May 24, 2018
(1:45 p.m. EDT) -- What will the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season bring? That's the question everyone's asking after last year saw 17 named storms. Ten of those storms became hurricanes, including six major hurricanes, making 2017 the seventh-most active season since 1851, based on the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a near- or above-normal Atlantic hurricane season for 2018. It has determined a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of at least 35 mph) of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher). Last year, the NOAA predicted an above-normal season with a likelihood of up to 17 named storms.
"With the advances made in hardware and computing over the course of the last year, the ability of NOAA scientists to both predict the path of storms and warn Americans who may find themselves in harm's way is unprecedented," Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said according to the NOAA's prediction. "The devastating hurricane season of 2017 demonstrated the necessity for prompt and accurate hurricane forecasts."
But the NOAA isn't the only one investing in hurricane preparedness technology. Carnival Corporation & plc -- parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn and Cunard, among others -- recently unveiled a new Fleet Operations Center at its Miami headquarters.
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The center features a software application called Neptune, which allows Carnival to see everything from current radar visuals, stability conditions, the Safety Management and Command System, and webcams from each ship to GPS locations, ship conditions and weather data.
"The Carnival FOC watch team monitors several weather forecast services, including our contract weather provider, Weather Routing Inc., as well as the National Weather Service, and other marine weather products from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and international weather providers," John Rowley, Carnival's FOC director, told Cruise Critic.
"In the case of a hurricane, our Neptune technology will help our team make faster decisions for rerouting ships by having a snapshot of the entire fleet at a glance."
Other cruise lines have taken their own approaches when it comes to staying on top of hurricane season.
Royal Caribbean has a chief meteorologist on staff (an industry first); James Van Fleet tracks the weather while communicating forecasts, warnings, itinerary changes and more with the ships' captains, the marine operations team and even the cruisers themselves. Van Fleet's reports are broadcast onboard every Royal Caribbean ship; videos also are streamed on his personal and Royal Caribbean's social media accounts.
Additionally, Caribbean cruise ports are taking action to prepare for hurricanes, in their recovery efforts.
If you're cruising between during hurricane season (June 1 and November 30) -- or considering it -- it's important to remember you'll never actually sail into a tropical storm or hurricane. All cruise lines closely monitor the weather and reroute ships to avoid dangerous conditions.
The best way to stay on top of any changes is to keep tabs on Cruise Critic's hurricane season coverage and stay in close communication with your cruise line. Cruise lines also make it easy to stay connected by posting regular updates on their social media accounts. Carnival utilizes a text alert system, which sends ship-specific messages to booked cruisers.
Find out how else you can prepare, what kind of deals you can snag and more, in our breakdown of hurricane season pros, cons and tips.
--By Gina Kramer, Editor