An unexpected storm can cause unexpected
problems – if you aren’t prepared.
Photo © Aaron Saunders 

With Tropical Storm Nicole wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and the East Coast in general this week, there have been a slew of re-routed cruise ships. 

A post on CruiseCritic’s Carnival board suggests passengers aboard Carnival Conquest might not be taking it all in stride: there’s talk of a protest against port calls cancelled due to the rough weather.  In the end, it seems the threatened protest didn’t actually occur – but it has in the past.

Besides providing some lively entertainment for the armchair cruiser, this post illustrates a dangerous trend that seems to occur more and more frequently: passengers, apparently more informed than the officers onboard or the cruise line ashore, banding together in protest.  Their demands?  Everything from sailing straight into a hurricane-ravaged area to onboard credits to free cruises – it’s all up for grabs.

What does this scenario look like?  A quick Youtube search brings up one of the most disturbing examples, shot onboard Carnival Legend in 2009.  Embarrassing is an excellent way to describe the video, which is filled with vitriolic guests holding court in the ship’s atrium, yelling, shouting, and generally tripping all over each other as they try to get in on the action.  The cause of all this?  H1N1 – better known as the swine flu – re-routed the ship and resulted in cancelled port calls.

Aboard Carnival Conquest this week, the problem is scheduled calls in Grand Cayman and Jamaica – or lack thereof.  Tropical Storm Nicole has forced the cancellation of both ports, leaving passengers with a lot of sea days with heavy swells.

In Carnival’s defense, there’s not a lot of places they could go.  The rapidly shifting storm made for canceled calls everywhere from the Western Caribbean to the Bahamas and up the Eastern seaboard.  The line provided a refund of port charges in the affected ports, and gave each passenger a twenty per cent discount off a future cruise.

So what are your rights if your cruise misses a particular port?  For that answer, it is important to read all your documentation.  The cruise contract – the same one printed at the back of every brochure – states that the itinerary is a guide and that final discretion rests with the line and the Captain, and that ports may be canceled or substituted at will.  

No Captain or cruise line will ever place their guests in harm’s way because a few still want to do some duty free shopping in Grand Cayman.  This is particularly true during hurricane season, which can last all the way to November 30th.  Guests booking cruises to the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, or the Mexican Riviera need to understand that this is the most volatile time for storms in the region, and that their itinerary may not go as planned.

As always, the bottom line is this: if you book a cruise during hurricane season, be aware of the risks.  Above all, never, ever book any itinerary because you must see a certain port; rather, book for the itinerary as a whole.


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