One of the least predictable factors that can affect your cruise vacation is the weather. While every cruise has a set itinerary that plans out specific ports of call along your journey, unexpected weather can force changes to your cruise's itinerary. While this is especially likely to happen during the hurricane season in the tropics, weather could change your cruise's schedule at any time of the year.
Why the Weather is Important on Your Cruise
Cruise ship crews are experienced sailors with years of experience in making decisions concerning passenger safety. In addition to the captains and crews on board the ship, there are operations managers back on land who carefully monitor the weather and the location of all the cruise line's ships. They are in close contact with the crews and weigh in on decisions being made on while the ship is at sea.
It is obviously in no one's best interests for your cruise ship to sail directly into the middle of a hurricane, which is the most common reason for a cruise ship to change its planned itinerary. Other storms and adverse weather may also prompt the shore crew to change a stop or change the order of a cruise's port of call.
What Happens if There is a Storm at Sea
The most common reaction to bad weather on your cruise is for the captain to adjust the ship's course to keep it in good weather. The captain and crew will keep passengers updated of any weather-related issues, including any ports of call or shore excursions that may have to be cancelled because of the weather. At the same time, the crew works hard to maintain a normal shipboard schedule, and may add extra activities to keep passengers happily occupied the inclement weather.
Are Cruises Ever Cancelled Because of a Hurricane?
It is very rare that a cruise line will completely cancel a cruise due to the weather. They will make every effort to find other ways to work around a hurricane, but if a hurricane earthquakes landfall at a departure point for a cruise, the cruise line may have no other choice but to cancel.
What Itinerary Changes are Possible Due to Weather?
Believe it or not, one of the more common itinerary changes because of weather is an extension of your cruise. That is primarily because the safest place for a cruise ship to be during a hurricane is on the sea. If your cruise ship is scheduled to pull in at a port that is experiencing dangerous weather, your ship may not make a scheduled stop. If that stop happens to be the disembarkation at the end of your cruise, you will get to spend an extra day or so on board until the weather settles enough to dock safely.
The cruise line reserves the right to change the itinerary at any time and in any way. If there is inclement weather, the cruise line may delay arrivals or departures at ports of call or cancel them entirely. They may also change the order of various stops or make substitutions to land at safer ports. The most important factor in any decision made by the cruise line is the safety of the passengers, so there is always the possibility that your cruise may not be quite the cruise you planned. Be aware that these decisions are not made lightly and a cruise line will only make changes to their itinerary if it is absolutely necessary.
The changes to itinerary may include delaying the cruise's departure or even leaving early. If this is a possibility, the cruise line will make announcements of any changes as soon as possible. Your best bet is to keep an eye on the cruise line's website during the few days leading up to your departure so that you are aware of any changes to your ship's scheduled departure times.
What are a Passenger's Rights if the Itinerary is Changed?
A passenger's rights depend on the policies of the particular cruise line. To avoid unpleasant surprises, be sure to check with the cruise line about their policies regarding cancellations due to the weather before ordering anything. In addition, if you have travel insurance that was purchased before the storm was announced or declared by the National Weather Service you might be eligible for returns.
Keep in mind that itinerary changes due to weather are rare and cancellations even rarer. The cruise company knows that you have been looking forward to your trip and will make every effort to avoid canceling your vacation or changing your itinerary too much. It is a possibility, though, so keep in mind that any stop on your cruise may be cancelled or rearranged.