Hurricane Dorian is on everyone’s minds right now. People are worried about the devastation in the Bahamas as well as the potential destruction to the southeast coast of the U.S. In addition to those concerns, I see a lot of online chatter in cruise groups about the risks of cruising during hurricane season and how hurricanes impact travel. People are crushed that their vacations have been ruined, while others are callously saying they should have known to avoid cruising during hurricane season.
Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean have all been impacted by Hurricane Dorian this week. Should you avoid cruising during hurricane season?
When is Hurricane Season?
Technically, hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. That’s half of the year!
However, most hurricanes occur from mid-August through the end of October, so that’s what most people think of as hurricane season. The exact timing of hurricanes is unpredictable, but they do give us a lot of advance warning once they form.
How Hurricanes Affect Cruising
Modified Itinerary: This is the most common effect of a hurricane on cruise ships. Most of the time, cruise ships simply sail around the storm. This could turn an Eastern Caribbean cruise to a Western Caribbean cruise or cause a single port substitution.
Shortened/Lengthened Cruise: If a U.S. port is expected to close due to a storm, a cruise might return early or stay out at sea a few more days. This is exactly what happened this week on the Disney Dream. A 3-day weekend cruise turned into a 6-day cruise.
Canceled Cruise: If a cruise length is extended, the next cruise may be canceled. This week’s scheduled 4-night cruise on the Disney Dream was canceled due to the previous cruise’s extension.
Turbulent Waters: Even if a ship sails around a hurricane, it can encounter choppy water if the storm changes course or the ship gets too close. This happened in 2012 when the Disney Fantasy got a little too close to Hurricane Sandy. You can see the aftermath in this video.
Upsides to Cruising During Hurricane Season
Some folks wonder why people are crazy enough to even plan a cruise during hurricane season. There are a few upsides that make it worthwhile.
Cost: Outside of the end of summer vacation, cruises during hurricane season can be much cheaper than cruising during summer, spring break or Christmas. My family cruised in October a few years ago to take advantage of the lower price.
Crowds: Since school is in session from late August to early December, fewer kids are on board cruise ships. While the ships still try to fill every room by offering discounts, overall crowds on cruise ships are down due to rooms being occupied by couples instead of families with kids.
Precautions to Take Before Cruising During Hurricane Season
If you do decide to roll the dice and book a cruise during prime hurricane season, make sure to take these precautions:
Get Travel Insurance: Always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance when you go on a cruise. This is even more crucial during hurricane season. Travel insurance can reimburse you for expenses related to canceled flights and date changes.
Pack Extra Clothes: Your 3-night cruise could turn into a 4-night or longer cruise. Pack an extra shirt and a few extra undergarments just in case.
Have a Backup Plan: If you’re cruising during peak hurricane season, have a backup vacation plan in case your cruise is canceled. If your cruise was leaving out of Port Canaveral, visiting Disney World could be your backup plan. Or, if your flight is canceled, pick an alternative vacation you can access by road trip.
I’ve cruised during peak hurricane season, and I would do it again. In my opinion, you can’t stop your life for six months out of the year just in case a hurricane happens. Understand the risks, take some precautions but otherwise hope for the best.
Would you book a cruise during hurricane season? Why or why not?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.