What You Need to Know About Bad Weather on a Cruise, According to an Expert (Video)

Weather can be unpredictable. And when you plan your trip months — and sometimes even more than a year — in advance, it’s impossible to anticipate.

Cruises are often planned well in advance of the actual trip and, unfortunately, sometimes even the best plans are thwarted. That’s what happened when a group of passengers on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship become irate after bad weather forced them to miss several ports on their European voyage.

Recently, the Norwegian Spirit (with a capacity of just over 2,000 guests) left from Southampton, England, and planned to make stops in the Netherlands, Norway and Iceland — none of which they actually got to. A spokeswoman for the cruise line told The New York Times that “severe weather conditions” caused the itinerary changes and that the line offered passengers 25 percent off the cost of a future cruise.

However, passengers complaining about things like clogged toilets staged a protest of sorts, demanding a refund.

While weather is as uncertain as playing the lottery, Colleen McDaniel, the editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, told Travel + Leisure that changing an itinerary is a calculated decision.

“[For] cruise lines, their No. 1 priority is going to be guest safety,” McDaniel said. “It is not just the decision of the onboard crew… it’s a team who makes that decision based on the latest weather patterns, based on the options or other alternatives.”

And while it is no doubt very frustrating if you’re forced to miss several planned stops, McDaniel said that cruise lines are often under no obligation to offer any kind of refund.

Storm looming over the sea, cruise ship in harbour
Daniel Day/Getty Images

“When itineraries change, they’re pretty well protected by the contract that every person on board their ships signs,” she said, adding that any refund offered is “actually above and beyond what they’re legally required to do. For some passengers that doesn’t sound great, but they are covered by that contract.”

So what can you do if you’ve packed your bags, booked your flights and updated your omg h for your dream cruise and weather decides to rain on your plans?

Be Aware of What Is Going on at All Times

McDaniel said it’s important to listen to announcements and be very clear with the situation on board. It’s imperative that you get the most up-to-date information from the staff who know it best and don’t rely on rumors or hearsay.

Use a Travel Agent

McDaniel said that using a travel agent to book your trip could save you a headache in the end.

“This person becomes your travel advocate,” she said. “They're someone who has relationships with the cruise line — when something goes wrong, they can be your advocate.”

Stay Organized

If you are offered any kind of compensation, McDaniel recommends writing down all the information.

“Get people's names and write down what the compensation was,” she said, adding you also have to be patient: “Be aware that there are countless cruise ships out in port at any time and so it might take some time to hear back.”

You Can Leave

If you’re really not enjoying the cruise or not doing what you hoped to, you can leave the ship early as a last resort.

“Ultimately, if you feel like you're not getting the cruise you want, you can leave,” McDaniel said, “but it’s going to be on you.”

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