June 8, 2016 -
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.