Will You Cruise During Hurricane Season?
It still remains to be seen whether this year's hurricane season will bring as much devastation as last year's, which spawned a record-breaking 28 named storms. But with the memory of last year still so fresh -- and with the damage still visible in places like New Orleans and Cozumel -- we wanted to know: How are cruisers feeling about sailing during this year's hurricane season?
We asked, and over 1,000 of you responded. The overwhelming consensus? Most Cruise Critic members haven't been scared off at all. Many are eager to take advantage of low hurricane-season cruise fares, while others simply believe that life's too short to worry about disasters that may or may not ever happen.
Of course, we can't ignore the small but vocal minority for whom last year's hurricane season was the last straw. "I used to cruise during hurricane season every year, because of the discounted prices. However, in the past few years, the frequency and severity of storms has changed my plans," writes member kkmonga. Another member, cowtowncowgirl, says it was actually the 2004 season that put her over the edge: "After sailing through the back of Hurricane Ivan the previous year, we are not really interested in cruising again for a long, long time!"
Because readers are so concerned about this year's hurricane season, we've created the brand-new Hurricane Zone, where you can find all the latest hurricane news, facts and cruise travel information. Be sure to check back frequently!
Missed our poll? Share your thoughts, advice and horror stories on our Hurricane Season forum!
Read on to learn why our readers are willing to cruise during the season, what it's like to go through a hurricane at sea, and what advice they'd give to those sailing this year. Just to recap, our poll asked the following questions:
Did last year's devastating hurricane season affect your decision on whether to cruise this year?
Summary: The vast majority of readers -- nearly 85 percent -- responded that last year was simply a busier season than normal and that it didn't really affect their decision to cruise this year. Almost 16 percent admitted that last year scared them enough to avoid cruising during this year's hurricane season.
Have you ever cruised to the Caribbean, the Bahamas or Bermuda during hurricane season (June 1 - November 30)?
Summary: Considering that hurricane season encompasses half the year, it's perhaps no surprise that 70 percent of our readers answered in the affirmative -- and said that they'd happily do it again. Less than 7 percent responded that they had cruised and regretted it. Nearly 17 percent of our readers said they hadn't cruised during hurricane season yet but would consider it, while the remaining 6.5 percent vowed that that the possibility would never cross their minds.
Are you planning on cruising to any of these regions during this year's hurricane season? A healthy majority of our readers either have a cruise planned already (57 percent) or are at least considering it (12 percent). A little over 30 percent are avoiding the region this year.
If you have previously cruised during hurricane season, how was your itinerary affected?
Summary: For most folks who responded, itinerary changes were fairly minimal. Over 42 percent of our respondents had no changes at all, while about a quarter missed or switched a port or two. About 12 percent of our readers had some bad weather in port without any itinerary changes, while only 5 percent suffered major changes like missing several ports or having their cruise canceled.
If you're willing to take the chance, what's your main reason for cruising during hurricane season?
Summary: The winner here was "the great prices, of course!" -- a response that garnered more than half of the votes. But a solid third of our readers also find hurricane season the most convenient time of year to cruise, whether they prefer summertime when the kids are out of school, or fall because the kids are back in school. We got a few write-in responses here as well; some readers liked seeing fewer crowds in port during the season, while others (with strong stomachs, we assume) actually enjoy the potential for rough seas.
What's your biggest concern about cruising during hurricane season?
Summary: About 45 percent of our readers cited "the possible inconvenience" -- which includes potential flight delays, other transportation issues and rainy weather in port. Another 23 percent admitted to being frightened of being caught in a storm at sea, while 20 percent were concerned about missing a port they really wanted to visit. Other folks worried about getting seasick, having their cruise canceled or leaving their houses vulnerable to storms while they're away.
Do you buy trip insurance?
Summary: Our readers err on the side of caution, with over two-thirds reporting that they buy trip insurance for every cruise they take, or at least for the ones they take during hurricane season. The other 31 percent give it a pass, claiming it's not worth the extra expense.
Beyond the stats, the most interesting results from our poll were your comments. Read on for the highlights!
"I don't like to live in fear. I will not avoid activities I love because there is a chance of danger. This could be another season of serious hurricanes, but I'm willing to risk it for the much more likely chance that everything will be okay and I'll have a wonderful time!" -- perkyblue
"I vacation in October every year. So far I have been very lucky. Please don't jinx me!" -- Carolrd
"This season may be as bad or worse, but I don't think cruise lines want to lose their big expensive ships and will do what they need to do to keep passengers as safe as possible. Hurricane season is for six months, and that's too many months not to cruise out of fear! Gonna get out there and give it a try if you love cruising like I do." -- eyejayweb
"A fellow on our ship said it well, 'Even my worst cruise was still good!' I had to agree." -- Bruce&Pam
Or Not to Cruise...
