If you are planning a cruise during hurricane season, be prepared for some possible changes in your cruise itinerary, should a hurricane decide to hit. Hurricane season is typically June 1 to November 30, with the peak being August to late October. You can score some really good deals on cruises during hurricane season.
The cruise lines rarely cancel a cruise but instead will make any adjustments needed to avoid the hurricane. The ports of call may be changed or eliminated, the departure/return dates may be altered, and the duration of the cruise could be shortened or lengthened. The ship may leave a day earlier than the original date of departure in anticipation of a port closure. This was the case with Hurricane Dorian. Carnival was scheduled to leave on a Sunday, but instead, changed the departure to Saturday night.
Cruise ships have also been forced to wait out at sea during a hurricane until the home port opened up again.
All of these changes can wreak havoc on your flight plans and can make for a disappointing cruise experience if you are not prepared ahead of time.
Booking Your Flight:
When cruising during hurricane season, it is especially important to plan on arriving the day before your cruise ship is scheduled to depart. Flight delays and cancellations due to adverse weather conditions have caused many cruisers to miss their cruise ship’s embarkation.
Airlines will oftentimes allow passengers to reschedule their flights for free (without a change fee) if they are flying to a destination affected by the hurricane.
If the cruise ship is delayed in returning, and you know you are going to miss your flight, contact the airline right away and rebook a later flight. If you do not cancel your flight prior to its departure, you will be considered a no-show and no refunds will be issued.
If you have the cruise line set up your flights, check the itinerary to make sure it is correct.
Be sure to sign up for text alerts with the cruise line and check their website to stay informed on any changes that may occur with your cruise.
Purchase Travel Insurance:
Purchasing travel insurance is highly recommended when embarking on a cruise. Weather is unpredictable and hurricanes can quickly shift direction. If your vacation starts to go south (so to speak), you can protect against financial losses by purchasing travel insurance that includes trip cancellation, travel delay, or trip interruption coverage.
If you have to cancel or change your flights to fit the cruise ship’s new itinerary, travel insurance will cover the added expenses or reimburse you for losses. If there is a delay and you have added hotel and food expenses, travel delay insurance will reimburse you for these added costs.
There is one caveat. Travel insurance must be purchased before a hurricane has been named or starts to form. Once it is a named hurricane, you will no longer be able to purchase coverage (or at least not full coverage). Insurance companies view a named hurricane as a foreseeable event.
Trip Cancellation insurance covers the cancellation of a trip for unforeseen reasons that are covered under the policy. Find out exactly what is or is not covered and what is required for filing a claim. Keep all receipts and documentation. If you’re unable to get to your cruise ship because of a canceled flight, you will be reimbursed for expenses paid.
Some insurance policies will offer specific coverage if there’s a NOAA-issued travel warning for your destination. This added option allows you to cancel your trip even if the airline has not issued a cancellation.
If you’d prefer to have the option of canceling your trip if conditions are not favorable, look into a “cancel for any reason” policy. Again, find out what is covered by the policy and the allowable reasons for cancellation. When it comes to insurance, “cancel for any reason” does not include every reason. There are still stipulations.
Trip Interruption insurance covers expenses for returning home early or rerouting to another location. If you’re unable to make it to your final destination (because of a storm or for other reasons), it will reimburse you for the added costs involved.
Airlines and cruise lines offer travel insurance for an additional cost when you purchase your trip. However, you can oftentimes find better coverage at a reasonable cost with an outside travel insurance company. It’s worth investigating other options.
What to Expect from the Cruise Line:
If the cruise line cancels your cruise, you will generally receive a full refund. Some cruise lines will offer an additional credit that can be used toward a future cruise. However, if you cancel your cruise because of hurricane conditions and changes to your itinerary, you will usually not receive a refund. There may be instances where the cruise line will offer a credit toward a future cruise if there are significant changes to the itinerary, or they will offer a prorated refund if the days of the voyage are reduced. Such was the case with Hurricane Dorian when cruise ships had to leave ahead of the scheduled departure date or shorten the voyage. It all depends on the cruise line.
As a general rule, passengers are not given compensation for storm-related changes in a cruise ship’s itinerary. If a port of call is skipped, you should receive an onboard credit for any port charges and shore excursions you paid for through the cruise line. If you book your shore excursion independently (outside the cruise line), you will be responsible for canceling it and requesting a refund. Some shore excursion operators will give you a refund, while others do not allow for cancellations and may refuse. Before booking an individual tour, find out what the cancellation policy is.
Even if a port of call is not canceled, the cruise ship can make last-minute changes in the time it arrives and departs from a port. These changes could conflict with your shore excursion. You don’t want to be late in returning to your cruise ship. If the tour was not set up through the cruise line, the ship will leave without you.
Cruise ships are able to either outrun or bypass hurricanes, and they try to stay far enough away to avoid the turbulence. If the cruise ship has to skirt the edges of the storm, it may result in passengers experiencing rough seas. Be sure to pack some remedies to ward off seasickness.
By knowing what to plan for, you can minimize your financial losses and reduce your disappointment with itinerary changes if a hurricane decides to hit at cruise time. You can decide in advance to have a good time, regardless of the changes.
For more insightful travel ideas, check out my book,
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad