Is it Safe to Cruise During Hurricane Season?

Thinking of taking a cruise during hurricane season? Wondering if it is safe? When it comes to cruising, one of the biggest fears that some people have is being caught up in a storm.

Satellite view of hurricane
Hurricanes can disrupt travel with their damaging effects. Does that mean it’s a bad idea to take a cruise during the season?

Occasionally, a ship does get caught in a sudden thunderstorm, and the video and pictures can be dramatic. While cruise ships are some of the largest ocean-going vessels, they are still no match for the power of Mother Nature.

Seeing these images, it’s not surprising that some people worry about storms while at sea. And it’s not just the ship that can be affected.

In fact, some of the greatest damage can come to cruise ports. These towns are built right on the water. The combination of flooding rains, storm surge, and 75+ MPH winds can do serious damage, sometimes closing them for days or week after a storm.

With all this to consider, is it crazy to book a cruise that sails during hurricane season?

The good news is that the chances are high that a hurricane won’t impact you while on a cruise.

Why Hurricanes Aren’t a Major Risk to Your Cruise While Sailing

No one books a cruise with the intention of being anywhere near a major storm. Yet, with hurricane season stretching half the year — June 1 through November 30 — it’s hard to book a cruise a time where storms aren’t a risk.

The good news is that no, your ship in all likelihood won’t be anywhere near a hurricane during your cruise.

First, while it lasts for six months, the severity of hurricane season is limited for most of that time. Storms are most prevalent during a two month period from mid-August through mid-October. Outside of these dates, the risk of a storm is relatively low.

Hurricanes by month
NOAA data shows that while hurricane season lasts a long time, the peak is a relatively narrow band of just about two months of the year.

But say there is a storm in the area that you plan to cruise, wouldn’t that be a big danger? First, know that a cruise ship would not purposefully go into the path of a hurricane if it can be avoided. And it practically always can be avoided.

Remember, cruise ships can move. At the same time, hurricane forecasts continually improve. That means the chances of being caught by surprise by storm are relatively low. These days, there is advance notice and ships are usually able to steer a route well clear of the weather. After all, the last thing a cruise line wants is the bad notoriety that comes with sailing through hurricane winds.

How Hurricanes Are Most Likely to Affect Your Vacation

The biggest threat a hurricane poses is not to you personally on the cruise ship. After all, these days storms can be predicted and avoided.

But, just because your ship may not feel the direct impacts of a hurricane doesn’t mean it can’t have an impact on your vacation. In fact, the most common impact hurricanes have on cruises are impacts to itineraries.

With dozens of cruise ports all around the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean being targets for hurricanes, if there is a storm then the chances are high that one or more ports will be affected. Direct hits on cruise ports are common in places like The Bahamas and Mexico. Meanwhile, departure ports from Galveston to Miami can also be right in the path of incoming storms.

That’s to say nothing of a storm simply passing near a port, causing the cruise line to divert around it.

It’s not uncommon for cruises to be delayed, skip a port, or have to swap ports in order to avoid hurricanes and tropical storms. Sometimes this can mean a cruise beginning later than scheduled as a hurricane or other storm is in the area when the ship was set to return. Passengers on the ship may have their cruise extended to wait out the weather until it passes a port.

Other times it can mean your cruise with three stops now only has two as a port of call is canceled due to a nearby storm.

So while you aren’t likely to encounter any wild weather yourself, your trip would still be impacted.

So Is it a Bad Idea to Cruise During Hurricane Season?

Does this mean you should avoid sailing during hurricane season?

If you don’t want to sail at all during the season — which runs from June through November — you’re excluding literally half the year from your schedule. We think that’s overkill.

We could understand wanting to avoid a cruise during the peak of the season (from around mid-August until mid-October) simply due to the potential impacts on ports. That can cause headaches if your cruise is delayed leaving port or returning home.

Even that, however, is a long shot. There’s simply no telling when or where a storm will pop up, nor which direction it may take. You may avoid sailing, only for the weather to be picture perfect.

That’s why we personally let hurricane season have no effect in planning on when to take a cruise. The likelihood of it having a direct impact on the ship is small. There is a greater chance it could cause a change to the itinerary, but even that chance is small and impossible to know.

So if you’re planning a cruise during hurricane season, know that you could see the impacts of a storm, however, it’s most likely your sailing will go off without a hitch.

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