What to Expect if a Hurricane Forms During Your Vacation

Turns out, a cruise ship is just the place to be.
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A satellite image taken from space shows a hurricane just off the coast of Florida.

Weather is one of those things over which you have little to no control, but what if you could go on a vacation that ensures smooth sailing, no matter what?

You can—and that vacation option is a cruise. Royal Caribbean understands how weather can affect someone’s getaway and that’s why we’ve turned to James Van Fleet, the first chief meteorologist in the cruise industry. He works with each of Royal Caribbean’s 26 ships and their captains to guarantee they are not in the path of impending weather that can be disruptive, like hurricanes. “Royal Caribbean understands that having someone in-house, looking at these weather patterns and advising in real time makes all the difference. I’m able to get in front of what’s developing and communicate that to our crew immediately,” says James.

James recording his weekly weather updates for Royal Caribbean guests.

Credit: James van Fleet

Ships are Safest

According to James, the best part of vacationing on a cruise ship is that it can take you to better weather—think sun, sand and an umbrella in your cocktail. “A common misconception, especially among those who have never been on a cruise before, is that open water is the most dangerous place to be in inclement weather,” he says. “It’s actually the total opposite: If a storm is coming your way on land, you have less options than you may like. Your home is a potential target that can’t be moved. On a ship, however, our captains can get you out of harm’s way—and quickly.”

Weather Tracking, ‘Round the Clock

Royal Caribbean uses sophisticated technology, like the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) to track and monitor weather patterns around the world. Our corporate offices in Miami and every ship’s bridge are equipped with computers, satellites and radars. James even keeps portable tracking devices with him at all times.

What’s more, our officers on board are constantly monitoring information provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Stationed throughout the ship, these officers are responsible for making sure guests are safe and comfortable should inclement weather arise. And speaking of staying comfortable in less than smooth waters: “All Royal Caribbean cruise ships have stabilizers that act just like airplane wings,” says James. “When you think about it, air is water vapor, so the stabilizers are essentially lifting the ship over waves the same way a wing lifts a plane over rough air. This keeps the ‘rise and fall’ from being too noticeable.”

Safety is All Hands on Deck

Our number one priority is safety, and our tools also show us if squally weather is sure to touch down in a specific port of call you’re scheduled to visit. “It’s rare that we have a serious itinerary adjustment, and that typically occurs after a storm has come through, infrastructure has been affected and there’s literally nowhere the ship can go,” James explains. “That’s an extreme case. At times, we’ll also consider switching ports if the weather is stormy. First and foremost, our goal is to get you to the places on your itinerary, and we can almost always do that by traveling around less-than-ideal weather.”

James and our captains make it a point to keep guests in the loop, so they know exactly what to expect when it comes to hurricanes and possible rerouting. “The captain will frequently make weather announcements, and I record daily forecast videos that play in every stateroom,” he says. “I also rely on social media to disseminate information—it’s one of the fastest ways to connect with our guests. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll get the latest and greatest weather updates.”

When asked if seas are rougher during hurricane season, James notes that there’s no need to worry: “That’s actually a myth. In fact, the high-pressure, humid temperatures associated with hurricane season settle the seas. The Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico are all much calmer in the summer than they are in the winter. So now is actually the ideal time to book that Labor Day Weekend cruise!

If you’re ready to experience all that Royal Caribbean has in store for your next vacation (rain or shine), head here to find the perfect cruise.