As with any travel purchase, the onus is on the customer to understand what you are buying and what costs can be refunded in the case of a hurricane.
Some airlines allow customers to cancel a reservation if the travel is within the dates and area of a hurricane watch issued by the National Hurricane Center.
Some airlines allow customers who have not begun their travel to make a change in their travel plans without a change fee. The flight change may be subject to higher fares if it does not meet the original rules or booking class.
Some airlines allow customers who have started their travel to make one free itinerary change, but the change must often occur within a certain time frame.
Some properties in the Caribbean offer hurricane guarantees which compensate paying guest with refunds or allow them to rebook within a year. These provisions often rely on the hurricane shutting down the local airport, however, and travelers should inquire directly with the hotel or resort about their policies with regards to hurricanes.
In these days of satellite equipment and reliable, easy communication, the cruise lines carefully monitor the paths of storms and can quickly send their ships to safer waters. The standard strategy is to simply avoid the nasty weather system, which is why cruise ships are safe during hurricanes.
Unfortunately, the fine print in your cruise contract also gives the cruise lines the right to substitute and/or eliminate ports if and when they deem it necessary. You will be entitled to refunds on pre-paid port taxes or fees, but you’ll lose your pre-paid non refundable tours, excursions, rentals, and the like.
On-shore tour operators have different policies with regards to hurricanes, and many of the bigger operations that cater to cruise travelers will provide a refund, but don’t count on it. If your contracted supplier doesn’t give a refund, you could be out of luck without travel insurance.
Even though your cruise ship will avoid the hurricane, it may still run into rough water and rough seas are more likely to cause motion sickness. All travelers should pack their favorite motion sickness remedy just in case.
As a result of their experienced hurricane planning, cruises are almost never canceled. If a storm is aimed for the ship’s primary point of embarkation, it may delay a day or two and passengers are generally compensated. If a cruise is canceled, you’ll likely receive a refund or a discounted price on a future cruise from the cruise line. This means you won’t have the option to claim a trip cancellation on your travel insurance.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.