Hurricane season

June 8, 2016 -

John Heald

A very good morning to you all, as it’s June, it’s time to talk about the weather. Yep, hurricane season. It’s hard to think about hurricane season when you are sitting in your underpants writing from the UK where hurricanes are as rare as finding an Apple store in an Amish community.  But at this time of year, it is on our minds and I hope this season will be as quiet as a Benedictine monk on a vow of silence who has laryngitis.  I thought, for the sake of new readers to my Facebook page and for any blue card first time cruisers, it would be a good idea to explain what happens during hurricane season.

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. Advice is taken from government agencies such as the National Hurricane Center, United States Coast Guard and the Church of Scientology ……….OK, maybe we don’t ask Tom Cruise and his mates where Hurricane Bloody Hell Fire is heading but we do take advice from very serious people. That advice is then digested by the beards at Carnival who look at the projected track of the hurricane, confer with the ship’s captain and then decide what needs to be done.

Although itinerary modifications happen from time to time, any decision to change an itinerary is always done with the interest of guest and crew safety. 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.  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.

Once a decision has been made to adjust the itinerary, the next step is to see where the ship can go. Let’s say that Hurricane Bloody Hell Fire is heading through the eastern Caribbean and the scheduled calls are in St. Thomas, San Juan and St. Maarten, so we look to the western Caribbean for an alternative itinerary. That is when the beards call the port authorities in Cozumel, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, and other ports to ask for a berth on a specific day.

Once a new plan is in place, then the following also happens:

  • The shore excursions team has to call the tour operators in the new ports of call to book as many spaces on the excursions as possible.
  • Crew members who may have been joining the ship in the original port of call have to be advised and rescheduled if necessary.
  • Ticketing for fly-on entertainers’ flights need to be changed.
  • The ship’s managers have to organise new schedules for all the departments.
  • The cruise directors/entertainment directors have to design a new Fun Times.
  • And, finally, a letter has to be prepared for guests to let them know what is going to happen and why.

We also email or text guests and post the new itinerary on our social media channels. And when that new itinerary is given to guests, 99 percent will accept the decision — they may be disappointed but they understand. But I also have to say that, on every ship that is affected by Mother Nature, there are people who do not and will not understand that the cruise lines make these changes for their own safety. 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 associate, an entertainment staff member or anyone in a uniform as they have absolutely nothing to do with this decision.

I was in this position many, many times during my time as a cruise director and there has been the odd occasion when I have been screamed at and prodded and poked in the chest or, in the case of a very short man, poked in the dangly bits. I was able to take that, obviously, and the experience sometimes (not always) enabled me to turn that situation around. But it’s not fair to take that anger out on a junior staff member.  Any one of them who is screamed at should be able to give the guest the good news with a cattle prod. But, of course, they can’t and they don’t. Our wonderful staff apologises, takes the verbal tongue lashings and apologises again.

Let’s hope it’s a very quiet hurricane season this year but, if we should be forced to change ports of call, then, please, don’t shout and swear at a staff member who, only 10 minutes before, was changing a $20 bill for two $10s or hosting a game of Bean Bag Toss.



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17 Responses to Hurricane season

  1. Todd Tittle says:

    My wife and I cruised out of Miami between hurricanes that had hit the city pretty hard and knocked out Grand Cayman. We stopped in Costa Maya which was very “new” port of call and enjoyed it very much. Years later on another cruise we visited Grand Cayman and felt we would like Costa Maya better much more “homey” feel to it than the commercialized and expensive GC. Learned sometimes you have to go with the flow and make the best of it.

  2. Angie Coggins says:

    Just returned from the Bahamas this morning on the Elation. Our captain did a great job of steering us clear of the tropical storm. However, we missed our stop at half moon cay because it was too rough. I completely understand doing it with the passengers safety in mind, but this is my 3rd cruise and unfortunately, this has happened on 2 of the 3 cruises I’ve been on. On neither cruise was there any mention of a replacement stop. The highlight of this cruise for my family was half moon cay as we had been to Nassau before so we were very disappointed. Is this common for half moon cay? Is there a better time of year I should try and travel to half moon cay? We love cruises but can’t believe this has happened two out of 3 cruises…how common is it for this to happen?

    • Jason says:

      Yes, it’s common at HMC unfortunately. I’ve been lucky, and all three of the cruises I’ve taken to HMC were able to tender. One was close, and that was one ROUGH tender ride.

