What You Must Know Before Taking a Cruise During Hurricane Season

Conde Nast Traveler

The Golden Princess and Carnival Victory docked at St. Maarten. Photograph via Flickrvision Close

The Golden Princess and Carnival Victory docked at St. Maarten. Photograph via Flickrvision

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The Golden Princess and Carnival Victory docked at St. Maarten. Photograph via Flickrvision

We're a little more than a month into hurricane season, which runs through November 30, and storms have already begun affecting the routes of vessels in the Caribbean, with Tropical Storm Chantal putting at least three ships off their scheduled itineraries. Unfortunately, no matter how big the boats get, the fact remains that nature is more powerful: There's simply nothing you can do to make sure you get the itinerary you paid for if you're sailing during hurricane season.

Cruise lines reserve the right to alter itineraries and cancel port calls not just because of bad weather but for any reason, whether it's a labor strike in a harbor, rough seas slowing you down, a State Department Travel Warning about a port, or almost anything else. And the cruise lines owe you nada if they do alter their plans—although they might give you an onboard credit or a free drink as a goodwill gesture. So, if you want to avoid itinerary changes, don't book a Caribbean cruise in the hurricane belt during hurricane season.

Though they're more likely at this time of year, the truth is that itinerary changes can happen at any time. Which is why you should never choose a sailing because your life's dream is to see one of the ports of call. If you're dying to see, say, the Coliseum or the Acropolis, and to combine it with a cruise, book an itinerary that starts or ends in Rome or Athens—not one that stops there mid-trip.

There are travel insurance policies that address hurricane-season issues, but I think it's easier, cheaper, and less of a hassle to just avoid destinations that could get struck at this time of year. Ironically, that's the one upside of choosing a cruise as opposed to a hotel when visiting the Caribbean during storm season: If you're on a cruise and a hurricane is coming, the ship can move out of the way and go somewhere sunny. If you're committed to a hotel and a hurricane is coming, you're stuck.

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