The Cruise Ship and the Hurricane

River or Ocean Cruises
The Cruise Ship and the Hurricane

Photo credit: CNN

James Hill: September 16, 2019

Cruise lines are as fastidious about their ship’s schedules as Europe’s train operators. However, there is one thing that cruise lines will alter their itinerary for, and that’s a hurricane! In August of 2019, Hurricane Dorian rolled over the Bahamas (creating a humanitarian crisis), on its way to the U.S. As it happened, I had a client and his family sailing in the Western Caribbean at the same time. Their original itinerary had them returning to Miami on September 1. Unfortunately, this was about the same time that Dorian’s itinerary had it also paying a visit to Miami. That’s when I really started to pay attention.

I called the cruise line to inquire about their plans for my client’s ship and at that time, there were no plans to alter the itinerary. I emailed my client and told him I was monitoring things. As time went by it became apparent that Dorian was going to affect my client’s cruise, but due to the unpredictable nature of a hurricane’s path, we weren’t yet sure how.

My client was due to fly home out of Miami on Monday, September 2. The likelihood of this going as scheduled began to diminish. I was already starting to look at other flight options on subsequent dates, and communicating this to my client. Eventually, the cruise line decided to send the ship to New Orleans to terminate the cruise; three days later than originally scheduled for Miami. Again, I went to work on behalf of the client to see what flight options were available. It’s very difficult for someone on board a ship to do this.

Flights from New Orleans to Toronto were going to be very expensive! It would have cost at $4000-$5000 for the family of 4. This was not good news, so I started to look at a map to determine what other airports were fairly close to New Orleans that they could fly home from. Birmingham, Alabama was the best choice for both cost and flights times, and it was only about a 4 ½ hour drive from New Orleans. So, I sent my client an email to suggest renting a car in New Orleans and then driving to Birmingham, where they could fly home through Atlanta. Flights ended up being about $350 per person, and the cruise line offered to pay $300 pp to help with flights.

The story had a fairly happy ending, with my client spending a minimal amount of money to get home, and a bonus day in New Orleans. As he said in his email: “Not having you looking into things at this end and we probably would still be down there or would have had to pay $1200 per seat for tickets. If you ever need a testimonial, I'm happy to provide one.” That’s an email that gets sent to Expedia; never!

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