"When I cruise I want to make sure it's the itinerary I want and during hurricane season you can't count on that. I know firsthand how powerful a hurricane is and airports are forced to close when the winds are strong. Why chance it when you can cruise the Caribbean any time of the year." -- Cruz Crazy
"After a cruise that ended in San Juan we boarded our plane for the return flight to Tampa. We then proceeded to fly through the worst weather I've ever experienced, land at a completely deserted airport with all bridges closed. My husband and I decided that we would never fly or cruise during hurricane season again." -- karenandgoose
"It was nerve-wracking not knowing if your ship would sail, or where it would sail from ... being moved from one ship to another ... and then not knowing what ports would be there ... it is not a great feeling." -- Luv Cruisin'
"It's not worth missing a port, looking at 18-foot seas or being hit by a rogue wave." -- Cassandra
Safer at Sea
"The safest place to be during hurricane season is, precisely, on a cruise ship. You can't run away from a storm when you are on land; on a ship you can sail away from the storm!" -- anonymous
"We live in S. Florida and felt the full force of Wilma -- believe me, I'd rather be safely and comfortably away on a cruise ship than sitting in the dark for a week!" -- AlanFromFL
"Well, let's see, 1) Cruise ship with some rough seas, or 2) Holed up in a battened down house, with numerous relatives and all their pets, intermittent electricity, etc&.I choose option 1." -- rose102798
"Earthquakes, tornados, floods, tsunamis -- now those are things to be afraid of. There is little or no advance warning and sometimes terrible impacts and loss of life. Hurricanes? Lots of worry, but plenty of advance warning -- mainly a property damage nightmare -- but we can always replace 'stuff.' Folks should understand that a cruise ship is a fairly safe place to be (unless we are 'hurricane hunters') in a hurricane." -- anonymous
"The Captain doesn't want to go through the storm any more than his passengers. They will go in the other direction if needed. They will do what is safest for everyone (hopefully)." -- Lois R
"Hurricanes are no surprise. Cruise lines can redirect their ships (within reason) to safety. Cruise lines will not head a multi-million-dollar vessel directly into harm's way!" -- marcieta
It's All a Roll of the Dice
"I believe that when your time is up, it's up, and no matter what you are doing, that's it. Might as well be cruising as anything else. At least I would be having a good time." -- Spikesgirl
"The chances of being caught in a hurricane are miniscule. Besides, we all need a little excitement in our lives." -- seamama1
"It's just the luck of the draw. I think we will have more and stronger storms ... but you pays your money and you takes your chances." -- annelh
Your Biggest Fears
"I am more worried about a hurricane at my departure port since if I can't get to the port I can't cruise. Once I am onboard I don't care where I go!" -- bearette
"Will my dog be okay back home. Can't we take him with us?" -- Betcat
"My only big concern is having the entire trip canceled. However, I think that's a pretty rare occurrence. However, if [port changes, flight delays and other inconveniences] put my fellow passengers in poor moods ... argh." -- anonymous
"Being sent to Canada rather than the Caribbean." -- Slepage
"The biggest concern is feeling awful when I've formed bonds with people and places that suffer soon after we leave. I worry about the crew riding it out at sea. I feel bad about the devastation. I don't think I'll ever get over what happened in [New Orleans]." -- Sandycruise
Trip Insurance: Yea or Nay?
