s more, securing travel insurance is key, should one want protection from delays or cancellations, as this can provide a financial buffer for passengers who need to make alternate plans if their cruise is interrupted.

Additionally, booking during the hurricane peak season does have one benefit – cheaper prices. Because of the lessened demand for cruise travel during this period, lines may offer lower fares to attract more travellers. This drop in travel interest has the added benefit of less crowded destinations with passengers able to enjoy towns and excursions with less hassle.

While planning for a cruise, it’s difficult to predict when a hurricane will hit, as these affect all parts of the Caribbean. However, knowing where they are least likely to strike is often useful information, as ports in the southern Caribbean, such as Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, are usually outside the reach of major storms.

Remember that cruises are generally safe, even during the hurricane season, and are exciting and usually less expensive than other vacation options. But remaining flexible, should there be sudden changes, will be key to your enjoyment.