We are coming into the peak of the 2011 hurricane season as Hurricane Irene has been taking a path through Puerto Rico and through the islands of the Bahamas. Now it appears that the outer banks of North Carolina and New York City are facing a direct hit. Every cruise line with a ship in the Caribbean has been affected. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line were the first lines to announce changes and updates, now Celebrity and Holland America have issued changes as well.
I have been posting updates twice a day since the beginning of this week, but the news is very fluid as Irene shifts further west then back to the east. When it comes to you, a cruiser who just wants to have a great time, I offer five tips cruisers should learn from Hurricane Irene:
- A flexible attitude is paramount. Rates for cruising the Caribbean during hurricane season are among the most economical of the year. As weather forces itinerary changes, your cruise to Canada could become a cruise to the Bahamas, a cruise to the western Caribbean could become a cruise to Key West and several days at sea! You are still on vacation with someone else doing the cooking and cleaning. Never take out your frustration on the crew, staff or officers of a cruise ship.
- Obtain and carry a passport. Due to the early closure of the port for San Juan, Royal Caribbean and Carnival had to leave nearly 450 passengers behind. Guests were given the option to catch up to the ship in Barbados (Carnival) or Aruba (Royal Caribbean). However several guests without passports could not fly to the next port(s) of call as passports are required to fly between US (or territory) and a foreign island or country. Passport books only please as passport cards are not accepted for air travel.
- Purchase travel insurance. A third party travel insurance policy is your best bet when cruising during hurricane season. All policies are not equal and you never want to go with the cheapest policy. Of course medical evacuation and repatriation coverage is important, but at this time of year coverage for trip interruption and trip delay are also important. With the best policies, you have a 24/7 staffed telephone line available should your ship sail without you or weather cause you to miss your ship’s departure.
- Monitor developments constantly. Although you are in the hands of someone providing transportation and feeding you, the care of you and your family ultimately falls to you. Start watching the news and weather before you are about to travel. If you are not a meteorologist, at least look at the projected path of a storm. If you gut is telling you to keep your eyes and ears open, listen to it!
- Use a Travel Agent. I would be remiss here if I didn’t give a plug for my industry. Of course I would love for you to hire me as your travel agent, but it is my desire to see you be served in the event of a weather incident or an emergency. A cruise line is not a travel agency. They sell and provide cruises. We sell travel. We can assist you or your group when the weather forces a change in plans. You will have a much different experience when you place one call to someone who knows you versus waiting in a long line to get an answer from someone serving as part of a ship’s guest relations staff who is more than likely also waiting on an answer to give. When you talk to us during an event such as a hurricane, you are not having to explain your situation to each operator who answers your call or transfer!
- Consider an upgrade to “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance – Should your cruise leave without you and you might face a delay for a non-covered reason. This coverage would allow you to recover up to 50% of your total costs.
Chuck and Laura Flagg are fee-based travel consultants.
We own The Flagg Agency in Canton, and our number is 770-355- 9569
We are fee-based travel consultants. We help people make better travel decisions
so they may find an experience that matches both their wants AND their needs.