Tag Archives: Hurricane Season

Cruising During Hurricane Season

3 Aug

Caribbean hurricane season runs from May-November. This means if you’re going to be cruising to Bermuda, the Bahamas, or any part of the Caribbean during these months that your travel plans could be affected by severe weather.

It can sometimes be a hassle or a disappointment, but your safety is the Captain’s #1 priority, and any changes he/she makes are to keep you out of danger. If you are prepared, have good travel insurance, and keep an open mind then you will still have the trip of a lifetime in spite of the weather.

Sailing Around the Storm
My first cruise to Bermuda was during a hurricane, and I was a basket case worrying that the cruise would be canceled or our beach excursion would be ruined by rain. This is what happened – the Captain diverted us way out to sea so we could sail around the storm. We were late getting to Bermuda and missed Day 1 (of 3), but when we arrived the storm was over and the sky was blue.

Change of Itinerary
I’ve heard of cruise lines reversing the itinerary. For example, if you were going to go to Costa Maya-Roatan-Cozumel they may flip it to Cozumel-Roatan-Costa Maya instead. Sometimes they will go to a different port if it’s available. One time a cruise ship couldn’t get to Bermuda safely so the Captain sailed north and went to Canada instead. In fact, that is how Saint John, New Brunswick first became a cruise ship destination (incidentally I always pack a some warm outfits just in case this happens again). Bermuda-bound ships have also been rerouted to the Bahamas. Also, the Captain may cancel a port of call completely and make it a sea day instead. It’s disappointing when that happens, but your safety is their biggest priority. Usually no compensation is given when ports are cancelled, but they should refund your port fees and taxes. Seems unfair, but that’s just how it is. Read your contract carefully and know what is refundable and what isn’t so that you’re not disappointed. Many things you’d expect to receive compensation for are excluded. Unlike a retail store, you won’t get your money back if you’re disappointed.

Seasickness
The seas on my cruise were rough, and even the most hardy folks can get sick when sailing around a hurricane. I’m a roller coaster thrill ride fanatic, but even I get a little nauseated when the boat is rocking. There are lots of remedies out there from green apples and ginger to wrist bands and pills. If you are truly seasick don’t leave it to chance. Prevention is the best bet. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you. I always bring prescription patches with me just in case the water is rough. There are lots of great medications available by prescription or over-the-counter, but they all have side effects or limitations. Your primary care provider is the best person to advise you on what’s best for you.

Pack Extra Just In Case
Always bring extra medicine and clothing in case you cannot return home on the day you expected. Ships have been known to extend the cruise of an extra day or two because severe weather prevents them from reaching the home port. While it sounds like a dream come true to me to have a 7-day cruise turn into 8 or 9 days, it can be devastating if you don’t have enough medicine or supplies with you.

Back Up Plan
It’s also a good idea to have a back up plan in place in case you are late coming home. What will you do if you can’t make it into to work? Who will take care of the dog or the kids for that extra time? If the storm is also affecting your hometown will someone be able to board up the windows, put the patio furniture inside, etc.?

Travel Insurance
I’ve written an entire thread on this and could write a dozen more. This is an important topic that many people seem to ignore so I’m not going to sugar coat it. If you cannot afford to lose the money you’ve spent on the cruise, then please always get travel insurance. Do your research and make sure you get insurance that covers the things relevant to you (i.e. trip delay, lost luggage, medical problems, cancel for any reason, work related events, etc.). Cruise lines generally will not give you your money back for expenses that occur as a result of weather. This is why you need insurance if losing that money, or incurring additional expenses, will be a hardship for you.

Hurricanes have been known to result in delayed departures that require a hotel stay. Imagine if you’re sailing out of New York, and after you’ve hopped on the plane, you find out the ship will be leaving a day later – how much is a hotel going to cost you at the last minute in NYC? The cruise line could even decide to sail a day early and you need to rearrange your flight – can you afford to the fees associated with changing your flight? You could miss the ship if it suddenly needs to leave the port an hour early because of a storm – can you afford to pay for a hotel and flight to the next port (or back home)?

The cruise line is not obligated to help you in any way if these things happen. The usual exceptions would be if you booked your flight through them and the flight gets delayed.  Or you were on a ship-sponsored excursion and the ship left before you got back. But if you booked your own flight, or were off doing your own thing on the island, then the cruise line probably won’t be willing to reimburse you for the unexpected expenses that were incurred as a result.

Sometimes, very rarely, a cruise line will have a change of heart when many passengers are affected by the same issue. However, don’t count on this. The lack of monetary compensation is an industry standard so no matter which company you sail with this will most likely be the case. You’ll probably find it buried deep within the fine print of your contract. Read more the importance of travel insurance and how Hurricane Irene affected travelers in 2011.

