Cruises and Hurricane Season: What You Need to Know

Cruise ships in a port, is there a storm brewing

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Many families plan vacations to the Caribbean during the summer and early fall, including booking a cruise. These vacations come smack in the middle of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30 each year, but the likelihood that a severe tropical storm will affect these trips to the Caribbean is relatively slim.

Still, if you plan to book a trip on a Caribbean cruise from June through November, you should be aware of hurricane season, 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 leaving dry land and taking a Caribbean cruise, it's important to understand the times that are historically least and most active for tropical storms. While there is a possibility of severe weather throughout the Atlantic hurricane 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 might avoid September 10 for Caribbean travel because 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 Hurricane Zones, including 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 an itinerary a full week to avoid danger in returning to dry land.

Good Deals

The very best offers are typically for sailing 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.

Travel Insurance

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.) 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.