Rough Seas on a Cruise Ship – How They Handle it

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Harsh waves lapping at a cabin window, water drenching the deck, and the vigorous rocking of a ship are all images that our mind conjures up when we think about a cruise ship going through a storm.

Although it’s impossible to control the weather, cruise ships prioritize safety above all else. We show you how captains navigate through rough seas on a cruise ship.

If you’ve ever watched a horrifying reality show on television, you might be a little concerned about all the things that could go wrong when you travel. Might you be faced with the same possibilities? How are these extreme circumstances handled?

The good news is that cruise ships will rarely travel through a rough sea. They are equipped with the latest in weather tracking information and navigation systems so they can avoid any potential storm or heavy seas.

Often, when there are rough seas or storms ahead, the captain charts another course around the weather so that they avoid the rough water altogether.

This might mean the ship takes longer to reach port or that there is a delay in the schedule. However, it also means that every passenger on board is kept safe. This is their No. 1 priority.

Rough Seas on a Cruise Ship: Can the Ship Handle it?

Cruise ships are made of heavy steel. When there is a full capacity of passengers, plus the crew, the weight will allow it to easily roll with the high seas and high winds.

In the roughest seas, the ship may tilt to one side. However, this is highly unlikely since shipbuilders vigorously test the center of gravity and buoyancy while constructing the vessel.

Cruise Ship Weather
Photo Credit: Toni Arsovski / Shutterstock

This testing included putting scale models of the cruise ship through storm simulations to see how it holds up. These ships are designed to handle all types of storms, even hurricanes.

Weather Is Always Monitored

As mentioned, the captain constantly monitors the weather. This is an important function since they never know when they may need to change course. Cruise lines contain the latest weather forecasting equipment, with technology that is far more advanced than what you have on your phone.

The bridge holds a wide range of storm satellite images, weather maps, and computer models. The crew works with third-party meteorologists and always monitors the weather forecasting equipment.

In addition to the latest in monitoring equipment, many cruise fleets also take added precautions. Royal Caribbean hired meteorologist James Van Fleet in January 2017. They were the first in the cruise ship industry to hire a dedicated meteorologist. Prior to this, Van Fleet was employed as a television meteorologist for over 20 years.

During typhoon and hurricane seasons (from June to November), Van Fleet is at Royal Caribbean’s Miami headquarters monitoring their 25-foot weather wall screens. He shares information with its 26 cruise ships plus the executive team.

Van Fleet is frequently able to see storms building as early as ten days before it strikes. His job is to advise each ship on how to avoid them.

Carnival Cruise Line Miami Monitoring Center
Carnival Cruise Line Miami Monitoring Center

Carnival Cruise Line monitors the weather using a multi-million dollar command center. This 35,000-square foot center is staffed around the clock. It contains 74’ long video walls containing 57 LED screens.

These screens show the status of all the ships in the fleet. It includes information on itineraries, weather, and safety updates. Some of these are captured by Argos, which is an in-house management tool.

Sometimes Cruise Ships Are Rerouted

While generally, a cruise ship will continue on to its destination if poor weather conditions can be avoided, there are sometimes exceptions. A modern cruise ship is equipped with stabilizing technology for when it encounters rough seas. However, if the storm is more serious, the ship may attempt to avoid or outrun it.

Worth Reading: Six Types of Ship Rocking You Should Know

For most storms, the command center will try to move the ship to a better weather location. Yet, there are situations where the cruise ship may not have a choice other than going through the rough weather, such as when it’s crossing the North Atlantic during the fall. In these instances, the ship will attempt to find a calm patch of sea.

Cruise Vacation in Uncertain Times
Photo Credit: Ramunas Bruzas / Shutterstock

If they are unable to avoid the weather, the cruise line can change the itinerary. This may mean switching a Bermuda cruise to one along the coast of Canada or New England. They may also lengthen or shorten the cruise by a couple of days.

Decisions are made with input from the captain, with safety and comfort at the forefront. To avoid heavy rains, a ship may remain at sea and arrive at the port a little later than planned.

Ports can also be skipped if the seas prove to be too rough to handle. This usually happens in circumstances where there is not a deep-water dock and guests need to board a smaller tender ship to arrive on shore.

Ships will choose to dock using an alternate port, change the port’s order, or find a sunny location at sea.

What Happens If You Experience Poor Weather?

If the cruise ship you’re on encounters rough seas, listen to the instructions from the captain and crew. They will place non-slip mats on slippery surfaces and put up signage to remind guests to use caution when walking.

Listen to the daily captain’s report from the bridge, as it will contain a description of the conditions on the sea and help you decide what you need to prepare for the day.

If you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to prepare yourself with medications, prescriptions, or homeopathic remedies.

Quantum of the Seas Deck
Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive

Attractions like waterslides and pools may be closed, or the outdoor decks can be shut down altogether. It is rare for a captain to advise all guests to remain in their cabin, but this can happen.

Generally, guests will experience rolling, but that is usually the extent of it.

When it comes to rough seas on a cruise ship, these massive vessels are well equipped to handle anything nature can throw at them. Testing during the construction phase ensures that the ship can remain buoyant and not capsize in the event of poor weather.

Read Also: Cruise Ship vs Giant Wave – How Do the Ships Survive?

Advanced weather stations provide excellent communication to each cruise ship in a fleet so they know what to expect. They will also help the captain and crew successfully navigate away from potentially bad weather using a variety of methods.

Cruise ships always keep passenger safety as their top priority so you can have a worry-free vacation.

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