Cruising during hurricane season might scare you. What happens if you get caught in the ocean during a storm?
Thankfully, this is very unlikely to happen! Cruising during hurricane season is just as safe as any other time of the year. Plus, you can often score some great deals on cruise fares.
While storms are a reality of life and can affect travel anytime during the year, cruise lines work extra hard during hurricane season to monitor any developing storms. They'll work to adjust itineraries if needed to keep everyone safe if a system does pop up.
Here is what you need to know about taking a cruise during hurricane season and why it's totally okay to book a sailing in September or October!
When is hurricane season for cruises?
Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1st to November 30th. The peak occurs during the months of August to October, accounting for 96% of major hurricanes.
Storms are measured on a scale of 1-5 based on their sustained winds and are assigned names from a predetermined list. Major hurricanes start at category 3, with winds of 111-129 miles per hour.
The good news is that hurricanes develop over quite some time. Some fizzle off into the Atlantic, while others gain strength in the warm ocean waters of late summer. This slow process gives cruise lines adequate time to make alternate plans, adjusting itineraries as needed.
The islands that are affected vary
Recent storms have affected The Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and St. Maarten. Of course, the track of each storm is different. Some cruises to Canada and New England have been impacted due to hurricanes moving up the eastern coast of the United States!
Many ships stop for port days in The Bahamas, which is home to a number of cruise lines' private islands, for short 3-4 day cruises.
An archipelago consisting of 700 islands, spread out over 100,000 square miles of sea, the weather varies between Bahamian islands. A storm on one island may not necessarily mean that all of the Bahamas is closed.
Additionally, hurricanes also impact the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean side of Mexico, and Central America, potentially affecting popular ports like Cozumel and Roatán, Honduras. The west coast can see some storms in Mexico and Hawaii, but these are much less common.
Here's why you should cruise during hurricane season
Cruising during hurricane season is completely safe. You will, however, need to keep an open mind! Sometimes, a Bermuda cruise can turn into one to the Bahamas, or you might be forced to return to your embarkation port a day earlier than scheduled. Any modifications made are done to keep everyone -- both crew and passengers -- safe.
If you opt to sail during hurricane season, especially the later half of it, you'll find some amazing prices. This is great if you want to stretch your vacation budget as far as possible! Plus, you can allocate that money toward other add-ons, such as excursions, drink packages, or specialty dining.
Another perk of traveling during the low season is that the islands tend to be less crowded. Fewer people on the beaches and in the town, and the slower pace of life can make your vacation that much more relaxing.
It is also a great time to try a southern itinerary to destinations that rarely experience hurricanes, such as the ABC Islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire.
For those considering a land-based vacation during hurricane season, it is important to know that transportation is limited. With impending news of a storm, airports can get very busy, with limited options to increase capacity to fly people out.
A cruise ship has the ability to sail around a storm to return passengers to their homeport safely or keep the vacation going by altering the itinerary!
How much do cruises cost during hurricane season?
It is important to know how much money you can save if you're able to cruise during hurricane season. To compare, let's look at two sailings onboard Carnival Celebration, one of Carnival Cruise Line's newest ships.
At the time of writing, the cheapest sailing in July 2024 starts at $849 per person for an interior room, and it's only 6-nights! If you could cruise in September, that exact same itinerary drops to $479 per person. Even the 7-night cruises are cheaper, starting at $559 for a sailing that visits Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Mahogany Bay.
Similarly, a 7-night cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas in July 2024 starts at $1,696, while the sailings in September drop as low as $945 per person. Cruising during hurricane season is a great way to sail on the latest and greatest ships at sea without paying a premium for them.
Read more: Best websites to book a cheap cruise
Cruise itineraries during hurricane season
Islands in the Southern Caribbean, like the ABC Islands, are far less likely to be impacted by hurricanes, as they sit below the hurricane belt. There are some great sailings that run during this time with ports of call that offer lots to cruisers:
- Aruba has beautiful white sand beaches. Tourists flock to its famous Eagle and Palm beaches not far from the cruise port. Its capital Oranjestad hosts many amenities, shopping, casinos, and a bevy of restaurants.
- Bonaire is considered a paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers, with its world-famous coral reefs. It is also known for windsurfing and kayaking in the mangroves.
- Curacao’s Dutch architecture lines its capital, Willemstad where there is plenty to see and do, including the floating market. Its numerous beaches occupy the western coast, nearby to the cruise port. Don't forget the infamous Curaçao Liquor Distillery!
Of course, you can still cruise to The Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean, and Western Caribbean. As mentioned earlier, it's just important that you book with an open mind and willingness to be flexible. You should not, for instance, book a cruise because you really want to visit a specific port, such as Perfect Day at CocoCay or St. Maarten.
If your itinerary is modified, you are not entitled to any refund or compensation. Of course, if you don't dock somewhere, port fees, as well as any prepaid shore excursions, should be refunded to your onboard account. But if your cruise goes from an Eastern to a Western Caribbean cruise, you won't be refunded any sort of difference in fare.
Will my cruise get canceled?
Cruise lines don't like to cancel sailings, so if your sailing does end up getting canceled, it was because they deemed it the only option. It is more likely that your sailing will be modified. Perhaps your ship will set sail a date later, or you'll skip a port or two.
If you notice a storm pop up a few days before your cruise, keep a close eye on your email, so you don't miss any important information from your cruise line.
Those on a sailing that ends up being shortened or extended will often be assisted by the cruise line to help them reschedule their post-cruise travel plans. This might come in the form of free internet or phone calls to make it easier to contact airlines and hotels.
Note that if you choose to cancel a cruise because you're worried about it being impacted by a storm, you won't get any kind of refund. In fact, you may be subject to paying the cruise line hefty cancelation fees!
And, of course, if your sailing does end up canceled, you can expect the cruise line to offer you a future cruise certificate, as well as a full refund.
Here's how to plan ahead when taking a cruise during September or October, the peak of hurricane season
While you should always hope for the best, it's important to plan ahead, too. There are a few things that you can do ahead of time to minimize the impact of inclement weather.
- If flying to the port, it is best to arrive at least a day ahead. It makes for a more relaxing morning before the cruise, just wake up and go. Plus, you never know when you'll fall victim to an airline delay or cancellation, whether it's because of a hurricane or not!
- Get good travel insurance that encompasses trip cancelation and interruption in case of delays.
- Keep an eye on the weather because hurricanes don’t pop out of thin air. Instead, they develop over time. A great place to look it NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They're a government agency in charge of forecasting hurricanes and are one of the best sources for verified information.
- Be flexible. Sailing during hurricane season can mean cancelations of ports or changes in itineraries. For example, Hurricane Lee disrupted multiple itineraries during September 2023. Carnival Magic was not able to cruise to Bermuda. Instead, she went from Norfolk, Virginia to Half Moon Cay, Nassau, and Freeport.
Here are some tips on packing for a cruise during hurricane season
In addition to the usual vacation stuff like hats, sunscreen, and swimwear, it's important that you think ahead and bring some other stuff, such as:
- A couple of extra days of prescriptions and any other must-have medications, including those that combat seasickness.
- A compact umbrella and light raincoat or poncho. These will be helpful in the tropics, where rain showers pop up out of nowhere.
- Take your laptop or tablet. If your ship's return is delayed, you can still plug into work and check in with family and friends.
- Make sure to have insurance on hand with relevant contact numbers and policy details.