What Risks Can Hurricanes Pose to Cruise Passengers?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Hurricane, safety risk, cruise passengers, cruise attorneys, LMAWWe recently wrote about Vanuatu re-opening Port Vila to travelers following the destruction of Cyclone Pam. While the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30th, it’s important that anyone who plans on cruising in the Eastern Pacific should be aware that the hurricane season runs from May 15th through November 30th. This means that the Eastern Pacific hurricane season is just around the corner.

With cruise lines sailing across the globe, passengers may worry about whether a hurricane will affect their next cruise. For this reason, our cruise attorneys here at LMAW have provided some important information regarding hurricanes and how much of a risk they can actually pose to cruise passengers on their next sailing.

The good news is that the chances of your cruise ship being struck by the hurricane itself are negligible. Modern cruise ships utilize advanced technology that warns captains about major storms, and it can be a while before a storm becomes a hurricane. Cruise lines are aware of a hurricane once it develops and make the necessary adjustments to avoid areas that will be potentially hit. Unfortunately, this may mean that your itinerary may change or that you may stay stuck at a particular port until the storm passes. And, you may not necessarily be reimbursed for lost time, as many cruise lines stipulate that refunds or credits will not be provided in the event of natural disasters. As a result, prospective passengers should check with the cruise line in question, as well as shore excursion operators, to determine what they can and cannot be reimbursed for. There are times that cruise lines may offer a pro-rated refund, but this isn’t always guaranteed, so it’s important that you ask these questions prior to booking.

If passengers have disembarked and are waiting to re-board the ship, it’s important to also be aware that a storm can potentially delay the ability to get back on the ship. This can cause quite a headache when it comes to changing scheduled flights and other pre-booked post-cruise transportation. Just like it’s important to check with cruise lines and tour operators regarding cancelations due to weather, it’s a good idea to make sure that the airline you reserve your flights with, along with car rental companies, hotel, and other travel businesses you’ve made arrangements with won’t charge you a penalty if you need to reschedule.

Most cruise lines also won’t allow passengers to cancel a trip if a storm threatens, even if the itinerary is changed prior to cruise departure. If you are thinking about cruising during peak hurricane season, you may want to look into purchasing travel insurance that will protect you in the event of any cancelations – cruise or otherwise, as cruise lines often won’t reimburse passengers for missed flights due to delays that require ships to avoid the last port of call for safety reasons. However, be sure to research different travel insurance policies and speak to representatives regarding the fine print because you may still not be covered in the event of a hurricane.

Our cruise lawyers also advise anyone traveling during hurricane season (or any season for that matter) to pack a first aid kit in the event there are delays or storm-related issues or injuries. Include nausea medication, pain relief, bandages, alcohol swabs, and other important medication you currently take.

Though cruise passengers may not be sailing right through a hurricane, these types of storms can present several inconveniences for travelers if they aren’t prepared, especially when it comes to reimbursements. That said, if a port of call is hit by a hurricane, or has been recently hit by a hurricane, it is wise to check with authorities or your cruise line to make sure that conditions are safe on shore. As we noted in an earlier post about the recently hurricane-damaged Port Vila, downed power lines, standing water, and compromised structures can pose a serious hazard to travelers who are visiting a location in the aftermath of a hurricane.