Hurricane

Hurricane season for cruises

In:
Category: 
13Sep2018

Wondering if you should take a cruise during hurricane season?

Many cruisers contemplate going on a Royal Caribbean cruise during hurricane season, debating taking advantage of lower fare prices while weighing the possible impact of foul weather.  There are pros and cons to taking a cruise during this sometimes tumultuous time of year, and ultimately it depends on which factors are most important to you.  

The simple answer is going on a cruise during hurricane season is a great idea.  Prices are lower on average and the likelihood of a hurricane directly impacting your sailing is low.  Even when it does, the consequences are usually minor (i.e. substituting one port of call for another or changing itineraries).  

When is hurricane season?

The official dates for the Atlantic hurricane season are June 1 through November 30.  This is the time frame when the vast majority of storms form in the Atlantic Ocean The peak months for hurricanes in the Eastern Caribbean are mid-August to mid-September and in the Western Caribbean from mid-August to early November.

The United States Search and Rescue Task Force estimates there are 10 tropical storms on average per year, with six becoming hurricanes.  Most of the storms remain over the year, with about five hurricanes striking the coastline of the United States every three years.

Why cruise during hurricane season

The most compelling reason to take a Royal Caribbean cruise during hurricane season are the lower prices.  Discounts and low cruise fares are often found during the course of hurricane season, with great pricing usually in August through the end of October. 

The reason for the lower prices is most families are back in school and unwilling to take kids out of school for a vacation (especially since they may have just taken summer vacations earlier in the summer).  Moreover, the threat of hurricanes impacting cruise itineraries turns some folks off from booking, which results in more inventory being available.

What happens if there is a hurricane

While tropical storms can affect cruise sailings, the reality is a very small percentage of Royal Caribbean cruises are ever directly impacted by these storms. Royal Caribbean spends a great deal of time to plan around storms, and if a hurricane is likely to impact the scheduled route of a cruise ship, the ship will be rerouted in some way to avoid the path of the storm. This may result in scheduled ports of call being skipped and/or replaced with another port.

Moreover, Royal Caribbean has its own Chief Meteorologist that spends the summer months tracking all tropical storms, and working directly with the cruise line to make itinerary changes as necessary.

It is quite rare for a hurricane to cancel a sailing.  Most of the time, the ship simply goes in a different direction to steer well-clear of the storm.  Sometimes Royal Caribbean will reverse an itinerary, or change an Eastern Caribbean cruise into a Western Caribbean sailing. 

Trip insurance

If you are taking a cruise during hurricane season, you may want to consider getting a policy that covers travel disruptions related to the weather.  Royal Caribbean offers its own travel insurance, and a variety of third-parties sell travel insurance.  Like any insurance policy, it is important to review what the plan does and does not cover and when it kicks in.

In most cases, trip insurance policies can compensate you for trip delays, interruption and cancelation in the event of a major storm.  Trip insurance covers things like missing your flight or being re-routed due to weather.  It also covers being stuck unexpectedly in a city overnight and missing part of your cruise.

When it comes to travel insurance and hurricanes, the most important consideration is when a policy will cover you.  Often, cruisers think they can cancel a cruise prior to the storm actually impacting your plans.  Most plans do not allow for preemptively canceling a cruise due to a storm.  For the most part, you must still go on your cruise, wherever the ship may go, and only be able to collect compensation if the cruise or your travel plans are directly impacted by the storm (i.e. canceled flights, delays, etc).  Many people incorrectly think trip insurance is a safety net for canceling their cruise to avoid a storm completely.

Tips for a cruise during hurricane season

First and foremost, you need to be flexible when taking a cruise during hurricane season.  An altered itinerary, delayed flights or less than perfect weather are the most common scenarios someone may encounter as a result of a tropical storm.  The key is for you to mentally prepare for changes and be okay with it.

Part of being flexible is understanding that an itinerary change could occur, so any plans you have in a port of call should be equally flexible.  Planning a wedding, excursion of a lifetime, or meeting friends or family could all be impacted by a change in itinerary.  

