Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sales abound for cruises during hurricane season

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The Atlantic hurricane season officially got underway last weekend and will last until the end of November, with p eak storm activity usually from August through October.

With it come the concerns of travellers who book cruises for this time of year. While those concerns are understandable, in today's world of high-tech weather prediction most of them don't -- dare I say? -- hold water.

For this season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in Florida is calling for near-normal or below-normal tropical storms and hurricanes in 2014.

That's the prediction, which we know isn't a guarantee. Still, cruise lines and their captains are way out in front of potential problems that will suck the joy out of your cruise vacation.

In the area covering Southern Florida, the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico, hurricanes move, on average, at forward speeds of between nine and 12 knots, while cruise ships can come close to doubling that. Still, as comforting as that sounds, there are possible inconveniences.

I was once on a Mexican cruise with a weakening storm about to hit land near Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Even though the storm wasn't that strong, the captain decided to bypass Cabo and head south on the Mexican Riviera, and changed our itinerary to stop in Cabo on the return trip to Los Angeles. Everyone was happy.

However, in some cases the schedule doesn't work and you could miss a port no matter what steps are taken. On one occasion, I missed a port in the Caribbean due to an approaching hurricane. Within a few hours of deciding the port was a no go, the captain had secured space at another port further north and, as promised, the passengers got to experience four ports on the seven-day cruise.

When you consider the number of ships sailing in the Caribbean every day, changing ports once in a while is neither surprising nor inconvenient. From time to time hurricanes will shift and you could find yourself in some rough weather (but rough seas can occur outside of hurricane season).

The worst-case scenario, although it happens only infrequently, is when a ship has to leave a home port early or is forbidden by the United States Coast Guard from returning to one. The coast guard plays a vital role in determining when a port can be open or closed. During storms on shore, officers want ships to stay at sea, far away from the storm.

Although an extra sea day or even two on a cruise ship may not seem like a problem, it can be for some.

Work, flight schedules and personal plans are all disrupted when delays occur. If an experienced cruise travel agent booked your voyage, the agent should be working on your behalf to rearrange your flights. If you booked your air travel through the cruise line, that should also be comforting. Another way to protect yourself is with travel insurance that covers weather-related events.

The good news is you will probably find a lot of sales during this period, and I've selected two of them for you. Prices were available at time of writing.

Phil's picks of the week

Carnival Glory

Departs: July 19

Duration: Seven days return from Miami

Ports: Cozumel, Mexico; Belize; Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya, Mexico

Balcony: $669

See Carnival.com or a cruise travel agent.

Norwegian Getaway

Departs: June 28

Duration: Seven days return from Miami

Ports: Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Starting price: $569

See Ncl.com or a cruise travel agent.

Visit portsandbows.com, sponsored by Expedia CruiseShipCenters, for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for more cruise information. Phil Reimer may be contacted directly at portsandbows@gmail.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2014 ??65534

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