First Storm of Hurricane Season Developing in Gulf of Mexico

June 1 marks the official start of hurricane season. The first low-pressure area is showing signs it could impact cruise operations.

June 1 marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, and a low-pressure area is already developing in the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm could intensify into a tropical storm or depression. At a minimum, the system promises significant rainfall over southern Florida, potentially affecting major cruise homeports.

The developing storm is not the first of the year; tropical storms and depressions have already been noted as early as January and May this year.

The early start serves as a reminder to all cruise guests planning trips in the upcoming months: the unfolding hurricane season could significantly influence cruise operations between now and November.

First Day of Hurricane Season

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued a new update on an area of low pressure over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. This system, expected to bring heavy showers and thunderstorms, has increased and become more organized over the last 24 hours. 

The National Hurricane Center believes the low-pressure area could develop further into a tropical storm as early as the afternoon of June 1. The environmental conditions favor additional development over the next day or two. 

The storm could bring heavy rainfall over portions of the southern United States through this weekend. This increased rainfall could affect operations at ports such as New Orleans, the Port of Galveston, Port Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa, and Port Everglades. Cruise ships docked or scheduled to dock at these ports might face delays or changes in their itinerary.

Cruise Ship Weather
Photo Credit: Toni Arsovski / Shutterstock

Currently, the low-pressure area shows sustained winds of around 35 mph, with showers and thunderstorms further developing. If the storm does develop into a tropical storm, it will be the first named storm of the year, taking the name Arleen. 

Good weather over the Gulf of Mexico seems unlikely over the coming days, as the low-pressure area is expected to move in a more southern direction very slowly. This will likely impact guests sailing on cruises to the western Caribbean, typically including calls to Cozumel, Costa Maya, Roatan, and Belize.

The National Hurricane Center released its predictions for this year on May 26, stating it expects a “near-normal” situation for 2023. There is also a 30% probability of a more active season and a 30% probability of below-normal seasonal activity.

Impact of Hurricane Season on the Cruise Industry

Safety remains paramount in the cruise industry. This is why modern cruise ships and cruise line offices have sophisticated meteorological equipment and communication systems to monitor weather patterns and receive updates from weather stations. The investments the cruise lines have made in this regards are not without reason.

Hurricane season can substantially affect cruise ship schedules and routes. When a hurricane is forecasted, cruise lines may change ports of call, alter departure and arrival times, or even cancel cruises altogether. Even the vicinity of storms can stir up rough seas, causing discomfort for guests and increasing the risk of onboard injuries.

Caribbean Hurricane
Photo Credit: Drew McArthur / Shutterstock

Hurricanes can also have a severe impact on the physical infrastructure of ports. While ports like Miami, Port Canaveral, and Port Everglades are built to endure sizable tropical storms, powerful hurricanes can still inflict damage, disrupting operations until repairs are made, as we saw in Port Canaveral, Port Miami, and Tampa last year

It’s not just the ports in Florida that can feel the effects of these storms. Many Caribbean islands are susceptible to hurricanes. 

The damage caused by severe storms can devastate island communities and destroy their tourism industries. In the past, we have seen the effects of hurricane season in St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Following such events, cruise lines often participate in relief efforts, delivering supplies and aiding clean-up operations.

Hurricane Impact on Guests

When a cruise is altered due to inclement weather, such as during hurricane season, the cruise lines have several policies to protect and compensate guests.

These policies vary by cruise line and specific circumstances, so passengers are always encouraged to read and understand the terms and conditions when booking.

Hurricane in the Caribbean
Photo Credit: Mike Mareen / Shutterstock

Suppose a cruise is canceled because of a hurricane or other severe weather event. In that case, most cruise lines will offer a full refund to passengers or the option to rebook on a different sailing. 

If the cruise itinerary is significantly altered — for instance, if specific ports of call are substituted — the cruise line generally does not offer a refund, as the cruise itself is still taking place. However, the cruise line may choose to issue onboard credit or other forms of compensation, although they are usually not obligated to do so.

Cruise Hive will monitor the development of any storms in the Caribbean basin and the Atlantic Ocean this hurricane season and keep you informed of any developments. 


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