After the Storms: How Much Did the 2010 Hurricane Season Affect Cruises?

December 1, 2010

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(7:10 a.m. EST) -- It's finally over. The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended yesterday -- and, as predicted, the storm season was on the active side, impacting cruises and Caribbean destinations alike.

Whereas 2009's season was rather mild, 2010 upped the excitement with 19 named storms in the Atlantic (compared with 2009's measly nine). This year's named storm tally tied with 1887 and 1995 for third highest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Despite the high storm activity, most storms never reached the U.S. mainland -- good news for those living along the Atlantic Seaboard and Gulf Coast (a particular blessing during the massive BP oil spill).

On the flip side, the 2010 Pacific hurricane season was exceptionally tame, with the fewest named storms and fewest hurricanes since satellite tracking began in the mid-1960s.

Through it all, Cruise Critic updated its annual Hurricane Zone with up-to-the-minute itinerary changes, port closures and weather advisories. Read on for more facts and figures from Cruise Critic's hurricane team.

How active was the hurricane season? Back in May, NOAA predicted an "active to extremely active" season with 14 to 23 named storms and between eight and 14 hurricanes. Good work, NOAA: The 2010 season produced 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes.

According to forecasters, a couple of factors combined to produce this active season, including warmer than usual Atlantic waters, favorable winds from Africa and weak wind shear due to La Nina.

What was the impact on cruising? This year even tropical storms and distant hurricanes created rough seas and safety concerns that caused cruise lines to re-route their ships. All the major cruise lines saw itinerary changes through the season, including Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean.

Although no storm truly destroyed a port -- as Ike did to Galveston and Dean to Costa Maya -- some of the hurricanes did mess with popular ports. Hurricane Earl blew through several Caribbean islands -- bringing wind, rain, rough seas and plenty of itinerary changes -- before hammering the U.S. and Canadian eastern seaboards and playing havoc with Canada and New England cruises and Northeast homeports. Hurricane Igor brought port closures, flooding and power outages to Bermuda, while Hurricane Richard downed power lines and blew away roofs in Belize. Hurricane Tomas caused trouble for Barbados, St. Vincent, Haiti and especially St. Lucia, which reported several fatalities, damaged roads and buildings, power outages and problems with the water supply.

What about the activity in the Pacific? Historically, when the Atlantic experiences higher than normal activity, the Pacific tends to experience below normal seasonal activity and vice versa. True to form, this year's Pacific season was a snooze. NOAA predicted nine to 15 named storms, with four to eight hurricanes. In fact, their guesses were high, with only seven named storms and three hurricanes cropping up. Again, La Nina is to be blamed, as it makes it more difficult for storms to form or strengthen in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

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