Cruising throughout hurricane season: What to know — and do you have to go?

Veteran cruisers know that fall is a superb time to snag a deal on a cruise to the Caribbean or the Bahamas. Nevertheless, the offers include an enormous caveat: Fall is hurricane season in these areas, and there’s an opportunity your crusing could possibly be disrupted by a hurricane or tropical storm.

Throughout most years, at the very least a couple of fall cruises are affected by storms. In some years, dozens of voyages are affected.

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Nonetheless, even throughout peak hurricane season weeks (extra on that under), most sailings within the Caribbean and the Bahamas are accomplished and not using a hitch. Right here’s what that you must know earlier than committing to cruising throughout hurricane season in these areas.

When is hurricane season for cruises?

In idea, a hurricane or tropical storm can develop within the Atlantic at any time. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of such storms — about 97%, based on the Nationwide Hurricane Middle — happen between June 1 and Nov. 30 of any given 12 months. That is what’s often called hurricane season within the Atlantic, and it usually brings about 14 named tropical storms, half of which change into hurricanes.

Inside this time-frame, the height interval for tropical storms within the Atlantic, by far, is the stretch of weeks between mid-August and mid-October. That is the important thing “iffy zone,” as I wish to name it, for cruises to the Caribbean and the Bahamas, in addition to sailings out of japanese U.S. ports to Bermuda and New England.

Nonetheless, even throughout peak weeks for hurricane formation, the chances of your cruise being affected by a hurricane are comparatively small. A look at any cruise reserving web site will present lots of of sailings departing for the Caribbean and the Bahamas annually throughout cruise hurricane season. In most years, although, solely a small portion of those are affected by tropical storms.


Even throughout the busiest of hurricane seasons, there shall be many weeks and not using a single tropical storm within the Caribbean or Bahamas. When a big storm does swirl by the Caribbean or Bahamas, it’ll doubtless solely have an effect on a small portion of the area and, thus, solely a small variety of cruise ships.

One factor to remember is that the Caribbean is gigantic compared to the scale of a typical hurricane. The gap between Belize, on the western finish of the Caribbean Sea, and the easternmost Leeward Islands is sort of 2,000 miles. The hurricane-force winds of a typical small hurricane, against this, lengthen simply 25 miles out from its middle. The hurricane-force winds from a big hurricane may lengthen so far as 150 miles from its middle.

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Even an enormous hurricane that’s bearing down on St. Thomas within the U.S. Virgin Islands (a typical port on Japanese Caribbean sailings), for example, is more likely to have little or no influence on a Western Caribbean or Southern Caribbean crusing occurring at the moment.

Attempting to foretell the place tropical storms will hit in any given 12 months is a idiot’s sport. However in case you’re taking part in the chances, one space that’s recognized for seeing fewer storms on common is the southern a part of the Caribbean. The southerly islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (widespread stops on Southern Caribbean itineraries), specifically, are far south of the everyday hurricane observe and expertise few fall storms.

What number of hurricanes are anticipated in 2023?

For the 2023 hurricane season particularly, researchers at Colorado State College presently forecast a barely below-average quantity of hurricane exercise. The college’s annual Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Exercise forecast, launched April 13, predicted 13 named storms for the season as an entire, of which six would change into hurricanes. Of these, two may change into main hurricanes, based on the forecast.

A separate forecast issued April 13 by researchers at North Carolina State College predicted 11 to fifteen named storms in 2023, with six to eight turning into hurricanes and two to a few rising into main hurricanes.

The U.S. authorities’s Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which releases some of the broadly adopted forecasts for hurricanes annually, will not announce its 2023 forecasts for a number of extra weeks.

Your hurricane season cruise itinerary may change

When a tropical storm does seem in a single a part of the Caribbean or Bahamas, the usual response from cruise strains is to reroute ships in that space to different components of the Caribbean or Bahamas which can be effectively away from the storm. This will imply a last-minute change to your cruise itinerary.

Relying on the forecasted observe of the storm, the change could possibly be comparatively minor — a port cease being pushed again by a day, for example, or one port being swapped for one more port. It is also much more important.

To keep away from storms, cruise strains will typically fully rework an itinerary. A ship on an Japanese Caribbean crusing to such stops as St. Thomas and St. Kitts may reroute to such Western Caribbean ports as Cozumel, Mexico, or Falmouth, Jamaica.

In some circumstances, a storm will trigger a port to be dropped from an itinerary with no new port added as a substitute. Often, you’ll see cruises shortened or prolonged by a day or two and even three.

