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"Near-normal" hurricane season predicted for 2023: What that means for cruise ships

05 Jun 2023
Matt Hochberg

Tropical Storm Arlene formed in the Gulf of Mexico last week right at the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which is always a concern for cruise ship passengers.

Hurricane satellite

The Atlantic hurricane season runs between June 1 and November 30, and it's a time of year when tropical storms could impact cruise itineraries. 

While there is potential for a hurricane to affect cruise plans, I wouldn't go as far as to say you should avoid cruises for five months of the year either.

With hurricane season back, now is a good time to refresh yourself on the basics and what you should know for this season.

Experts predict "near normal" 2023 hurricane season

2023 hurricane season outlook

For what it's worth, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published their outlook for the 2023 hurricane season.

According to the agency, a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 30% chance of a below-normal season.

The agency thinks there will be between 12 and 17 named storms, with 5-9 of them becoming hurricanes.  They expect between 1 and 4 will be major hurricanes.

NOAA has a 70% confidence in these ranges.

Ocean water

The reason why it's expected to be less active than recent years are related to the El Nino effect that suppress storm development:

  • An above-normal West African monsoon.
  • El Niño.
  • Favorable conditions local to the tropical Atlantic Basin.
  • Warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

You can read the full outlook on NOAA's website.

Of course, these are just best guesses, so what will actually happen is still unknown.

Basics of hurricane season

If you have a cruise planned during hurricane season, don't assume the worst about it being disrupted. More than likely, there won't be hurricanes around when you cruise. 

However, if a tropical storm does end up coming around the same time as your cruise, here are the basics.

Buy travel insurance

Travel insurance

Hurricanes don't just disrupt cruise ships, they can wreak havoc on many other aspects of travel. Getting to and from your cruise ship is just as likely, if not more so, to be impacted by a storm.

Travel insurance policies are relatively inexpensive and provide so much peace of mind should your plans not work out. 

Now is a good time to research the various travel insurance providers that are out there and review what a policy covers.

Keep in mind not all travel insurance policies are the same, so read the fine print about when it kicks in, and what it does and does not cover.

Ships will avoid hurricanes

If there is a hurricane predicted in the path of your ship, Royal Caribbean will go around the storm.

Itineraries can be flipped (port order changed), swapped out (eastern instead of western Caribbean or vice versa), or completely new itineraries created.

As long as the embarkation port is open, your ship will almost certainly sail, but there could be an itinerary change. Per the cruise contract you agreed to when you booked a cruise, no compensation is required to be given if your itinerary changes.

The bottom line is your ship will not sail anywhere near the storm.

What if the storm changes path and my ship is now in the way?

If the ocean starts getting too rough, cruise ships are able to outrun the storm.

A typical hurricane moves around 10 knots, but cruise ships can get up to 22 knots or higher in speed.

You can get a great deal

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

Want to find some of the cheapest prices for a Caribbean cruise? Book something in late summer or early fall.

Some of the cheapest times of the year to go on a cruise are the months of September and October because it falls right in the peak of hurricane season (and school is back in session). Late August is also usually priced cheaply.

Should you cruise during hurricane season?

The reality is many storms never impact land, and few have a direct impact on places cruise ships will visit. Moreover, if there is a storm in the area, Royal Caribbean will change the itinerary to avoid ever getting near the path of the storm.

The best reason to cruise during hurricane season is the lower prices. Cruises during this time of year scare away some people, and so prices tend to be lower to attract others. Moreover, the peak of hurricane season is when school is back in session, so less families are likely to cruise during this time of year.

Ultimately, you should cruise during hurricane season if you are flexible with your plans and okay with an itinerary shift. The weather might not be ideal, but there is a very good chance you will still be able to go on your cruise.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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