Carnival Cruise Line Shares Hurricane Season Preparations

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With hurricane season underway, a low pressure system forming in the Gulf of Mexico, and homeports in Florida expected to get drastic amounts of rain this week, cruise travelers are understandably nervous about the weather at this time of year.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Brand Ambassador John Heald has shared behind-the-scenes details of what one of the world’s biggest cruise lines does to prepare for storm season.

While all passengers and cruise lines hope for a quiet hurricane season and smooth sailings, it is always best to be prepared. Carnival Cruise Line uses a range of tools and resources to ensure they are updated on all weather happenings and ready to keep every ship, guest, and crew member safe.

Carnival Cruise Line Miami Headquarters
Carnival Cruise Line Miami Headquarters (Credit: Carnival)

“These days, Carnival has all the tools needed to see where a tropical storm is developing, where it is going and what the projected track is likely to be,” Heald said of the cruise line’s Fleet Operations Center. “It is manned 24 hours a day every day by experienced navigators, sailors, and men and women who are in constant contact with the fleet.”

Weather forecasts in all sailing regions are under constant scrutiny and review. Carnival Cruise Line also remains in close contact with the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the US Coast Guard, and other government agencies, and uses their advice and input when making itinerary or cruise route decisions.

When a storm is threatening, the Fleet Operations Center and Carnival Cruise Line executives also confer with individual ship captains about sailing conditions, and use all that information for itinerary considerations.

“Any decision to change an itinerary is always done with the interest of guest and crew safety,” Heald said. “Hurricanes are as reliable as a blind yak and can suddenly change their tracks and so we wait, gather advice and see what we need to do, often within a day or so notice.”

Last minute changes can be understandably frustrating to guests who may have chosen their cruise vacation specifically to visit preferred ports of call. These decisions are not made lightly, however, and it is always the cruise line’s intent to preserve original itineraries as much as possible.

“Above all, we want to deliver the itinerary the guest booked which is why we want to wait and see what happens with the storm before officially announcing any changes,” Heald explained. “This is why you will not be told of any changes days before the cruise. We wait to see what will happen.”

Read Also: How a Hurricane Could Affect Your Cruise

This means guests may not be informed of any itinerary changes, port cancellations, or delays until just before setting sail or even en route during the cruise. Staying in close contact with Carnival Cruise Line with an updated email address and phone number to receive text messages can help travelers stay updated as soon as possible.

What Happens When an Itinerary Is Changed?

Once Carnival Cruise Line makes the necessary decision to change a ship’s itinerary, a lot of steps must be taken very quickly both onboard the impacted ship (or possibly several ships at once) as well as at the cruise line’s headquarters. The original port of call will be notified, and the ship will either slow or begin to alter course.

Alternative ports of call will be examined and contacted to attempt to secure berth space on a specific day, depending on the ship’s location and how the storm may be impacting other regions. If all else fails, the ship may simply plan to spend the day at sea.

If a new port is available, the shore excursions team will then reach out to local tour operators to reserve as many spaces on tours as possible. This will depend on the number of tour companies available and how many other ships may be in port at the time, but they do their best to have a diverse range of tours available for guests to enjoy.

Carnival Cruise Line Storm
Carnival Cruise Line Storm (Photo Credit: Ramunas Bruzas / Shutterstock)

Next, Carnival Cruise Line will need to rearrange flights and transportation for any crew members who may have been leaving or joining the ship in the original port of call. Similar travel adjustments may also be necessary for any fly-on entertainers, such as comedians, magicians, or other headliners.

Onboard the ship, department managers will organize new schedules for crew members to account for different port times or changes in staffing. Meanwhile, the cruise directors and entertainment directors will need to collaborate to design a new Fun Times newsletter and update the Carnival Hub App with new activities and onboard offerings.

While all this is going on, guests will be notified of the changes via text messages, emails, and social media posts to ensure the word is out to everyone as soon as reasonably possible.

Heald acknowledges that while most guests are understanding of such necessary changes, some passengers are less than polite with how they react to the news of their altered cruise.

“To the few who are angry and not understanding, I ask that you please don’t take your frustration out on a 20-year-old guest services crew member, an entertainment staff member, or anyone in a uniform as they have absolutely nothing to do with this decision,” he said.

Heald has always been welcoming for all questions, comments, and concerns on his Facebook page, where he answers hundreds of questions nearly every day of the week. If guests must vent their frustrations about itinerary changes, he has always invited those comments to himself rather than inflicting them on onboard crew members.

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