In Conclusion
If you find your cruise is affected by the weather try to keep a positive attitude. You are still on a luxurious ship with crew that is there to cater to your every need. Make the best of it and take advantage of the indoor activities the ship has. You’ve got gourmet restaurants, professional entertainment, casinos, night clubs, health club, spa, scrapbook classes, wine tastings, and whatever other activities your cruise has on board to help you pass the time. You’re still on vacation, so enjoy it!

Travel Insurance: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irene

28 Aug

If you’re planning a vacation be smart and get travel insurance. In 2011, hundreds of travelers were left stranded because of Hurricane Irene and we can learn from their experience.

When is Hurricane Season?
In the Caribbean hurricane season runs from May through November, and in the Atlantic it is from June through November. So if you’re planning a cruise to the Caribbean, Bermuda, or the Bahamas during that time you need to prepare for the possibility your cruise might be impacted by severe weather.

What Happened to Cruise Passengers During Hurricane Irene?

  • Left Behind in Puerto Rico – About 450 passengers got stranded in San Juan, Puerto Rico when their ships were forced to depart earlier than expected at the last minute. Royal Caribbean claimed that they didn’t have enough time to contact the passengers that were left behind. Out of these 145 Royal Caribbean passengers, 15 of them were lucky to have booked their air travel through the cruise line and were given a hotel room and a flight to meet the ship at the next port. The other 130 had to fend for themselves. This means they had to find and pay out of pocket: hotel, meals, and a flight to the next port. This could easily amount to thousands of dollars. If these passengers had travel insurance they still would have to pay up front, but those expenses would be reimbursed by their travel insurance company. Carnival Cruise lines had 300 passengers left behind and kindly gave them all hotels and flights to meet the ship regardless of whether or not the passengers had booked air transfers through them, but this is the exception to the rule. In fact, they are under no obligation to do so. It says it in the fine print of your contract when you purchase your ticket. Unless you are a gambler, then be prudent and get travel insurance.
  • Early Departure From New York – Several cruise lines had to depart early from New York, too. This time passengers were given 24 hours notice so they could try their hardest to get there in time, but certainly some did not make it. Again, if they had booked their flights through the cruise line they would be all set, but if not they would need to incur all the expenses themselves. Travel insurance would have made that burden a lot lighter.
  • Lost a Day – There was also another totally different problem that arose because of Hurricane Irene. Some cruise passengers had their trip shortened by a day. While some cruise lines offered to reimburse the passengers for part of the missed day, others may not. The cruise line does not have any responsibility or obligation to reimburse passengers for the missed day. One should assume that they will not. If in the end they do then be pleasantly surprised. Travel insurance will pay for that missed day. Why leave it up to chance? Protect your investment.
Other Reasons for Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a wise thing to have even when you are not heading into hurricane season. There are dozens of other reasons your trip might be interrupted, canceled, or cut short. Here are three biggies:
  • Medical – You, an immediate family member, or your travel partner could get sick, injured, or die either before or during your vacation. Traditional customer service rules do not apply to the travel industry. They will not feel sorry and give you a refund no matter how heartbreaking your situation is. Life is unpredictable. I was an emergency department nurse and have seen every conceivable unexpected thing happen to people right before they are about to leave on their trip of a lifetime. Some things have even happened to me. My mother suddenly got very ill while I was away in Bermuda. In fact she died 12 hours after I got home. It was good to know I could fly home at a moments notice and not have to worry about how much it was going to cost. My parents had booked a trip to Turkey and Greece that month as well. Needless to say it didn’t happen and thankfully they always take out travel insurance so my father didn’t have to deal with that burden in addition to the loss of his beloved wife.
  • Lost Luggage – Airlines and cruise line occasionally lose luggage. If this happens you’re sailing off to paradise with only the clothes on your back. Travel insurance will help you recoup the losses of buying new clothing. It’s tricker when you’re on a cruise because you can’t just go to the mall and go shopping. You’re stuck shopping on the ship or at port which can be pricey.
  • Company Going Under – This happened to a dear friend of mine. All her life she wanted to go to Ireland and when she finally got to go, the travel company went bankrupt and left her stranded in Ireland half way through the trip. She had to pay for the hotel (which the company had defaulted on) and her flight back to the United States. Sadly she did not have travel insurance and lost it all including the cost of the trip!
Additional Resources
There are plenty of people that know a lot more about insurance than I do, so here’s a link to some experts that will help guide you in the right direction:
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