Hurricane Season & How it Affects Your Cruise Vacation: Things You Must Know

Hurricane season starts June 1st and runs through November 30th. Although hurricanes are not likely to interrupt your cruise vacation plans, it is best to know what to do if tropical weather threatens your much needed vacation.

Here are frequently asked questions about cruise vacationing and being hurricane prepared.

Is there a way to avoid hurricanes when cruising in the Caribbean?

Sailing outside of hurricane season will greatly reduce the chance of your cruise vacation being effected by a tropical storm. If you are cruising within the six month Hurricane Season, here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Mid-August to Mid-September are prime time for tropical activity in the Easter U.S. Coast and Easter Caribbean
  • Mid-August to Early November storms are more likely in the Western Caribbean

What if a storm develops while at sea? Will our ship sail into a storm?

Compared to islands and coastal areas, a cruise ship is mobile. If you find yourself on board ship as a storm develops, rest assured that the cruise line is using the sophisticated weather technology on board to steer you around the storm and out of harms way. This may mean missing a port of call or changing the destination of ports of call.

In addition to being able to steer, your cruise ship is pretty fast. Most modern cruise sips can hit speeds of 20+ knots. Most storms move between 5 to 10 knots. That does not mean that there may be rough seas if you are caught running from a hurricane while at sea. This is why seasickness/motion sickness medication are a vital part of any cruise vacation prep list.

The cruise line may also cut your vacation short or extend your cruise depending on the position and severity of an approaching hurricane. Most cruise lines will provide compensation for shortened cruises and will provide meals at no additional charge if your cruise extended. Please note that all circumstances are different and cruise lines operated independently due to each situation.

During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the storm shut the port of Galveston down and cruise ships were unable to return to port. The typical one week cruise was extended to just under two weeks when the port reopened. Passengers were given the choice to disembark in New Orleans and find ground transportation on their own.

Are seas higher during hurricane season, even if there is not a storm in sight?

Typically seas are affected by wind or storm elements. The later in the summer the more calm the water is generally how the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico behaves. When a storm, any storm not just hurricanes move over water, the sea can be rough. The closer you are to the center of the storm activity, the more rough the seas will be.

Do cruise lines have to issue refunds when my cruise is affected by a hurricane or bad weather?

The general answer is no. Some travel company’s or cruise lines offer vacation insurance and only apply if purchased for an additional charge. However, many cruise lines will offer some kind of compensation when inclement weather affects a cruise vacation itinerary. This may be a variety of different methods: discounts on future sailings, onboard credit for current or future cruises, refunds, or special offers. Again, this is always determined on a case by case basis by the cruise line.

If there is a hurricane, can I cancel my cruise?

Cancelling is generally not an option without a penalty. The option to reschedule is often an option. Most cruise lines will do whatever possible to still accommodate the sailing date of the cruise.

On a recent 5 day cruise out of Galveston, fog delayed the cruise line from reentering the port of Galveston. The delay was 36 hours. Cruisers were given the option to still go on the cruise with a shortened length and receive an onboard credit or reschedule.

Does travel insurance cover hurricanes for cruise vacations?

Please note that each policy is different, and it is best to read the fine print. But any travel insurance plan that is worth anything will cover trip delays, cancellation or interruption due to hurricane and stormy weather. Look at the details of your insurance plan to see how airfare is covered. If traveling to Galveston via plane, you will want to make sure that you are covered if your plane is delayed and you miss disembarkation of your cruise.

Cruise travel insurance must be purchased in advance in most cases. If the storm develops and you are 2 days away from your sailing date, chances are you cannot purchase travel insurance.

If I booked an excursion privately and the cruise is affected by a storm, can I get a refund?

Again, this will depend. Each vendor will have different cancellation policies due to weather. It is best to read up on their policy prior to booking to see what would happen due to weather delays. Larger tour providers will most likely refund your excursion, but it is always best to confirm their policy before booking.

What if there is a delay in leaving our port due to a hurricane?

The port that you are leaving from can close due to weather conditions. Most likely there is a cruise ship of passengers waiting to disembark on that cruise ship. So tensions on both side of the situation can be elevated. If the port is closed, it is by good reason. The port will be reopened when it is deemed safe for travel. A closure of this type can create havoc. It is best to communicate with the cruise line for information and not rely on other passengers or port officials.

If my return from my cruise, how can I make travel arrangements/change flights/extend car rentals?

Be sure to have all travel companies involved toll free number with you during your cruise vacation. In the event of a delay getting back to your disembarkation point of origin, most cruise lines will make internet and phone services open or at a reduce rate in order for you to make travel arrangements.

If my car is damaged by a hurricane in port, who is responsible?

If you car has storm damage while you are at sea, it is not up to the cruise line or parking facility to make repairs. Most parking lots policies are provided at the time of reservation or when you check-in.

Are there special discounts for hurricane season?

The summer is a high demand time for cruise vacationers. Most cruise lines do not offer specific discounts for cruising during hurricane season. Later in the year there seems to be a drop in price but that reflects the drop in demand as school begins.

What is the best way to communicate with your Lighthouse Parking regarding news about weather, weather delays, and the conditions of Galveston?

Information regarding weather conditions are posted to the Lighthouse Parking Facebook Page. During Hurricane Harvey, Ike, and other tropical storms, we did our best to post as much information as possible as quickly as possible about weather conditions in Galveston. We posted pictures and videos of the parking lot to show the conditions of vehicles. This is your best communication method about cruise ship delays.