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Stormy Skies & Rough Waters (Photo: andrey polivanov/Shutterstock)
Stormy Skies & Rough Waters (Photo: andrey polivanov/Shutterstock)

What To Do When Bad Weather Ruins Your Cruise

In a cruise brochure, it's always a perfect sunny day. Happy families play on the beach, gasp as whales leap from the water or triumphantly scale mountains for million-dollar coastline views.

Unfortunately, life doesn't always look like the brochure. Stormy seas, heavy downpours and thick fog can cancel active shore excursions, ruining plans for an outdoor adventure.

But don't let Mother Nature get the best of you. Even in top adventure spots like the Caribbean, Alaska and Norway, there are still fun things to do, whatever's happening outside.

Here are suggestions for how to make the most of a bad-weather day.

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  1. The Caribbean
  2. Alaska
  3. Norway
Updated December 26, 2018

The Caribbean

The weather doesn't always cooperate in tropical paradise. Cruise lines may cancel snorkeling tours in rough seas. Lightning can also nix zipline, buggy, ATV, horseback and other similar outdoor tours.

Instead, here are ideas to consider for indoor Caribbean fun.

San Juan (Photo:Gary Ives/Shutterstock)

Head indoors. Many island outings provide protection from the elements. Visitors to Grand Cayman can find adventure indoors at Locked Inn Cayman, a challenging Escape Room that cruise lines book for their passengers. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, you can spend a fun day at the Bacardi rum factory, with tours, tastings and even mixology classes. Harrison's Cave in Barbados offers a fascinating underground experience without braving the elements, and visitors to Montego Bay, Jamaica, can tour a grand plantation house.

Take a city tour. Although city tours aren't adrenaline-pumping adventures, several are particularly worthwhile. For example, a bus tour is the best way to get an overview of Havana's intriguing sites. Likewise, for San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Santo Domingo, Plaza of Cusco city, Peru (Photo: sharptoyou/Shutterstock)

Try a specialty tour. A rainy day can be a chance for a new experience. Most cruise lines have specialty tours that go well beyond the beach. Crystal Cruises offers a chocolate plantation tour in Samana, Dominican Republic, while Windstar Cruises passengers can sign up for a Caribbean cooking class in a private home in Roseau, Dominica. You can learn to roll cigars on tours in places like Key West, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; La Romana, Dominican Republic; and, of course, Havana, Cuba.

One Carnival cultural tour delves into the history and modern-day life in Puerto Rico's Afro-Caribbean town of Loiza, near San Juan. And in many ports, cruise lines offer onshore classes that teach how to make cocktails and how to dance salsa.

Take an umbrella and head out. A rainy day also offers a chance to explore on your own. If you're in a busy port like San Juan, you're in luck. The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture displays centuries of island creativity, while the captivating Museo del Nino (children's museum) is perfect for getting out the kids' wiggles. Or if you want to take a gamble, check out one of the island's casinos.

Smaller islands have their gems, too. Curacao's Kura Hulanda, an expansive museum of slavery, offers a moving look at the cruel institution that changed life in the Western Hemisphere. Elsewhere, other top-rated diversions include the museum of rum in Martinique and a tour of the Angostura factory in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, where the world-famous cocktail bitters (and rum) are produced.

National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (Photo: Robert Szymanski/Shutterstock)

Visit an art museum. Art lovers will find surprising choices at noteworthy galleries, including the Modern Art Museum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; the colorful National Art Gallery of the Bahamas in Nassau; or the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Go to church -- or synagogue. In addition, many visitors don't realize that, like Europe, the Caribbean has historic houses of worship that welcome visitors. You'll find notable cathedrals and churches to visit across Cuba and in places like San Juan, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Barbados and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Likewise, the synagogues in St. Thomas and Curacao are not only historic but also beautiful. Both have rare sand-floored sanctuaries. And Barbados' refurbished synagogue is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Shop till you drop. Every port has a strip of souvenir shops, but some islands are famed for their retail offerings. If you're willing to give your credit card a workout, Martinique and St. Barts boutiques offer French luxury goods and fashion just steps from the ship. Many Dominican Republic shops specialize in crafts, and Aruba is notable for its duty-free offerings and malls.

Alaska

The Last Frontier is renowned for its outdoor opportunities, and excursions still operate when the sun isn't shining. Since rain is common on an Alaska cruise, be sure to pack appropriate gear and bring layers to combat what could be chilly conditions even in the middle of summer.

However, if there's a heavy downpour or wind or fog, some trips may be canceled. Most vulnerable: hiking, flightseeing, boat excursions, ziplining and ATV tours.

But the good news is that most Alaska ports have options to keep you busy when the weather's not cooperating. Many attractions are walkable from port, and if there's not a cruise ship excursion offered to other sites, it's easy to arrange transportation on your own.

