High winds on the high seas and what to expect when it happens to you
Watching news reports of the devastation wreaked by hurricanes when they make land might make you a little queasy about being aboard a ship in the ocean during such weather events. Thoughts of churning seas and a heaving deck beneath your feet in the midst of powerful tropical storms can definitely make your sea legs go weak, but don't worry. A cruise ship is one of the safest places to be during hurricane season. Here's why.
What is the hurricane season in the Caribbean?
Hurricane season in the Caribbean officially runs from June 1 through November 30. This is just a general guideline of when conditions are right for powerful tropical storms to develop. Cyclonic storms can develop as early as April or as late as December.
Some time frames are more active than others during hurricane season. In the Eastern Caribbean and along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., cyclonic weather is most likely from mid-August to mid-September. Storms track more into the Western Caribbean from September to early November.
How cruise lines handle hurricane season
Cruise lines have a substantial investment in both their ships and their passengers' well-being and take every precaution to not put either in harm's way.
- Cruise lines schedule trips to the Eastern or Western Caribbean during times when hurricane activity is lowest.
- Cruise lines have entire teams of people dedicated to analyzing and tracking storms and making decisions about substituting ports of call, extending or shortening cruises, and other storm-related changes.
- Cruise ships change their itinerary to sail out of harm's way. Ships travel above 20 knots, while hurricanes move only at 10 to 12 knots on average.
To cruise or not to cruise?
Although cruising during hurricane season is safe, there are other reasons you might pass. Tropical moisture during hurricane season brings more humidity, meaning hot, muggy weather as a backdrop to port activities. Higher humidity also means more mosquitoes and other biting insects along with it. However, if you're willing to brave the weather and don't mind slathering yourself in insect repellent, you can get some of the best prices on cruises for the entire year.
How to prepare for cruising during hurricane season
Although cruise lines will work to keep you out of harm's way, you can do some things to make cruising during hurricane season easier on you and your wallet.
- Buy trip insurance when you schedule your trip. Although cruise lines will tweak their itinerary to keep you safe, you could end up missing the boat altogether if you experience airport delays because of bad weather.
- Be flexible. Make sure that any port activities you schedule on your own have a refund policy if your ship changes itineraries due to a tropical storm. Hurricane season isn't the time to meet up with family or friends at a big destination wedding or reunion in the Caribbean, as you might end up elsewhere. Expect that your ship's pool, water slides and other on-deck attractions might close during rough weather and plan accordingly.
- Take seasickness precautions. Even though cruise ships give tropical storms and hurricanes a wide berth, choppy seas are still a possibility. Bring ginger candies, over-the-counter motion sickness remedies or get a prescription for stronger medications from your doctor. Eat light, bland food like bread or crackers if you're queasy on board or visit the ship's doctor to get a shot to ease your symptoms.
Hurricane seasons around the world
Although Atlantic hurricane seasons run from June 1 through November 30, other parts of the world experience hurricanes too.
- Northeast Pacific: May 15 to November 30. Storm activity peaks during August and September in the region between Mexico's Pacific Coast and the International Dateline.
- Northwest Pacific: The area from the International Dateline to Asia experiences hurricanes year-round with most storms between July 1 through November 30. Weeks during late August and early September are the height of hurricane season in these waters.
- South Pacific: Hurricane season spans October 15 through May 15.
- Northern Indian Ocean: The northern part of the Indian Ocean includes the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Its hurricane season spans April 1 through December 31.
- Southern Indian Ocean: When planning cruises around Africa and Australia, expect hurricane weather from October 15 through May 31.