"You are crazy if you don't [purchase trip insurance]. We witnessed a helicopter airlift of a seriously ill passenger once. You buy the insurance for the catastrophic event, not for the inconvenience of lost luggage." -- jkramer763
"Since hurricanes seem inevitable during this season and insurance is terribly expensive, it would seem wise for cruise companies to offer insurance free of charge. That way, they might hope to fill their ships as this is a wonderful time to cruise if it's hurricane free." -- Ann Recesso
"We weren't big believers in trip insurance until we came very near missing a cruise due to circumstances beyond our control. Thereafter, we have always purchased trip insurance and, fortunately, we've never had to use it." -- Tantsee
"$89 is a small price to feel safe. It'll be far less than my bar bill." -- anonymous
Hurricane Tales, Part I: When Good Cruises Go Bad
"My husband and I were on Cunard's Countess during Hurricane David in 1979. The winds were 110 miles an hour and the railing was blowing off the ship along with the deck chairs. Felt like we were on an elevator that plummeted up and down 10 stories. Lots of people were seasick. But all that wasn't as bad as the devastation we saw passing Dominica and when we got to Barbados. After the storm was over, we had a tour of the bridge and saw all the excellent tracking equipment onboard. I wish we could have seen it before the storm -- I wouldn't have been so worried." -- Arlene Kaplan
"Our RCCL cruise in September 2004 started out uneventfully [until we ran into Hurricane Ivan]. Losing a couple of ports was a given, or so I thought. Our daring and quite young captain decided to prove his mettle in order to assure us three ports of call, whatever it took. What it took was sailing right into the back side of one of the most powerful storms to enter the Gulf of Mexico in many, many years. It was 36 hours of nausea, headache, pitching, rocking and rolling. My husband was on an aircraft carrier in the Navy and had only once gone through what this 'dude' put us through. You would get up to walk to the bathroom and you would get pitched back onto the bed. And we were in the dead center of the ship on deck three. We are talking 35-ft. seas, and 87 m.p.h. winds. He laid us out, head into the waves, to ride most of it out, but I think most of us could have lived without the 'oh so fabulous' ports of Belize City and Costa Maya. It was ridiculous! It ruined most of the cruise, and sadly it never had to happen. That's a big ocean out there and we could have steered clear!" -- cowtowncowgirl
"We were cruising on RCCL's Majesty of the Seas on 8/16/92 in the Caribbean, returning to Miami on 8/24. Several ships had already been diverted and sent back out to sea. For some unknown reason our ship was the last one allowed to enter the port. Everything was blowing; palm trees were bent completely over and touching the ground; sky very green and scary; not too many vehicles on the streets since everyone had been evacuated! They got us off the ship, not in record time I might add, and we went through the normal procedure of finding our luggage, getting on a shuttle, and trying to proceed to the airport. We did not even know if our plane would be taking off to St. Louis or not, but guess they thought we would be safer there than on the streets! My daughter and her friend were younger, so of course they were starting to panic! We got to the airport, did normal procedure and then we waited (with two screaming girls) to see if our flight would be canceled. Fortunately it was not! We were very glad to get out of there." -- Dora Rohan
"We sailed between two hurricanes last October. The seas were very rough and even though I was on the patch, I spent 75 percent of my time in bed on the ship. You couldn't take a shower without holding a hand on the wall it was swinging so bad. I cruised on two occasions before that and had no problems so I knew it was highly unusual. One of the blackjack dealers passed out while she was dealing cards. They were passing out barf bags all over the ship. I just stayed in the room and had room service." -- augustasmom
"Our scariest moments came on our trip through the Panama Canal from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale. Two days out of Los Angeles on our way to Cabo, the Sun Princess ran into a horrific hurricane ... Juliet I think was the name. Waves crashed over the 10th floor, windows were blown in and plate glass doors fell over. We saw grown men actually crying with fear in the halls. This storm lasted for almost 24 hours as we believe the captain sailed straight for the storm instead of away from it. When we arrived at the port, it was closed and the ship headed out into the thick of the storm again. Many passengers got off at the first port we sailed into, and would not get back on. Even though my husband and I are boaters from way back, this trip really shook us up ... I even slept in my life jacket ... for all the good that was going to do me." -- MBobst@aol.com
"I finally understood why the Titanic passengers didn't get off the ship. You think you're on this big invincible ship and nothing can happen to you ... until you see it tossed around like a toy in a tub! Standing on Deck 11 and getting splashed was something else!" -- GreytRacer
Hurricane Tales, Part II: When Bad Cruises Go Good
