(5:30 p.m. EDT) -- After two consecutive years of above-normal seasons resulting in catastrophic hurricanes, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration's prediction of a near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season might have you wondering what's in store and how it might affect cruises -- especially if you plan to take one in the next five months.
The Prediction, Translated
The forecast means we're likely to see anywhere from nine to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher). The 2018 and 2017 seasons saw a total of 15 and 17 named storms, respectively.
However, 2016 was forecast to be near-normal and resulted in the most active Atlantic hurricane season since 2012. What we glean from this, as well as from the level of destruction left behind by last year's Hurricane Michael and 2017's Irma and Maria, is that weather always will be unpredictable, no matter how much you prepare.
What You Need to Know
If you plan to cruise during hurricane season -- June 1 to November 30 -- rest assured your ship will never actually sail into a tropical storm or hurricane. Cruise ships have an out, unlike land-based hotels and resorts. All lines closely monitor the weather and reroute ships to avoid dangerous conditions.
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There are extra precautionary measures cruisers can take, such as purchasing travel insurance and booking airfare through their cruise line.
Will you cruise during hurricane season? We break down the pros, cons and tips.
New Technology in 2019
Also reassuring is the fact that the industry continues to invest in new groundbreaking technologies. The NOAA, for example, is preparing to upgrade its Global Forecast System (GFS) flagship weather model for the first time in 40 years -- a move it says will improve tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts.
"NOAA is driving towards a community-based development program for future weather and climate modeling to deliver the very best forecasts, by leveraging new investments in research and working with the weather enterprise," said the NOAA's acting administrator, Neil Jacobs.
Additionally, the NOAA's Hurricane Hunter aircraft this year will begin to collect higher-resolution data from upgraded radar systems that will be transmitted in near-real time to the National Hurricane Center.
How to Stay Informed
The best way to keep tabs on how the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season might affect your vacation is by following Cruise Critic's hurricane season coverage.
Cruise lines also take their own approaches when it comes to keeping passengers informed of cruise modifications, delays and (in rare situations) cancellations.
Carnival Cruise Line, for example, utilizes a text alert system that sends ship-specific messages to booked cruisers. Royal Caribbean also has a dedicated chief meteorologist (an industry first), James Van Fleet, whose weather reports and cruise status updates are broadcast on every Royal Caribbean ship; videos also are streamed on the line's social media accounts.