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Hurricane Season Realities

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Hurricanes are cyclonic (spinning);  in North America they rotate counter-clockwise. It is the cyclonic nature that differentiates them from other storms, such as a Nor’easter.

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds in the hurricane rise over 74 MPH, and the form becomes cyclonic in nature, with a well defined center or “eye”.

The question is often asked – should we avoid cruising during hurricane season? The answer is generally no (and I’ll explain why).

However, if someone is cruising specifically to visit a particular island, or ONLY for a specific  itinerary, the answer is yes, avoid. During hurricane season there is an increased risk that the cruise lines may have to alter the ship’s itinerary.

If you are going to be totally dissatisfied and unhappy with an itinerary change, you should most certainly avoid cruising during the hurricane season.

There are circumstances where ships must alter their itinerary, forcing them to miss a scheduled port of call, so truthfully one is never guaranteed their chosen cruise ship is going to make all of its scheduled ports.  The chances of that happening does go up significantly during hurricane season.

Yet, even with that said, the actual incidents of that happening would not be considered statistically normal . But the chance it may is always there, and you should be aware of the possibility.

Whether through personal experience, or via news reports, we’re all quite familiar with the devastating, and life threatening power of a hurricane when it makes landfall. Because of the somewhat speculative nature of predicting exact paths of coming hurricanes, evacuation of areas in it’s path (both suggested and/or mandatory) is a difficult task to accomplish in a timely manner.

Sadly, there are always some who either choose to stay, or have no means to evacuate quickly, and these actions cost lives, and often put rescue teams in danger when trying to aid those people.

The fact is, the cruise lines don’t take such chances.

The cruise lines use the most modern forecasting equipment and communications to monitor the paths of large tropical storms and hurricanes. And they don’t take chances with either their assets (ships) or their passengers.

A cruise ship is in the most danger if it is tied up at a pier during such a storm. The safest place for a ship to be during such an occurrence is at sea.

Unlike islands, towns and cities, cruise ships are mobile, and actually are capable of repositioning (moving faster) than the speed with which a hurricane moves.

While a hurricane might have winds in the cyclonic areas of the hurricane in excess of 100 miles per hour, the rate they move horizontally across an area is much slower.

So, if at sea, and with warning, cruise ships can basically “out run” a hurricane. However, even with that knowledge, the cruise lines will normally act with the most caution possible, and alter ship’s itineraries; altering ports of call to keep their ships and passengers safe, while still providing the cruise experience their passengers expect.

While on a ship in such circumstances you may experience rougher seas, but with just the odd exception, other than the change of itinerary, you’re likely to not even have a feeling there is a hurricane out there somewhere.

One such exception, of course, is if the port you are sailing from, or scheduled to return to, is in the direct path of a hurricane, or has been directly and dramatically impacted by a hurricane that has passed.

A ship in a departure port in the path of a hurricane may be forced to leave earlier than scheduled. And conversely, a ship returning from a cruise to a port either in the path of a hurricane, or that has been shut down by a hurricane that has passed, might stay at sea longer than scheduled, or may find a different, safe port, to end the cruise.

In the latter case the cruise lines will arrange passage for passengers either to the original departure city, or to their homes.

In the former case they will notify passengers with as much advance notice as possible, so those passengers can cancel their plans to get to the ship for what was its scheduled departure.

The bottom line regarding cruising during hurricane season — cruise lines will do whatever necessary and possible to protect their 1/2 Billion Dollar ships, and its passengers.

The bottom line from the passengers perspective — you can safely cruise during hurricane season, but be prepared for changes and ALWAYS purchase travel insurance (making sure it has coverage for hurricane incidents).

Often, the very lowest prices of the year are available in the later months of hurricane season. You can take advantage of those low prices, just do so understanding what might happen.

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –



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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time June 19, 2013 at 5:33 am

Sometimes out of necessity the hurricane season for many is the only time they may have to take a cruise, that is fine. For other, $$ may be the factor.

I have cruised during hurricane season and have had ports redirected, as in canceled and a substitutre added.

No problem. However, there may be some rough seas as the captain tries valiantly to shirt the swells from the storm.

Kuki, great education for those not familiar with a hurricane.

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