Travel During Hurricane Season

Posted on 10/10/2016

Travelling to the Caribbean during October and November is very popular due to the low cost of the trips. However, this is also still hurricane season and as we saw this past week, there can be significant damage and loss of life. What happens if you have holidays planned and a hurricane advisory is put out for your destination?

The major Canadian tour providers to the Caribbean (Air Canada Vacations, Transat, Sunquest, Sunwing and WestJet) all have hurricane policies in place. Coverage is usually for the period from June 1 to November 30. Air Canada Vacations is the only one that charges a fee of $49 per adult for theirStormGuard protection. The other tour operators have a policy as part of their normal operating procedures.

If there is a hurricane advisory issued for when you are supposed to be travelling, there are generally four options available to you. You can rebook the same resort for another time. You can change to a different location. You can obtain a credit refund for the entire amount or you can choose not to change your holiday plans. If you rebook or change location, you are responsible for any higher difference in fare. You are not eligible for a refund if the new date or location is cheaper.

If you choose to proceed with your holiday plans, you are not eligible for any credit or compensation if your holiday is cut short as a result of damage at the resort that renders it impossible for you to stay or if you have to stay beyond your expected return if planes cannot get to the destination. Once a hurricane warning is issued while you are in destination, the tour operators will do their best to repatriate passengers before the storm hits. Sunwing sent two planes to the Bahamas the day before Hurricane Matthew was expected to make landfall to bring passengers back to Canada. In that case, the travellers would be credited with the value of the unused portion of their land arrangements.

Hurricane Matthew also created havoc for a number of cruise lines that sail from the east coast of Florida. No one wants to be on a ship in the middle of a hurricane, so the cruise lines cancel certain ports of call and spend extra days at sea sailing around the storm. There were a number of cruises that had to stay out at sea longer and then the next sailings had to be shortened. The Carnival Ecstasy was scheduled to arrive in Charleston on Oct. 8 but didn’t arrive until Oct. 10. The passengers on the shortened 5 day sailing will be given a pro-rated refund of 2 days, a refund on any shore excursions in the cancelled ports of call, a $100USD on board credit and a 50% discount on their next sailing. This is certainly service above and beyond for an event that was out of Carnival’s control.

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance would be a great complement to the policies of the cruise lines. Airfare is not covered by the cruise lines unless you purchase directly with them. If purchased separately, the insurance company would compensate for the charges incurred due to the cruise line schedule changes.