Hurricane Season is Here!
Now that Hurricane season has arrived, it is time to consider what cruisers should be aware of when traveling during this period. In the Caribbean, hurricane season officially runs between June and November, with the heaviest concentration in the Caribbean during September – November, peaking around October 1st. Hurricanes tend to follow a path that takes them away from the equator, so Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao rarely see a hurricane. In the Caribbean, the south-east part has the least hurricanes, while the the south-west and north-east area has the most. Statistically July has the fewest. By location, the Bahamas has the highest frequency of hurricanes.
Cruise Line Preparations
So what does this mean for us? First and foremost, the cruise lines make safety a top priority for their guests and ships. I know, some will laugh at this with the recent Concordia accident, but the fact is that the cruise lines do make safety their highest priority. They have sophisticated equipment to predict and monitor severe weather. Unlike a resort hotel, a cruise ship can change its itinerary to avoid bad weather. If a severe storm is developing, the cruise lines headquarters being making contingency plans if necessary to re-route the cruise to ports/destinations that won’t be affected by the storm. But you need to be flexible, and check with your travel agent or the cruise line for updates about any possible changes.
Travel insurance can be a good options. But you must purchase the right plan and verify coverage. Look for a policy offering trip cancellation coverage. Trip cancellation coverage varies among insurers and covers (up to stated amounts), pre-paid non-refundable trip costs if you trip is cancelled for a covered reason. Make sure you policy includes cancellation for hurricanes or other natural disasters. Most policies require that the coverage be purchased before the storm is named. Always check the “policy limits for cancellations due to hurricanes or natural disasters.” For example, you can’t cancel if the hurricane has already passed and evacuation orders lifted, even if the port is heavily damaged, unless your hotel (accommodations) are uninhabitable. Similarly, while you might be concerned about a particular storm, the cruise line may take steps to avoid it (change itineraries), and under many policies, if the ship has not cancelled the cruise and your flights to the destination are not cancelled, you cannot unilaterally “cancel” the trip and receive coverage.
Another more flexible option is to look for a policy which offers optional “Cancel for any reason coverage.” It will be significantly more expensive, but provides greater coverage. Again, you must read the terms carefully to fully understand its coverage and limits, but typically you are able to cancel for virtually any reason.
There are several apps which you can download on your Android or iPhone to track weather events. My preference is the free version of HurricaneSoftware. It is easy to use and informative. You are able to view information about any storm (with information about its strength and speed) as well as see predictions for its future track and strength. For anyone traveling during hurricane season on either coast, software like HurricaneSoftware can help you prepare for your trip and anticipate potential weather problems. The app is free, although a professional version is available at a small price.