Browse travel insurance plans after you book your cruise and see if one makes sense for you.  Everyone's risk tolerance is different, but having that piece of mind that insurance provides is a tremendous benefit.

If you see a storm is formed and could possibly impact your sailing, be sure to follow Royal Caribbean and James Van Fleet on Twitter for updates on any impact. Your travel agent will also inform you if they are apprised of any changes.

Hurricane Florence causes Royal Caribbean cruise to stay in Florida until storm passes

In:
10Sep2018

Royal Caribbean announced that due to Hurricane Florence's forecasted track, Grandeur of the Seas will wait out the storm in Port Canaveral, Florida until it is safe to return to Baltimore.

Grandeur of the Seas is currently in the Bahamas and sailing on a previously modified itinerary to avoid the path of Florence.  Royal Caribbean issued an update for the September 8th sailing today, "The ship will have a full day in Nassau, Bahamas on Tuesday, September 11th, and will then set sail to Port Canaveral, Florida where she will be in port on Wednesday, September 12th and Thursday, September 13th. We expect Grandeur to arrive in Baltimore no later than Sunday, September 16th."

As a result, the scheduled September 13th Grandeur of the Seas sailing is being finalized pending the return of the ship to Baltimore, "The departure date and time, as well as the itinerary, are currently being finalized. We do not expect the departure date to be later than Sunday, September 16th."

Another update by Royal Caribbean on the status of the Grandeur of the Seas upcoming sailing is scheduled for 7pm EDT on September 11th.

Royal Caribbean alters Grandeur of the Seas itinerary to avoid Hurricane Florence

In:
07Sep2018

Royal Caribbean has made a slight modification to an upcoming Grandeur of the Seas sailing to keep the ship out of the path of Hurricane Florence.

Royal Caribbean Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet issued an update today that the September 8th sailing of Grandeur of the Seas will switch to an overnight in Nassau, Bahamas itinerary to, "ensure we stay out of any potential NorthEast Quadrant, if the track of Florence unexpectedly shifts."

This means Grandeur of the Seas will skip a scheduled stop at Kings Wharf, Bermuda and instead sail to the Bahamas.

Florence became the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season.  Weather forecasters say it's too early to tell if the storm will make landfall somewhere on the East Coast, or if it will turn harmlessly back to sea.

Royal Caribbean talks Symphony of the Seas, new app progress, big demand in Caribbean and more

In:
02Aug2018

During Royal Caribbean's second quarter 2018 financial call with investors, the company shared some interesting anecdotes, facts, and insight into the ever changing cruising environment.  While most of the information discussed in these earnings calls deal primarily with financial indicators, cruise guests can glean some insight into how Royal Caribbean runs its business.

Symphony of the Seas debut has been spectacular 

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) Chairman and CEO Richard Fain started off the call with investors beaming about the positive response Symphony of the Seas has received in her inaugural season in Europe.  Fain indicated that not only is the ship booked well, but guests are raving about the experience and the high level of service they are experiencing.

"Her performance for a first time ship in a new market. For her to perform so amazingly well when she is the fourth in a series, is a testament to the innovations the team has incorporated and the power of the Royal Caribbean International brand.

This ship has remarkable new wow's, new shows, and new activities, but what truly sets her apart is the careful execution and high level of service which have been pivotal in achieving these record-breaking ratings."

Smart phone update

Of particular interest to Royal Caribbean cruisers is an update was given on the progress being made with the cruise line's new smart phone app and technology innovation, known as Project Excalibur.

Fain offered an update on where the project stands, and seemed bullish on the prospects of rolling the app out to most ships in the fleet by the end of 2019, as well as the progress being made.  There were no specific updates in terms of when certain functionality will be completed, but it did sound like they wanted to get it right the first time, instead of just pushing out an app that may or may not work well.

