Many families plan vacations to the Caribbean during the summer and early fall, including taking a cruise. But many may not be aware that the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 each year. However, the likelihood that a severe tropical storm will affect your trip to the Caribbean this time of year is relatively slim.
Still, if you plan to book a trip on a Caribbean cruise from June through November, there are few things you should be aware of in terms of hurricane season. This includes how to get a great deal on tickets, the riskiest time to visit the region, and how to purchase travel insurance in case storms cancel your vacation.
Riskiest and Safest Times to Cruise the Caribbean
When families plan vacations, many that consider leaving dry land and taking a Caribbean cruise, it's important to understand the historically least and most active times of the Atlantic hurricane season for tropical storms.
While there is a possibility of severe weather throughout the season, the peak months for hurricanes in the Eastern Caribbean are from August through September. The worst time for hurricanes in the Western Caribbean is from mid-August through early November.
Specifically, you should avoid September 10 for Caribbean travel because, historically speaking, there has been a named storm in the Caribbean on that day every year for the past few decades. However, you'll generally be safe traveling to destinations on the edge of the Atlantic Hurrican Zones. This includes Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, and Margarita Island in Venezuela, which are rarely affected by tropical storms.
How Hurricanes Affect Itineraries
Even if there is a storm, you are very unlikely to experience it directly. Unlike resorts and hotels, a cruise ship can adjust its course to avoid a storm headed in its direction. For that reason, it's an excellent choice for a Caribbean vacation during hurricane season. However, while a ship can outrun a storm or change course to avoid one, you may still experience some rough water during your travels, so you may want to pack seasickness remedies.
For the most part, cruise lines will redirect their routes in the event a tropical storm or hurricane develops in the Caribbean ahead of them, so you won't likely encounter a storm if you've already set sail. If this does happen, though, the cruise line will issue a full refund of any port fees for skipped stops and a pro-rated refund if the trip has to be shortened by a day or more.
Conversely, a cruise line may decide to prolong a return to port if the journey puts passengers in danger of a hurricane or tropical storm. This means you may dock at a different port or stay at sea for additional time to ride out the weather. In fact, during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, one luxury cruise line had to extend their itinerary a full week to avoid danger in returning back to dry land.
The very best offers are typically for sailings during the peak three months of hurricane season, August through October. However, you may have some difficulty finding deals during the beginning or end of the season. For the biggest savings, wait until June and look for last-minute special offers from the cruise lines.
While it's very rare for a cruise line to cancel a sailing, they always reserve the right to make changes. (This is true no matter when or where you cruise.) Sometimes a storm will force a ship to miss a port or swap the order of scheduled stops. This is important to know if you book your shore excursions with independent operators. Alternatively, a storm that affects your home port may cause your cruise to be cut short or lengthened by a day or even two.
As a result, it's a good idea to purchase suitable travel insurance if you plan to travel this time of year. It's relatively inexpensive and can provide peace of mind, but not all plans provide comprehensive hurricane-related coverage. Be sure to shop around for a plan that does offer these protections, and remember that a storm can affect more than just the cruise itself. A good policy will cover extra expenses incurred if a storm affects flights or driving conditions for your travel to and from the port.