In the midst of addressing client concerns about the Zika virus, we now also have clients freaking out about the recent storm that hit Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. If you missed the story somehow, Anthem left Bayonne, New Jersey on Saturday, February 6th and on Sunday it was caught in a severe storm. Cruise ships have faced inclement weather in the past, and will do so again in the future. When the storm is too large to “go around,” the ship’s captain is not always left with a lot of options.
In the case of Anthem, preliminary information sounds like the storm sped up and intensified, catching the captain and crew off guard. Originally they thought they’d be past the storm and heading to points further south before the storm made it that far out to sea. Unfortunately, they were wrong. The ship was hit by 125+ MPH winds (some reports claim winds in excess of 150 MPH) and 30+ foot waves (again, some reports claiming closer to 50 foot waves). No matter how you slice it, it was not a picnic for anyone. Passengers were confined to their staterooms. It was too dangerous for crew to work in the galleys, so dinner that night consisted of pre-packaged food items (chips, candy bars) and whatever they found in their stateroom minibars.
The best news is that there were no fatalities, and no life-threatening injuries reported. The emotional toll of course is harder to measure. Some passengers on the ship are claiming they’ll never cruise again while others seem to have shrugged it off and are ready to set sail in the future. Some passengers even rebooked future cruises while still onboard Anthem. Royal Caribbean has stepped up, issuing 100% refunds to passengers, protecting travel agent commissions, and offering future cruise credits to passengers equal to 50% of their Anthem cruise fare.
So what is the aftermath that we’re going to have to deal with? Some of us have already gotten the phone calls, starting first thing Monday morning. Our own clients, having seen the news, are expressing concerns about their upcoming cruises. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t booked on Anthem, nor are they booked on any sailing out of the great New Jersey/New York area, they are still worried.
As we’ve discussed in past articles, we can’t talk them out of cancelling, nor can we tell them nothing will happen to them on their cruise. Liability will come back to haunt you if you say any of those things. Yes, the odds are very small that they would be faced with a similar storm. But here’s the catch: although hurricane season is June 1 through November 30, hurricanes can form (and have) any month of the year. We already had the first hurricane of 2016 last month, and no doubt we’ll see more before the end of the year. We can assure clients that cruise lines don’t want to endanger their passengers and crew, nor do they want to risk damage to an expensive ship. With that in mind, moving a ship out of harm’s way is a lot easier to do compared to being locked down in a land based hotel or resort when a storm is bearing down.
The best that we can do is to advise and education our clients, and most importantly, to offer them travel insurance. If they insist on cancelling or changing their travel plans, don’t take on the liability of trying to convince them otherwise. I said this with my recent Zika virus article, but it’s worth repeating here as well: there is no amount of commission in this world worth that liability.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.