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What happens on a cruise if there is a hurricane or storm?

Last updated on June 19th, 2024 at 11:48 am

Thankfully, hurricanes and major storms can be detected early and the course of a ship can be changed to avoid bad weather in some cases. However it’s not always entirely possible to steer around bad weather.

How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk in the Past 100 Years? Fortunately, in the recent past, there have not been many. That is good news for cruisers. 

When possible the captain steers the ship away from storms or hurricanes to minimize the chance of rough seas. Modern cruise ships are built to be able to handle a certain level of rough seas without incident.

The Advantage of Modern Technology

Today’s cruise ships have the advantage of access to weather maps, satellite images and computer-generated storm models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

This gives the captain the advantage of being able to track the path of a storm and making adjustments to the route the cruise ship is taking. 

When the threat of a hurricane exists, major cruise lines will often change the itinerary completely to avoid the area, basically going in the opposite direction of the storm. 

In rare cases when the threat of a hurricane is too close to the departure port, unfortunately the only option might be for the cruise to be cancelled.

But here’s the thing – even if a ship encounters bad weather, they can usually handle the bad weather fairly well. The staff and captain have been trained to deal with emergencies, including weather situations.


Hurricane Season

While, in theory, a hurricane or tropical storm can develop in the Atlantic at any time, most hurricanes occur between June 1st and November 30th. The National Hurricane Center tells us that during this period, there are about 14 tropical storms, half of which become hurricanes. 


Even during the peak weeks between mid-August and mid-October, the chances of your cruise being affected by a hurricane are relatively small. The sea is an enormous entity, extending thousands of miles while winds from a large hurricane might extend about 150 miles from its center. 


Developing Alternate Strategies

When a tropical storm does appear, the standard response from cruise lines is to reroute to areas that are clear of the storm.  Depending on the storm, this could be a minor change or a significant one. 


In some cases, a cruise may need to sail to a different port. Know beforehand that a cruise line Can change your itinerary if the safety of passengers and crew calls for a detour. 


While you might experience some turbulence from a storm, it should not be enough to severely impact the ship.


Today’s modern cruise ships are the result of precise engineering and design. A cruise ship remains stable and upright in rough seas because the way they are built enables them to be stable. 


Center of Gravity

Designed with a “low center of gravity,” cruise ships are also built with the strongest materials and undergo meticulous testing and inspections before sailing. 


Center of Buoyancy

The center of buoyancy is where the force of buoyancy acts upwards on the ship. Ship’s designers make sure that the ship’s center of gravity is below its center of buoyancy, which ensures the ship will remain upright even in rolling seas. 


Planning Ahead

Cruise lines conduct multiple exercises to ensure the entire crew is well-prepared to handle the response when a storm system develops. 


Most cruise lines have an Operations Center that is manned 24/7 with an experienced team. 


These teams have the ability to work with the National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Coast Guard. Alternative plans are made knowing that those plans might alter as the storm progresses. 


Remember too, that hurricane season can alter more than just cruise line plans. When a storm impacts southern Florida, airports across the U.S. can experience disruptions, too. This is a good reason why you Need Travel Insurance For A Cruise, especially if you are traveling to storm-prone areas. 


Final Thoughts

There are hundreds of cruises that take place each year, even during hurricane season in the areas that see the most storms. Today’s cruise ships are designed for rough seas and the captain and crew are trained to watch and avoid the threat of hurricanes with a few disruptions as possible 

clouds from a hurricane

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