The Realities of Cruising During a Hurricane
PHOTO: Carnival and other cruise lines have to make difficult decisions during times when a hurricane presents a clear danger. (Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line)
As Hurricane Matthew, or any such tropical storm, wreaks havoc in the Caribbean, cruise lines are forced to alter their itineraries, and unfortunately there’s not much passengers or the ships themselves can do about it.
While planning on a cruise to specific ports of call and then having to forego many or all for replacements or none is disappointing, the bottom line is that any rerouting is done for the sake of guest safety. Safety always comes first in the minds of the cruise lines, and if you’re along for the ride, the best thing to do is just try and take any alterations in stride.
Anything weather related is outside the cruise lines’ control, and per policy, companies are not required to offer compensation for any changes in itinerary regardless of how extreme, save for refunded port fees. However, many often choose to offer some as an act of good will. In the case of Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Pride originally scheduled to sail to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport from Baltimore this week, the ship had to alter course heading north instead of south.
Alternative ports of call for the Carnival Pride were set to be New York City and Saint John, New Brunswick, but another weather system required the ship to even bypass the latter, forcing it to stop only in New York. Carnival did, however, again as good will, give its guests the option to cancel for a full refund ahead of the sailing had they chose, so passengers on the sailing effectively took a chance on the finalized itinerary.
Of course, such drastic alterations are extremely rare, even during hurricane season – typically running from June 1 to November 30 – and should not deter travelers from booking a cruise. Should any changes be required on a sailing, the cruise line will always make a concerted effort to provide guests with the best possible experience. Captains will seek out calmer waters with warm sunshine above, and the entertainment staff will plan activities to fill the day with fun.
If all else fails, read no port is available to dock at, guests can expect unscheduled sea days onboard, which I recently described as some of the best to be enjoyed on a cruise. After all, sometimes destinations are closed entirely until storms pass as has happened at Port Canaveral in Florida recently. In those situations, ships planning to moor there must find an alternate embarkation and disembarkation port or wait until it reopens to return. If you’re passenger onboard at the time, that can actually mean your cruise is extended, an unforeseen benefit.
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