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Some cruise lines give refunds — others, free drinks and Wi-Fi. 

September 06, 2017

Just two weeks after Hurricane Harvey, the United States is already bracing for the next storm. The Category 5 Hurricane Irma is already ripping through the Caribbean and headed straight for Florida.

Fortune reported that in the wake of Harvey, some 15,000 people were stranded on four Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships scheduled to dock at Port Galveston. While some ships lingered near the port, others headed to New Orleans to refuel, stock up on water and other provisions, and give passengers the option to disembark.

How a cruise line — or sometimes, an individual ship captain — chooses to respond to storms such as these can vary wildly.

Rather than risk an encounter with severe winds and towering waves, most ships seem to be taking preventative measures.

At least four cruise lines — Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Walt Disney Cruise Lines — have all canceled cruises this week. And more than a dozen itineraries have been altered, CBS News wrote.

The Norwegian Sky and the Norwegian Escape, for example, are returning to Miami early, USA Today reported.

One New Yorker, Renee Sanchez, is currently sailing on the MSC Divina. Sanchez told Travel + Leisure that their Eastern Caribbean cruise had been shifted to the Western Caribbean, sailing to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands rather than St. Maarten, the Bahamas, and Puerto Rico.

This particular cruise, which was scheduled to end on Thursday in Miami, has given passengers the option of staying onboard, as it’s become increasingly difficult to get flights out of Miami, rental cars, or hotel rooms.

The ship will head to Cozumel until the storm passes before heading back to Miami. In the meantime, everyone onboard has been given free internet and a drinks package — not a bad way to weather a storm. 

“The Captain is so nice and accessible,” Sanchez told T+L. “He has been updating us every few hours and has been having scheduled meetings so we can all ask questions. He is very visible.”

A surprising number of travelers actually opt to cruise during hurricane season, when extensions such as these are not unheard of.

Cruise lines cancelling upcoming sailings are reimbursing passengers to various degrees. Both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, for example, are providing full refunds — but Norwegian is offering 50 percent off future bookings, while Royal Caribbean is offering a 25 percent credit.

According to USA Today, at least 40,000 cruisers are being impacted by Hurricane Irma.

Travelers who have cruises planned in the upcoming days should check with their respective cruise line about how they are planning to deal with the storm.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Travel Insurance

Those with travel insurance policies may be able to recoup costs from the entire trip, including flights and other expenses. The travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth noted that, in order for a traveler to be refunded, the policy must have been purchased before Hurricane Irma was named on August 30.

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