      Keep trying, it’s such a wonderful place.

    • Karen Kay Earl says:

      I am a travel / Cruise specialist and I know I advise my clients of these things and the beat time of year to go. Perhaps this would be a good option for you. ANY good agent will assist you in this information if not fire them and find another.

  3. Janet Violet says:

    My best cruise was during a hurricane that the itinerary was changed. We went to a port that we had never been too. It was a last minute cruise and a last minute change on the ship. It was the old Holiday and we had rough waters but it was great. Never felt in danger just made the best of it.

  4. Linda Songer says:

    We were on the cruise last October from Port Canaveral that was supposed to go to Bermuda. Unfortunately, the hurricane ported in Bermuda instead of the Carnival Sunshine. Our itinerary was changed to Eastern Caribbean and, although we were disappointed, we still had a pleasant cruise. We understood that the itinerary change was for our safety.
    I hope that Carnival will again have an itinerary from Port Canaveral to Bermuda, but I see none on the future schedules that have been announced. How about sending the Magic up there while it’s home port is Canaveral????

  5. ssch says:

    why are small travel fans being confiscated at the Galveston Port by Carnival?

  6. Thomas says:

    Hi John, I am taking a cruise on Carnival at the end of September and hope no hurricanes will squash my plans. This is an extra special cruise celebrating my friends birthday. It’s actually a surprise birthday gift. He only knows he is going somewhere but haven’t told him exactly where it is. Is there any way I can add to this special occasion but having something sent to our room. Thank you so much.

  7. Thomas says:

    Hi John, I am very excited about taking my cruise in September and I am a little concerned about hurricanes. I would like this cruise to be special as I am celebrating my friends birthday and it’s a surprise vacation for him. I wish Carnival could have something sent to my room as an extra treat for his birthday. Maybe you can help me out John ?? Thanks

  8. Lynn Bozin says:

    For those crabby patties I ask this viable question….
    Why on earth would you book during hurricane season if you can’t float nicely along when the winds change? Mother Nature doesn’t listen to John Heald. Go with the flow! You’re on a vacation of a lifetime for most. Enjoy what life brings you.

    • Vittorio vuocolo says:

      The only time I can take grandkids.otherwise no I would that okay with you..

  9. Vittorio vuocolo says:

    So when are we going to know the strategy for elation out of Jacksonville this Saturday.before Friday I hope.

  10. Joe mier says:


    We are heading towards the Carnival Vista for Sept. 3 sailing out of Barcelona, Spain. We have been planning this trip for months to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary with my wife sister and her husband also sailing with us on this trip also celebrating their anniversary. We are from Louisiana and have been volunteering in the community cleaning flooded homes since the floods of Aug. 12th and are looking forward to the break. Before the flood, you said to let you know when it got close to the sail date for a special surprise…..Well, here we come 🙂

  11. Jacqueline gillow Shears says:

    Hello I wrote you once before I’m going September 15 on Carnival victory to celebrate my 50th birthday with seven other ladies I never get an opportunity like this so I’m very excited but I keep seeing negative negative negative things about Carnival victory please could you give me some positive

  12. Susan Weiss says:

    I just got off a journey cruise on the CarnCarnival Sunshine. The cruise was great as all the Carnival cruises are. I
    amplatinum, disembarkation was awful. The platinum and diamond guests were told to meet in a lounge. We are suppose to get off the ship after those who use self assit. After the CD called for the self assit guest to get off the ship she started calling floors to get off. The platinum and diamond guests were left sitting in the lounge until some cam to escort off after people who should not have gotten off before us had starting to get off the ship. I was not the only platinum guest who found disembarkation horrible. P

  13. Madeline B says:

    My first cruise in 2011 was rerouted because of storms and we ended up in an unexpected port having an unexpected adventure and it now ranks as my favorite travel experience. Spontaneity can be fun if you let it! And what kind of awful person would be angry at anyone about the weather? Don’t like it? Don’t cruise during hurricane season! John, you’re a gem. We are celebrating our honeymoon on the Miracle tomorrow! Maybe we’ll see you on the ship???

  14. Sandra Niedospial says:

    Hi John,
    My husband and I sailed on the Aug 17 Carnival Sunshine , we were first in the Red Frog Pub. Took us 30 cruises to do that. Anyway we couldn’t find the picture on Facebook. Could you send me a link or let me know how to find it. It would be greatly appreciated. Frank & Sandy Niedospial

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