"The outer bands of Rita hit Miami and delayed our departure by about four hours. Almost immediately the captain announced that we would not be able to dock in Nassau because of the storm, which was obviously disappointing. He stated we were going to out-run the bad weather by heading to the Northern Bahamas area, near Grand Bahama. After quite a rough night at sea, we woke to a beautiful, sunny morning. Everyone awaited the morning announcement by the captain and it was worth the wait! He announced that the port in Nassau had reopened, there was no damage, and best of all, we were 15 miles out and on our way to port! It was quite an emotional change from the night before." -- bluzfan
"In 2005, we sailed a seven-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary on the Disney Magic and got caught near what would become Tropical Storm Gamma (it was a strong depression at the time). We had no rain but the high winds across the deck resulted in some temporary open deck closures and some damage to a window in Palo when an object (table? chair?) was hurled against it. I found the rocking of the boat to be somewhat pleasant, and the kids were delighted that the normally tame Mickey Pool had turned into a wave pool." -- McSmith56
"[On a four-night cruise] we experienced 20-ft. seas, 75-m.p.h. wind and rain like I have never seen in my life. We rocked, we rolled, pitched and dipped, no one could go out on deck and we had a ball! The staff was fabulous; they made us forget the raging storm and fellow passengers created bonds that will last forever -- we were all in this together.... We spent the next two days trying to get into the Port of Miami. Our short little four-day cruise now was a six-day and counting.... Our trip was full of memories and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!! Wilma was the most powerful storm on record and I was part of it!!!" -- seagirl718
"We were on Norwegian Sun while Wilma was out there. Our course and ports kept changing so much we dubbed it 'The Mystery Cruise.' It was still a great cruise and we even got to port in a city where few ships visit. It was great." -- larry_s_taco
"The biggest itinerary change I encountered due to a hurricane was when I was scheduled to cruise on Carnival's Jubilee out of Galveston a few years ago. When we got to the pier we were advised that due to the hurricane we wouldn't be stopping at Cozumel or Cancun. Instead we would be going to Veracruz, Mexico, and would be in port there for two days.... When we arrived in Veracruz we were welcomed by many of the locals. Since we were overnighting at the port, the people of Veracruz set up a public market on the pier in the evening with food, entertainment, and arts and crafts for us to enjoy. They even had a fireworks show for us. The local hotels and resorts also welcomed us to their properties and for a $5 taxi ride we were able to utilize the facilities (swimming pools, bars, restaurants) at many of the resorts. On the day we left Veracruz the pier was overflowing with local people wishing us a bon voyage. They had live music, streamers and balloons everywhere. I was truly made to feel at home in Veracruz and I appreciated their hospitality." -- danphou
And Some Final Words of Wisdom...
"Dangers are everywhere. Buy insurance and don't be a weenie." -- livefree
"Watch the news and the cruise boards the weeks before your cruise to see if you might need to change your plans. Become very familiar with www.nhc.noaa.gov and how to read the information. Your lack of planning is not the cruise lines' fault." -- Cruise Cat
"If you must cruise in the summer months, go to Hawaii, Alaska or Europe. Save the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda for December through May ... fabulous weather in the Caribbean and no hurricanes." -- Cruz Crazy
"My advice is to just be flexible AND to let the cruise company and/or your travel agent have your CELL PHONE numbers, instead of just your home phone, in case you are traveling prior to the cruise." -- 10DogMom
"If you do change itineraries, smile and give it the 'oh well' attitude. Getting angry won't change a thing and why make everyone else miserable around you. Remember the worst cruise is still better than the best land vacation. I like to think if my itinerary is changed that a mystery cruise might be fun." -- early_iron
"Park your car in a secure area if you drive and well above possible water level." -- ababa26
"For anyone planning on cruising during hurricane season, just be as flexible as possible. If you are a high stress person, don't go during hurricane season. De-stress yourself! It's a cruise!" -- 2CruiseLovers4Life
"I recommend only booking shore tours through the cruise company so that if a port of call is canceled, they would not lose any money. When booking through a private company this refund of deposit or any other monies might not be refunded, due to 'An Act of God.'" -- IYork4
"If you plan to book a cruise during hurricane season, be prepared to forego not only a port or two, but also a part or all of your cruise. Read the fine print in your cruise contract and don't whine when your cruise line makes changes in the best interest of their passengers!" -- copnlpn2
"Don't be so quick to take the pills the moment you get sick. Try and ride it out. I took the pill the first cruise and then the second cruise I took the pill before I got sick and spent the entire time sleeping." -- SWABA
"Be flexible. Do not arrange the most important meeting of your career for the day after you are due to return. Expect problems in hurricane season, plan to be home late, and relax -- you will enjoy the cruise more and so will your fellow passengers." -- 116redrock
"If you see funnel clouds out the window, don't go out on the deck like I did. Had to bully the door open, winds were very strong, of course that was years ago in my 20's." -- DGNewton
"Pack a smile." -- EVAcruiser
--By Sarah Schlichter, Editor for Cruise Critic's sister Web site, IndependentTraveler.com.