"The program is on track and the progress is impressive. We have taken a methodical, hands-on approach to this implementation, rolling out new upgrades on a monthly basis or even more frequently. We're finding that this 'softly softly' approach allows us to move more quickly, but also to correct the errors early before they impact a lot of vacations.

We continually add features to the app, and we remain on our trajectory of having half the fleet connected by the end of this year and most of the rest by the end of next year.

The most complete version of the app today is on Symphony of the Seas, and in December, that distinction will be taken over by Celebrity Edge.

One interesting milestone is the introduction of frictionless arrival.  We have been rolling this out on a limited basis and expect that it will be operational on a large scale basis on Symphony of the Seas and on Celebrity Edge later this fall.

By the way, we recently trademarked the term 'frictionless', so don't expect to see that being used by any other cruise line."

Higher onboard revenue is up (again)

If you spend time listening to these earnings calls, one trend that continued again this quarter was higher spending by guests, namely in the form of drink packages and other packages that can be purchased online or onboard.

In short, a lot of Royal Caribbean's revenue can be traced back to guests not only booking cruises in droves, but also because they are spending more than ever once onboard.

RCL Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty spoke about onboard spending during his summary of the quarter, "The beat was driven by stronger than anticipated close-in demand, and better than expected onboard revenue spend.

Onboard areas, such as beverage, specialty dining and internet, helped deliver a 5.5% year-over-year increase in onboard revenue."

Mariner of the Seas singlehandidly helped drive up Caribbean demand

If there is one ship not named Symphony of the Seas that has hit a home run for Royal Caribbean, it is definitely Mariner of the Seas.  Mariner of the Seas has the distinction of being a very popular choice with consumers that are looking for short cruises, and has been a boon for the cruise line in terms of being booked well and driving up revenue.

In providing an overview of the Caribbean cruise market, Jason Liberty spoke about the impact Mariner of the Seas has had, "Demand for the Caribbean sailings has been strong, with bookings trending ahead of last year's very storng numbers. Our Caribbean capacity is up in the back half of the year, due mainly due to the addition of the reimagined Mariner of the Seas for the short Caribbean market.

Our strategy behind modernizing the Mariner of the Seas was to offer the best alternative for a short Caribbean getaway as a response to consumer trends. The younger generations are opting for shorter, more frequent vacations and the Mariner of the Seas is very well positioned for this segment with onboard activities, dining options, and entertainment similar to those on Oasis class ships.

Mariner of the Seas is booked very well and we are particularly excited about 2019. While we generally don't expect to recieve many bookings for short Caribbean sailings that are more than six months away, Mariner of the Seas' load factors in the first half of 2019 are closer to those of seven-night products than they are to shorter products."

Lessons learned from 2017 hurricane season

Towards the end of the call, an analyst asked Royal Caribbean's leaders about any lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season that they can apply to the 2018 hurricane season.  This was an opportunity for Royal Caribbean to talk about the impact the cruise line had on the people affected by the storms, and the positive public relations and humanitarian response that Royal Caribbean saw.

Richard Fain spoke about the lessons learned, "We felt our response last year was really ended up being quite good. Probably built up a fair amount of good will from the way we handled it, and I'm not sure that from a pure financial point of view we learned much that would significantly change the outcome if you had, again, a hurricane that exactly tracked as our ships itinerary and exactly hit the ports of call on the days that they would be most impactful. So we constantly try and learn, and obviously there are always some lessons to be learned, but overall, I think we felt that last year we did pretty well.

I do think though that people should be impressed by how well the destinations responded afterwards. These were horrific events for them, but now people are reporting back and travel agents, which are always an important source of information as well as internet chatter, shows how well they've recovered and I think that may help us a little bit in terms of assuaging the concern that people had that if they went to some of these destinations afterwards they would encounter a bad experience. And that simply hasn't been the case."

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas changes itinerary to avoid Hurricane Beryl

In:
07Jul2018

 Royal Caribbean informed guests sailing on the July 8th sailing of Oasis of the Seas their itinerary has been changed due to Hurricane Beryl’s projected path. 