The latter scenario can happen when a storm is forecast to go in between a ship and its house port across the time the vessel is scheduled to be heading house. The ship both will return to the house port early to reach earlier than the storm or keep out at sea for further days to attend for the storm to go.

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In uncommon circumstances when a house port closes as a result of a storm, ships have been recognized to sail to an alternate port to drop off passengers. In such conditions, the vessels typically will depart on their subsequent cruise from the choice port. Cruises often are canceled when a house port experiences prolonged disruptions associated to storms, however that is comparatively uncommon.

You aren’t entitled to compensation for itinerary modifications

Cruise strains aren’t obligated to give you compensation if they modify an itinerary as a result of climate. The fantastic print in cruise contracts permits them to make such modifications once they see match. Nevertheless, that doesn’t imply they by no means provide compensation.

Within the case of a port swap — when one port is substituted for one more — there usually isn’t any compensation supplied. When a port is missed and not using a substitute, although, there’s an opportunity you is likely to be supplied an onboard credit score as compensation. Simply don’t depend on it. Strains can even refund the price of any pay as you go shore excursions scheduled for the missed port and the portion of port taxes and costs you paid prematurely which can be related to that port.

Within the case of a shortened voyage, strains will usually provide a prorated refund for the misplaced days. On the flip facet, when cruises are prolonged, strains usually gained’t cost passengers something extra for the additional days — at the very least for room, board and leisure. Passengers usually will nonetheless must pay for onboard extras akin to drinks and spa therapies.

When cruises are shortened or prolonged as a result of climate, cruise strains will usually assist passengers who want to vary post-cruise journey plans. They may provide free cellphone calls from the ship or free web entry to make it simpler for passengers to contact airways and lodges to make modifications.

You gained’t get a refund in case you cancel a cruise to keep away from a storm

As a rule, cruise strains don’t provide refunds to passengers who cancel a voyage on brief discover, even when there’s an enormous storm brewing within the space the place the cruise is scheduled to happen.

Should you see there’s a hurricane churning towards the Caribbean a couple of days earlier than your departure, you may’t name your cruise line, cancel the journey and anticipate to get your a reimbursement.

From the cruise line’s perspective, the cruise will go on — it simply is likely to be adjusted a bit. (Or not, relying on the way in which the storm tracks over the approaching days.) So far as the road sees it, you’re nonetheless about to get what you paid for: a beautiful cruise trip.

That mentioned, there are exceptions to the rule. When a line is aware of prematurely {that a} storm will trigger a major alteration to a voyage (for example, misplaced days as a result of a delayed departure), it typically will enable passengers to cancel for a refund or credit score towards a future cruise.

This occurred in 2017 when some strains delayed departures out of Florida as Hurricane Irma approached. The strains that delayed departures allowed passengers to cancel for a refund within the type of a cruise credit score. Alternatively, passengers may go forward with the shortened journeys and obtain a prorated refund for the missed days.

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Hurricane Irma making landfall in 2017. MIA2YOU/GETTY IMAGES

When a line cancels a departure outright, it’s typically the case that it’s going to provide passengers not solely a refund for the journey but additionally a future cruise credit score they’ll apply to their subsequent crusing. This form of response was on show in 2017 as Irma’s strategy prompted some strains to cancel itineraries altogether.

One drawback that cruisers encounter in these (comparatively uncommon) conditions the place a cruise line cancels a crusing as a result of a storm is that the cancellation often comes on the final minute. That would go away you in limbo within the days main as much as your cruise, questioning whether or not your cruise is on or not. If a hurricane is headed on your departure port, you might need to determine whether or not to journey to the departure port (and probably right into a harmful storm) or keep house and danger dropping all the cash you paid for the crusing.

Every line approaches compensation points in a different way, and a few are traditionally extra beneficiant than others in providing compensation when storm-related disruptions happen. The responses from strains may fluctuate relying on the circumstances surrounding any given storm.

To keep away from regret, my recommendation is to enter any hurricane-season reserving assuming you’ll not be compensated for storm-caused itinerary modifications and never be capable of get a refund in case you cancel the journey on the final minute.

The chance of the above is one cause you’ll usually get a cruise throughout hurricane season at a cheaper price than you’d throughout different seasons.

Construct wiggle room into your hurricane season journey schedule

Should you’re reserving a cruise throughout hurricane season, remember the fact that tropical climate can have an effect on not solely cruise ships however airplanes, too.

Should you’re flying to your cruise departure level, construct in loads of wiggle room in case air journey is affected by an enormous storm and flights are delayed. Your flight could possibly be delayed by a storm that’s distant from the vacation spot the place you’re flying. Throughout hurricane season, tropical storms transferring by the Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico and up the East Coast of the U.S. can typically snarl air site visitors throughout a large swath of North America.