View of Ketchikan, Alaska (Photo: shippee/Shutterstock)

Ketchikan: The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary's Raptor Center has a newly constructed auditorium where visitors can watch birds of prey in action during flight demonstrations and feedings. Or you can grab an umbrella and head to the waterfront boardwalk shops, which sell Alaska Native artworks and gifts.

Juneau: Even if weather acts up in Juneau, it's quite easy to wander the capital city on your own. The Juneau Food Tours company offers a unique taste of the city -- sampling local seafood, candy and beer -- though you'll have to walk between venues. Other options include the Alaska State Museum, which has 35,000 artifacts, focusing on science and history; the Sealaska Heritage Institute's Walter Soboleff Building, which examines Native Alaskan culture; and the Ladd Macaulay salmon hatchery and its visitors' center, which teaches about the state's favorite fish.

Skagway: This port's top attraction, the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, operates in most weather, but if an outdoor excursion is canceled, the National Park Service offers walking tours of the historic city. Also worth a look: the free Corrington's Museum of Alaskan History, a small gallery with Native art and ivory, including a 10,000-year-old mammoth tusk.

Haines (Photo:Jiri Kulisek/Shutterstock)

Haines: Tiny Haines is home to the unusual Hammer Museum devoted to one of humanity's oldest tool. The nearby Sheldon Museum & Cultural Center digs into local history and native culture.

Sitka: This Alaskan port has several bad-weather options. The Russian Bishop's House at Sitka National Historical Park sheds light on a forgotten chapter of history when Russia owned the 49th state. The Sheldon Jackson Museum, the state's oldest, has a rich collection of native artifacts and Alaska art, while the Sitka Historical Museum addresses local history. The Sitka Sound Science Center includes a working salmon hatchery and kid-friendly hands-on exhibits.

Seward: Typically an embarkation or debarkation port, Seward offers a chance to visit a world-class aquarium and marine animal sanctuary at the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Norway

The weather may be fickle in Norway, but Norwegians are used to it. You'll find many excursions proceed even in wet or windy conditions, so pack accordingly. But in truly bad weather, you still have options. Here's what you can do in Norway when it rains or the fog rolls in.

Oslo (Photo:Anna Jedynak/Shutterstock)

Oslo: Perhaps the easiest port is Oslo, a major European city with plenty of indoor possibilities. Many visitors start with the moving Nobel Peace Center, devoted to the inspiring people who have won the prize. Maritime lovers will enjoy the Viking Ship Museum which displays a ninth-century vessel, or the Fram Museum, home to an historic wooden polar ship. Culture fans have their choice of museums, including ones devoted to artist Edvard Munch, who painted "The Scream," or playwright Henrik Ibsen, while those with an interest in World War II will be fascinated by the Norwegian Resistance Museum.

Bergen: Likewise, visitor-friendly Bergen is compact and easy to visit, starting with a stop at the harborfront-covered city market, where there's a world of seafood on display and plenty of snacking options. The Hanseatic Museum, one of the city's oldest wooden buildings and still furnished in 18th-century style, is also worth checking out. And families will enjoy the Science Centre, with 75 imaginative hands-on displays.

Trondheim (Photo:Mikhail Varentsov /Shutterstock)

Trondheim: Farther north, in Trondheim, Norway's third largest city, you'll want to visit the massive cathedral whatever the weather. The huge building, which dates to the 12th century, often hosts choirs, and it's fun to explore its nooks, crannies and winding staircases. For something more modern, try Rockheim, the national museum of popular music.

Trondheim is also a good shopping city. Visitors love Bakklandet, a picturesque neighborhood where several shops sell handmade clothing. Or head to the town of Fannrem for a ride on the narrow-gauge Thamshavn Railway, a former mining train track with thrilling sharp curves and steep climbs.

Stavanger: In tiny Stavanger, the Norwegian Petroleum Museum is notable for the architecture alone. Exhibits are devoted to the North Sea industry that has brought economic prosperity to the region. Or visit the unique Norwegian Canning Museum to learn all about sardine fishing and canning in 19th- and 20th-century Norway.

Haugesund (Photo: Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock)

Haugesund: Norway's strategic location led the Nazis to conquer and occupy the country early during the Second World War. The nation's heroic resistance gets full treatment at the Arquebus War History Museum, one of Norway's largest museums, near the port of Haugesund. With its recreated wartime scenes and exhibits devoted to secret codes and agents, you'll quickly forget about the bad weather outside.

Flam: Passengers can traverse the 12-mile Flam railroad, which is a scenic delight climbing 2,800 feet, crossing bridges and passing through tunnels. The view shines even in a downpour. The terminal also has a small museum devoted to the route.

Geiranger: Even if weather blocks views of the scenery at the port of Geiranger, you can still learn about the region at the Norwegian Fjord Centre, with multimedia displays explaining the geologic forces that created the spectacular landscape.

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