Thanks to Royal Caribbean Blog reader Nick Vitani, we have a look at the email sent to guests booked on the affected sailing. 

Instead of sailing to the Western Caribbean as originally scheduled, Oasis of the Seas will opt for an Eastern Caribbean itinerary that will visit Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.

Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas changes itinerary to avoid Tropical Storm Alberto

In:
Category: 
25May2018

Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas will skip a scheduled stop in Cozumel due to the effects of Tropical Storm Alberto.

Guests were informed of the change while onboard the ship by the Captain. Royal Caribbean Blog reader Paul Crow reported Majesty of the Seas will spend the night in Havana, Cuba, which is where she is currently docked.

Majesty of the Seas was scheduled to visit Cozumel on Saturday as part of a five night sailing from Tampa, Florida.  

Tropical Storm Alberto is the first named storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, although the storm is not expected to become a hurricane. 

Photos: Royal Caribbean provides hurricane relief to people of Caribbean

In:
29Sep2017

Royal Caribbean has been using its cruise ships to bring much needed aid to the hurricane-ravaged islands of the Caribbean.

Adventure of the Seas returned to Puerto Rico  carrying much needed humanitarian supplies. In addition, the ship has worked with the local government to take evacuees from Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas recently dropped off hurricane relief supplies in St. Marteen and St. Thomas after Hurricane Irma. In addition, the company worked with the local government to evacuate residents.

Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas was the first ship to visit Key West after the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma. In addition, to stopping in Key West the ship brought much needed supplies to the area.

Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure of the Seas recently dropped off hurricane relief supplies in St. Marteen and St. Thomas after Hurricane Irma. In addition, the company worked with the local government to evacuate residents.

Royal Caribbean changes Allure of the Seas' itinerary due to Hurricane Irma

In:
01Sep2017

Royal Caribbean announced it has changed the scheduled itinerary for Allure of the Seas due to the recently developed Category 2 hurricane.

Hurricane Irma is expected to begin a northwest turn just before Saint Maarten on Wednesday, according to Royal Caribbean Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet.

Given the storm's location and for the comfort and safety of our guests and crew, Royal Caribbean felt it necessary to alter the currently scheduled Eastern Caribbean itinerary for Allure of the Seas September 3 to a Western Caribbean itinerary. The new itinerary is outlined below.

DATEDAYPORTARRIVALDEPARTURE
03-SepSundayFort Lauderdale, Florida 4:30PM
04-SepMondayAt Sea
05-SepTuesdayCozumel, Mexico8:00AM7:00PM
06-SepWednesdayAt Sea
07-SepThursdayFalmouth, Jamaica8:00AM3:00PM
08-SepFridayLabadee, Haiti10:30AM6:30PM
09-SepSaturdayAt Sea
10-SepSundayFort Lauderdale, Florida6:00AM 

Pre-booked shore excursions for our previous ports of call will be cancelled and refunded to the guest’s original form of payment while onboard. Guests will also have the ability to book shore excursions for our new ports of call at the Shore Excursions desk onboard Allure of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean noted they do not expect to make any further itinerary changes, but it may happen depending on the path of the storm.

James Van Fleet will continue to offer more frequent updates on his twitter account.

Royal Caribbean monitoring path of Hurricane Harvey for Liberty of the Seas

In:
24Aug2017

The Port of Galveston issued an update today regarding the forecasted path of Hurricane Harvey and its impact on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.

The Port of Galveston issued an update on their Facebook Page to indicate no changes have been made yet to Liberty of the Seas' itinerary, but Royal Caribbean is monitoring the path.  At this time, Liberty of the Seas will keep her original schedule for Sunday’s turnaround in Galveston, TX. Should the cruise line make any changes to Liberty of the Sea’s itinerary, Royal Caribbean will make sure to inform their guests and travel partners.

Royal Caribbean will provide an update tomorrow, August 25th by 12:00 PM EST.

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