Hurricanes happen every year. Fortunately, they are usually identified early and closely tracked, and not every hurricane makes land fall. In most instances, cruises aren’t seriously impacted. I’ve been on ships when an itinerary has to be completely turned on its head because of an active hurricane, but that was the extent of the impact on the cruise; only a minor inconvenience.
As a result we had beautiful weather and calm seas. Of course, there’s always at least one loud disgruntled passenger because they had their hearts set on visiting a specific port, or they don’t want to go to Nassau for the umpteenth time.
But not all hurricanes cooperate. If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you have heard or experienced first hand when it all goes sideways. In the past there have been cruise ships stranded in the Gulf of Mexico, turning 7 night cruises into 10 night cruises, as a hurricane closed ports in Florida. And it wasn’t always handled in the best manner.
Naming names isn’t necessary to learn the lesson. But there was an instance when one ship pulled into Galveston. They brought on more provisions, new entertainment, and allowed passengers to debark and return home if that’s what they wished. The rest of the passengers stayed onboard, and enjoyed their extended cruise until they could return to their original Florida port of embarkation a few days later. In the same exact storm, another ship (different cruise line) decided against pulling into a port to re-provision, and ended up rationing food and water, and got beaten up in the media as a result.
This week was different. Calling Hurricane Harvey a major hurricane seems like an understatement. The devastation in Southeast Texas has been monumental. Airports closed, not just for a few hours, but for several days. The port of Galveston has been closed for days, and once again we have ships with upwards of 20,000 passengers that were impacted by the port closure.
But this time the cruise lines stepped up. They have shown that they’ve learned from past misjudgments and poor decisions. Ships pulled into New Orleans or Miami to re-provision, and allowed passengers to disembark if they chose to do so. Nobody was rationing water or food, and the ships were able to keep passengers comfortable, and more importantly, safe.
There were cruises that had to be cancelled due to the port closure. Those passengers were given full refunds, and in some cases also given future cruise discounts. And it seems that the vast majority of passengers were understanding, and not acting poorly as a result of these cancellations.
It’s good to know how our suppliers respond in emergencies, how they treat our clients (whether they’re already on a ship or hoping to board a ship). Safety is always the first concern. The cruise lines have bent over backwards this week to do everything they could do for our mutual clients, and I applaud them for that.
And I pray that Hurricane Irma peters out next week before reaching the Caribbean.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.