Cruise ship in storm

Why La Niña is Bad News for Caribbean Cruises this Year

Are you going on a Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico, or Bermuda cruise this year? If so, you need to read this. Unfortunately, the news doesn’t look good. Experts are already predicting 11 hurricanes over a span of only 6 months! What’s even more alarming is that five of them are expected to be major hurricanes, falling in category 3 to 5 intensity! Colorado State University’s meteorology team recently released their 2024 hurricane forecast, and its bad news for cruises.

The 2024 Hurricane Season Will Be Extremely Active

Colorado State University’s recent hurricane report predicted that the hurricane season in the Atlantic basin for 2024 will be highly active. This prediction is based on the current transitioning El Niño conditions leading to La Niña conditions in the coming months, which causes favorable wind shear conditions for hurricanes. Unfortunately, this outlook spells trouble for cruises as the probability of major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and the Caribbean is expected to be well above average.

Cruise Ship in Rough Seas

The Chances of a Major Hurricane is High

The experts at Colorado State University have recently made some predictions about the likelihood of major hurricanes making landfall. 

According to their research, there is a 62% chance of a major hurricane (category 3 to 5) hitting any part of the continental US coastline. This probability is abnormally high compared to the average from 1880 to 2020, which is only 43%! 

Unfortunately, the East Coast is particularly at risk, with a 34% chance of a major hurricane making landfall. This includes the Peninsula Florida, which is south and east of Cedar Key. The current prediction is especially concerning since it is a lot higher than the average of 21% from 1880 to 2020. 

The Gulf Coast is also in danger, with a 42% chance of a major hurricane hitting the area. This is compared to an average of only 27% from 1880 to 2020. The Gulf Coast is defined as the area from the Florida Panhandle, which is west and north of Cedar Key, all the way west to Brownsville. 

Finally, there is a 66% chance of a major hurricane passing through the Caribbean, which is a lot higher than the average of 47% from 1880 to 2020. In all cases, the probability of a major hurricane is higher than the average of the past 140 years, which is bad news for cruise passengers!

Higher than Average Storms and Hurricanes

Colorado State University has forecasted that the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season of 2024 will surpass the average recorded between 1991 and 2020. The likelihood of major hurricane landfall in the United States and the Caribbean is expected to be higher than average. Below are the predicted number of storms in 2024.

  • 23 named storms (average is 14.4)
  • 115 named storm days (average is 69.4)
  • 11 hurricanes (average is 7.2)
  • 45 hurricane days (average is 27.0)
  • 5 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 3.2)
  • 13 major hurricane days (average is 7.4)

It’s scary to think that experts are predicting a whopping 11 hurricanes over a span of only 6 months! What’s even more alarming is that five of them are expected to be major hurricanes, falling in category 3 to 5 intensity! If you have a cruise booked during hurricane season this year, just hope none of these hurricanes occur when you’re on the cruise ship! Personally, I’m heading out on a 7 day Caribbean cruise in late June, so I’m hoping for good weather that week. 

Cruise Ship in Rough Seas

Why Is the Hurricane Season Worse This Year?

There are 2 main reasons why the hurricane season is expected to be more intense this year. The first is the Atlantic has been experiencing record high temperatures, with sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central Atlantic currently at historic levels. This is expected to persist, creating a conducive environment for hurricane formation. 

The second reason the hurricane season is expected to be worse this year is La Niña. El Niño, which has been suppressing hurricane intensity, is expected to transition to La Niña. La Niña causes weaker vertical wind shear, making the atmosphere more suitable for tropical storms and hurricanes.

What Does It Mean If You Are Going on a Cruise This Year?

If you are planning a Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, or Mexico cruise from June to November of this year, you need to keep a close eye on the news and monitor any storm activities. 

Get Travel Insurance

The first thing you need to do when cruising during Hurricane season is to buy travel insurance. Skipping travel insurance is a big mistake when cruising during the hurricane season, especially this year.   

The best approach is to upgrade to travel insurance policies that include “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage (CFAR). This allows you to cancel your cruise and receive reimbursement for any reason before going on your trip. This means that if you become scared about a potential hurricane and decide not to go on your cruise, you can cancel it and get a refund.  The reason why you need to buy travel insurance is that cruises are rarely canceled, even if there is a storm. Instead, they will re-route or have delays. So, you can’t cancel your cruise simply because you’re scared to get on a cruise ship and expect reimbursement.   

Do know that CFAR coverage is usually 40% more expensive than the base travel insurance premium. For me, the peace of mind that CFAR coverage provides is worth the additional cost. 

I added CFAR coverage to my upcoming Caribbean cruise travel insurance because I’m susceptible to seasickness, and the last thing I want to do is to be on a cruise ship during a storm!   

Also, keep in mind that you need to buy your travel insurance early, usually within two weeks of booking, since you can’t buy it when you hear the news of an approaching hurricane. By that time, it’ll be too late to buy travel insurance.   

Also know that you won’t receive a full reimbursement if you cancel your trip. In my case, my travel insurance policy will refund me 50% of the cruise fare if I cancel for any reason.

Arrive at the Cruise Port the Night Before

During hurricane season, the likelihood of airline delays and cancellations is much higher. That’s why you should plan to arrive the night before a cruise. If you fly on the day of cruise ship embarkation, you run the risk of missing your ship due to flight delays and cancellations. 

Sign Up for Text Alerts

In addition to keeping a close watch on the weather updates, as small storms can escalate into hurricanes in a matter of days, make sure to check with your cruise line for the latest information on any delays before boarding. 

It’s smart to sign up for text alerts from your cruise ship so that you can receive timely updates about your cruise. It’s common for cruise lines to delay embarkation because of stormy weather. The last thing you want to do is show up at the cruise port on embarkation day only to find out your cruise is delayed by a day!

Don’t Book Shore Excursions

Since you’ll be cruising when the chances of hurricanes and storms are higher than normal, I suggest holding off on reserving shore excursions unless you can cancel them. With abnormally high storm activities, there is a high chance that your ship’s itinerary will change abruptly, and you may not be able to visit a planned cruise port as scheduled. 

When that happens, you may end up losing your booked shore excursion because you cannot cancel it for a no-show. Make sure to check your shore excursion cancellation policy!

Plus, you may not even want to go to the beach to do your shore excursion even if it’s not canceled. For example, I once booked a shore excursion to go snorkeling, but I ended up not wanting to go because it was a dreary, rainy day. However, it wasn’t canceled, so I lost the money I paid for my shore excursion.

That’s why it’s best not to reserve shore excursions when cruising during hurricane season. Instead, play it by ear and book at the last minute. Check out: The Worst Months to Go on a Cruise

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