The Aftermath: Heavy Snow Wallops Weekend Cruise Travelers

December 21, 2009
NCL Norwegian Gem Cruise Snow

(1:24 p.m. EST) -- This weekend's Northeast storm dumped record-breaking amounts of snow on cities from Baltimore to New York and closed airports along the coast -- and also had a major impact on cruise travel.

Several cruise lines tweaked departure times for ships turning around yesterday to give guests more time to arrive at the port. Carnival delayed Carnival Pride's departure from Baltimore until 8 p.m.; Royal Caribbean also delayed the departure of Explorer of the Seas from Bayonne, New Jersey's Cape Liberty Cruise Port, by two hours. In addition, Royal Caribbean held up the departures of Adventure of the Seas (from San Juan), Freedom of the Seas (from Port Canaveral) and Independence of the Seas (from Fort Lauderdale) to accommodate guests flying down from the East Coast area.

Snow or not, cruise ships are now en route -- with or without all their booked passengers. So, what's the aftermath?

Get Me to the Port on Time (or Not)

A spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean tells us that out of 3,543 expected guests, 3,298 boarded Explorer of the Seas at Cape Liberty; 165 guests will join the ship in San Juan (at their own expense) and 80 guests were no-shows. Cunard was generous to its U.K.-based passengers who couldn't make it to Queen Mary 2, which turned around at Brooklyn's Red Hook terminal yesterday -- those 220 passengers will receive a full refund. At this time, we do not have final passenger counts for Carnival Pride or NCL's Norwegian Gem, which turned around in Manhattan on Saturday.

Twitter user b>@HELEN2802 is one of those unfortunate travelers who missed their ship -- and, to add insult to injury, can't find a flight to the next port on this busy holiday travel week: "Missed Explorer of the Seas yesterday. Cannot get flights to SJU. Merry Christmas."

U.K.-based member weliketocruise86 contacted us via e-mail with her story: "When we arrived [at Heathrow] to collect our tickets we were told the flight had been cancelled. Our only option was to take a standy ticket for the 1035 AM flight on Sunday morning. We stayed overnight at the Park Inn Heathrow and went back to the terminal first thing on Sunday to be told by American Airlines that all flights to New York were cancelled. So that was it there was no point us waiting at the airport as we would miss the ship. We had not ruled out joining the Explorer in San Juan but the only tickets available were in business class for £3,200 each!"

And Cruise Critic's Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown, who has spent the last two days trying to fly out of New York to Europe for the launch of
Silversea's Silver Spirit, warns of another potential issue: luggage loss. "We checked in and boarded our Delta Airlines flight out of John F. Kennedy Airport, but the plane never took off. At the same time, Delta refused to unload luggage and I had to go home without it. I still have no idea where that checked suitcase is. And I'm wondering how many others heading out on cruises are in the same bind…."

Did you miss a ship or lose a bag en route to a cruise due to the snow storm? E-mail us your story.

Sailing in a Winter Wonderland

What was it like for those passengers who were actually onboard during the snow storm, as ships came into the Northeast area? This photo (pictured above, larger here), posted on the Cruise Critic message boards by member sisocialworker, is from a previous winter NCL cruise but still gives a sense what it's like to have snow on deck!

Not surprisingly, the seas were rather rough, too. Member asubbq posts, "It was so rough at one point the Captain came over the intercom to assure everyone the ship was fine, not much sleep to say the least but, as I said earlier, great cruise with the exception of the last 12 [hours]!" And all folks parked in port faced the daunting task of finding, and then unearthing, their cars -- then heading home for possibly even more shoveling.

For many crewmembers, however, arriving to a foot of snow was a welcome experience. Wilbert Monge, an engine technician onboard Carnival Pride, told the Baltimore Sun this was the first time he'd ever seen snow (like most ship staffers, Monge hails from a warmer part of the world: Peru). Another engine technician, Carlos Balino, last saw snow in Alaska in 1996. Both engaged in a good-natured snowball fight alongside their ship.

The takeaway here is to always consider travel insurance when booking a cruise -- particularly when there's a higher risk of inclement weather impacting your arrival. Of course, no amount of insurance is going to stop a nor'easter, but you'll have the peace of mind of knowing your investment is protected. For more information on purchasing travel insurance, check out Travel Insurance -- Pros and Cons.

--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor

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