December 3, 2012
The season, which stretched from June 1 through November 30, matched 2010 and 2011 for named storms: 19 in all (winds of 39 miles per hour or more), with 10 becoming hurricanes (74 m.p.h.-plus), but only one becoming a major storm (111 m.p.h.-plus). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), 19 tropical storms represent the third-highest total -- tied with 1887, 1995, 2010 and 2011 -- since recording began in 1851. 2012 also featured two storms, Alberto and Beryl, which formed before June 1.
Numbers can be misleading. While NOAA characterized the season as "above normal," it said there have been 10 busier years in the last three decades, based on the combined tally, intensity and duration of all tropical storms and hurricanes.
For the fifth consecutive year, Cruise Critic kept the Hurricane Zone fresh with up-to-the-minute itinerary changes, port closures and weather advisories.
Related: What to Expect: Hurricane Season Cruising
How active was the hurricane season?
In its pre-season report issued in May, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center called for a near-normal season with 9 to 15 named storms, of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes. Of the hurricanes, up to three were predicted to become major storms. During an August revisal, NOAA officials upped the initial prognostications to 12 to 17 named storms, with 5 to 8 becoming hurricanes and 2 or 3 becoming major storms.
According to NOAA, the number of named storms was higher than predicted in large part because El Nino -- a weather phenomenon that suppresses storm activity -- never materialized as many climatologists forecasted.
Still, several storms this year were short in duration, weak in intensity, and stayed out over the Atlantic. NOAA says a persistent jet stream pattern over the Eastern United States helped steer many of these storms away from land.
What was the impact on cruising?
No Caribbean- or Northeast-based cruise line, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, was spared from having to make itinerary changes.
The Atlantic storm that'll be long be remembered by cruisers -- and is still being felt by East Coast residents -- is Sandy. The massive storm upturned some 50 itineraries and damaged ships during a 10-day reign of terror. Mother Nature was responsible for billions in damage in the Caribbean and Northeast. And, while cruise ships have the distinct advantage of being mobile, it was impossible for many to entirely out-steam the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, a spiraling galaxy with a 1,100-mile diameter.
Related: Hurricane Sandy Cruise Line Compensation Chart
It's the second straight year a hurricane shook up the Northeast; in August 2011, Irene scattered ships, damaged cruise line private islands and sparked a hurricane-sized PR controversy after the port authority of San Juan ordered a pair of ships to leave early -- without hundreds of booked passengers. There were other disruptors in 2012, too. In August, Isaac scattered more than a dozen ships as it surged westward through the Caribbean. That an "I" storm would wreak havoc should have come as no surprise. Review the Atlantic season in this video, courtesy of NOAA. The Atlantic's first two named storms, Alberto and Beryl, are not shown because they materialized before June 1. (Sandy makes an appearance at 3:33.)
--by Dan Askin, Senior Editor