At TPG, we at all times recommend that cruisers head to their departure ports at the very least a full day prematurely of their sailings simply to be protected, and that is doubly necessary throughout hurricane season. You don’t need a delayed flight to be the rationale you miss your cruise.

Journey insurance coverage is essential for fall cruises

It’s at all times a good suggestion to guide flights and cruises with a card that gives journey protections, and that is particularly necessary throughout hurricane season.

Some playing cards, such because the Chase Sapphire Reserve, will reimburse you for at the very least a number of the prices of journey delays, cancellations and interruptions associated to extreme climate in case you have booked the journey on the cardboard. The journey safety advantages offered by such playing cards may reimburse you for bills when your baggage is misplaced or delayed.

Simply be warned that these advantages usually include quite a lot of fantastic print that may make it robust to gather in some circumstances.

You too can purchase separate journey insurance coverage only for the only journey that can present reimbursement in case you expertise journey delays, cancellations or interruptions. These plans embody quite a lot of fantastic print that limits the circumstances the place they’re legitimate, and so they fluctuate broadly in what they provide.

Whereas journey insurance coverage insurance policies usually will cowl the price of altering a flight or pre-cruise lodge reservation if a storm delays your cruise departure, they often don’t provide compensation within the case {that a} cruise line modifications the ports in your cruise as a result of a storm. Journey insurance coverage insurance policies additionally gained’t assist in case you cancel a cruise to keep away from a storm — until you’ve purchased an expensive “cancel for any cause” coverage.

Additionally be aware that to make any declare below a journey insurance coverage coverage associated to a cruise marred by a hurricane or tropical storm, you must have purchased the coverage earlier than the storm shaped and was formally named.

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Chances are you’ll expertise tough seas

Cruise strains will reroute ships by lots of of miles to keep away from tropical storms and hurricanes. That doesn’t imply you may at all times anticipate easy crusing throughout hurricane season.

If an enormous storm is current within the Caribbean or Bahamas, there’s an opportunity you’ll really feel some movement in your vessel, even when it’s removed from the middle of the storm. Swells from huge storms can journey 1000’s of miles.

Tough seas are by no means enjoyable however that gained’t at all times be the tip of a cruise. JOHNNORTH/GETTY IMAGES

Should you’re notably susceptible to seasickness, hurricane season won’t be the most effective time so that you can cruise. However don’t panic. Cruise ships are constructed with subtle stabilizers that tamp down the consequences of waves. As ships have gotten larger, on common, they’ve additionally change into extra steady. It takes lots to maneuver an enormous vessel like Royal Caribbean’s new Marvel of the Seas — at 236,857 tons, the world’s largest cruise ship.

Any tough seas you could expertise as a result of a close-by storm are more likely to be momentary. Lots of the cruise ships working within the Caribbean can sail at speeds as much as 22 knots, or about 25 miles per hour. Which means they’ll transfer as a lot as 300 miles in in the future. You will be someplace stormy and tough in the future solely to search out your self in sunny and clear circumstances a day later.

Simply as airline pilots maneuver to keep away from turbulence, cruise ship captains and their headquarters-based overseers are keenly conscious of passenger security and luxury. They don’t seem to be shy about making a name to reposition a vessel to calmer seas.

Watch out reserving shore excursions throughout hurricane season

Not all cruisers guide shore excursions by their cruise line. Some guide excursions by different tour corporations akin to or Should you go this route for a hurricane-season cruise, you’ll want to verify cancellation insurance policies earlier than prepaying for excursions.

Whereas cruise strains will mechanically refund you for pay as you go shore excursions you’ve booked instantly with them within the case of a canceled port name, it isn’t a on condition that an outdoor tour firm will do the identical. Some will, for certain, however others require a nonrefundable deposit that could be arduous to get again, even within the case of a storm-caused itinerary change. (Notice that journey insurance coverage insurance policies typically cowl the price of misplaced nonrefundable deposits.)

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Backside line

Cruises that happen within the Caribbean and Bahamas throughout the top of hurricane season will be an unbelievable deal, and lots of are accomplished with nary an issue. Nevertheless, earlier than reserving one, you need to make sure you’re OK with the concept that your itinerary may change on brief discover or be disrupted in another means. It doesn’t occur usually, nevertheless it does occur.

Should you’re reserving a cruise to the Caribbean or Bahamas to see a particular vacation spot — St. Kitts, for example, or the British Virgin Islands — a hurricane-season cruise will not be for you. Nevertheless, in case you’re versatile and need a enjoyable and cheap getaway at sea, there’s no cause to concern the autumn.

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