Cruising is for the most part a warm weather endeavour, with most peak seasons taking place during the warmer months of the year. A natural consequence of this time of year is that it happens to coincide with the highest likelihood of inclement weather as higher air temperatures mix with cool waters to form low pressure systems. Mother Nature cannot be bargained with and summer rain and storms are just part of life during the warmer months.
From time to time, these systems form in the South Pacific and off the northern coasts (both east and west) of Australia and almost always bring with them heavy winds and strong rain.
While conditions such as this might lead you to think that being on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean during such a time is the last place you’d want to be, the reality is that you almost never will be. Modern cruise ships sailing in Australia are all compliant to the latest technological requirements when it comes to forecasting weather patterns and acting on all possible directions a storm may travel, whether expected or unexpected.
Furthermore, all ships adhere to iron-clad protocols which determine the steps a ship can take to avoid inclement weather. This means there’s an excellent chance the worst weather your holiday may encounter is a bit of mild rain, lasting for little more than a few hours to a day at most. So while you may have to relocate from poolside to indoors, you’re still surrounded by theatres, bars, lounges and the usual exciting atmosphere that cruise ships provide for their passengers on a daily basis.
Cruise ship captains are in full command of their vessel at all times and have clear procedures for their course of action. First and foremost, all steps to avoid any damage to the ship, its passengers or contents are taken, but captains also want guests to continue to have a great time and be as inconvenienced as possible and this is central in their mind.
Aside from a bit of rain outside, the worst thing that may happen to your cruise itinerary if there’s a cyclone or tropical storm somewhere in the South Pacific is a change of itinerary. The beauty of having tens of thousands of islands in the region is that one island on the schedule can easily be swapped for another. If such a move is deemed necessary, shore excursion costs are fully refunded or affected guests are given first option of applying the fee charged to a different tour in the new port-of-call.
It’s important to note here that it’s situations such as this where travel insurance may not always be your friend, as fine print can very easily get in the way. For example, if you’ve booked a private shore excursion independent of the cruise line in a particular port which is no longer on the schedule, your travel insurance may not reimburse you for any cancellation fees you may incur. It’s wise to check your policy for specific wording which covers you for unforeseen changes to port line-ups or for more dramatic diversions to your cruise holiday.
Ships and their itineraries have significantly more flexibility than you may think. Itineraries can be changed with little notice, however thanks to the advanced weather forecasting technology onboard, decisions on this are often taken days in advance where possible. Each vessel has a Command Centre which studies these weather patterns and predictions and in consultation with key personnel, this is where the tough decisions on direction are taken. You can take a look inside a Royal Caribbean Command Centre in this video.
If there’s a significant change to your itinerary or the worst possible scenario occurs, such as damage to port facilities at your original destination, passengers are usually compensated with an onboard credit to spend or maybe a day of free drinks as a way for the cruise line to apologise for the inconvenience caused to your holiday. Remember, weather is completely out of everybody’s control and this is a point that sometimes can be forgotten.
While you’re relaxing and enjoying your holiday, the people you’ll see running around in a hectic state of mind are the ship’s entertainment team, furiously planning and executing new and more frequent activities to keep passengers occupied. You’ll hear announcements across the ship that there may be a new cooking class starting soon, or extra trivia games in one of the lounges or perhaps an extra movie screening in the theatre, just to name a few.
So with all of this in mind, hopefully you are a little reassured that cruise ships are often the safest places to be during inclement weather. Aside from safety, guest satisfaction is the top priority for cruise lines, and stringent measures are in place to ensure this happens.