That Time our Cruise Ship was Hurricane Bound
“So what are you guys going to do about the hurricane headed for the Caribbean?”
Not exactly the words anyone wants to hear as they’re waiting for their Orlando bound flight 20 minutes before boarding time, so they can embark on their Caribbean cruise the next morning.
But that’s what my husband heard his co-worker ask him as he sat dumbfounded on the phone.
And so ensued the resulting chaos.
We began checking weather reports, which didn’t look too good—Hurricane Matthew (maybe you’ve heard of it?) was headed for the coast of Jamaica a day ahead of our scheduled port day, and soon after the Bahamas, right on time to meet up and shake hands with our cruise ship, Disney Fantasy, as we were scheduled to dock in the Bahamas at the end of the week as well.
I called Disney Cruise Line, and shakily explained that I was 10 minutes away from boarding my flight and needed to know if we should continue with our travel plans or go back home.
Now this is future Rana talking, and I’m going to be honest, I didn’t want them to tell me we had to go back home. We were headed on a Halloween themed Disney Cruise, had our costumes and Jack Skellington outfits packed, the kids were beyonnddd excited (and so were we) and I did not want to have to tell my kids at the gate traveling to their favorite city on Earth that we had to go back home from here.
The representative said that as of yet the National Weather Service had not categorized the storm or were sure of it’s path or level, and as such our cruise itinerary had not yet changed. They were monitoring it closely, our safety was their utmost concern, and if any changes to our itinerary were going to be made later in the week they would let us know as things progressed.
Future Rana here: I was silently doing mental backflips and somersaults in excitement. I breathed a sigh of relief that the storm wasn’t as bad as we originally feared, both for our sake traveling and for those living in its path.I was also glad I didn’t have to drag my poor kids already dressed in their Disney gear back home from the airport gate. That could have been a blog post all on its own: “How to effectively break your kids hearts at the airport gate”.
We did embark our cruise and almost immediately began the warnings from the Captain about the now official hurricane, who was christened Matthew. The Captain, who was amazing at his job (btw), warned us that our sailing might have to be altered depending on the continued path of Matthew, constantly reminded us that our safety was their number one priority, and we would do everything to stay out of it’s path. We felt reassured and, albeit a tiny bit apprehensive about what lay ahead, safe.
We called our families who had our projected itinerary for the week, and repeated what the Captain told us.
Future Rana again: I knew when we told my mom and mother-in-law our ship was still sailing we’d hear a few words of dispute, but I didn’t prepare for the tumultuous freak-outs of hearing about how we were still taking their grandkids out in the ocean in the middle of a hurricane. Truthfully, it didn’t even so much as rain one drop of water on our ship the entire time we were on vacation. I swear, Mom, your babies were perfectly safe.
Basically, whichever way Matthew was headed, we went the other way. And we were still able to dock in some pretty nice places (Cozumel twice, The Cayman Islands, Jamaica once the storm had passed it). And let’s be real, the last thing any cruise industry wants is to have a bad rap for putting their passengers in danger, so they’re trying to avoid that all costs.
Hurricane Matthew was terrible. It heartbreakingly demolished parts of entire countries and left many people stranded and flooded. My heart and deepest prayers go out to any victim affected by a hurricane or tropical storm.
It was so bad that for the very first time, in a long time, Disney World actually closed. That’s a huge deal. Disney World rarely closes. Oh yah, Matthew was a bad boy.
What Hurricane Matthew did not do is touch even one millimeter of ocean close to any major cruise liner. Because again, industries and ship captains will do whatever it takes to keep us safe, including re-routing, extending, canceling, or ending a cruise early. And one of these things happened in almost all instances.
We were super lucky. I’ve been on many Disney cruises now, and read the other travel blogs a lot, and have never heard of a cruise being extended because of a hurricane, until ours. Our 7 night cruise turned into an 8 because the ship couldn’t dock back in Florida. But that also meant that the cruise after ours went from a 7 night to a 6. That group of people did have the option of either rescheduling their cruise for another 7 night at a different time, or keeping it and earning an onboard credit per stateroom. This is pretty standard procedure for cruise industries. Also, purchasing travel insurance can help take care of any monetary risks associated with weather altered flights or travel plans.
So the question is should you book a Caribbean cruise or vacation during hurricane season (June-November)?
Well, that all depends on you understanding the risks: Mother Nature can’t be controlled or predicted (as we Michiganders, and this blog post, know well enough). You might get caught up in a tropical storm which alters your trip, or you might have perfectly sunny weather as your ship captain avoids it. Should you decide to go ahead and book, you also have to accept that weather permitting, you might (more than likely) go on that vacation, or weather not permitting, it might be cancelled. Which means that you might have to be okay with breaking your kids’ hearts at the airport gate—I’m still working on being okay with this one.