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For past HAL passengers to the Caribbean-how risky are cruises in hurricane season?


debjo

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GREETINGS TO ALL YOU SAVY HAL PAST PASSENGERS!

 

You might think, by my question, that I'm leary of high seas or getting sea sick during a storm while I'm on a ship...that's not my concern! You see, I have been planning a SPECIAL cruise for my 50th birthday (Oct 2006). HAL is a cruise line we've not yet sailed with, so I'd like to try something new. With a number of items on my "wish list" that only HAL's private island, Half Moon Cay, can accommodate, it seems my choice is simple...an Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Westerdam in October of 2006. HMC will take care of my Cabana desires, riding horses on the beach and through the waves, and swimming with the stingrays. :D The Eastern Caribbean itinerary takes care of my desire to visit "The Baths" in Virgin Gorda. So you see, it seems to be the perfect cruise--with one exception--cruising in the Caribbean during the height of hurricane season!

 

Having sailed with NCL in the past, I had great sympathy for the folks that had booked cruises that were supposed to take them to Great Stirrup Cay (NCL's Private Island) late last season. GSC suffered a lot of damage from one of the many hurricanes that pounded that area and was "closed" for several months to make repairs. I hurt for those passengers that were yearning to go to that private island, only to learn that they wouldn't be. :(

 

So, that brings me to my dilemma...should I be overly concerned that the same thing may happen to my long awaited "special" cruise, which hinges so much on going to Half Moon Cay? I fear that I would be devestated if a hurricane or some other weather related act of nature didn't permit me to experience all the wonderful things that HAL's private island has to offer! If I wasn't trying to "avoid" turning 50 by planning a cruise that will definitely take my mind off of it, I'd be taking this trip at another time of the year. I really don't want to deal with the disappointment of not visiting Half Moon Cay AND my "big 5-Oh event" on the same trip! :eek:

 

My only other option would be to spend more money to avoid hurricane season altogether and take my "special" cruise in April or May of 2006 rather than nearer to my actual birthday. :rolleyes: (The other problem with that would be I'd feel like we were celebrating my husband's birthday, which is in April, rather than my own! We just celebrated his 50th birthday on "his" special cruise.)

 

Please, share your HAL Caribbean September/October Half Moon Cay cruise experiences with me...assuage my fears or confirm them! :confused: What can HAL's past hurricane season experiences tell me that may help me make the best decision possible. I really want this to be a great cruise!

 

Thanks so much for your sage words of wisdom!

 

Debjo

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Visiting Half Moon Cay can't be guaranteed if or out of hurricane season. While your chances of stopping there would probably be better when it's not hurricane season - from my reading of the posts on this board a lot can determine whether a ship can stop there on any given day. In my case, we cruised HAL last Dec/Jan - much out of hurrican season. But we missed HMC due to our ship arriving into Norfolk very late on our departure date, so we were very late leaving. Others will offer their comments to you I'm sure. My opinion would be you can never guarantee HMC will be an option, regardless of the time of year. Hope you decide to cruise HAL. We loved our Holiday cruise last year so much we are cruising again for Thanksgiving this year.

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All of the cruiselines that have private Cay's in the bahama's miss a stop here and there regardless of the time of year. If it's windy and the seas are moving, the captain can decide to bypass the stop. When we went in October, the seas were a bit choppy and a few tenders made it in. Then there was a big lapse of time before they started up again so we finally made it onshore around 12:30pm. We were glad just to make it in as we had read there were some cruises where they didn't stop. In February, our Princess cruise passed on their private Cay due to the seas. So really it can happen anytime with any cruiseline.

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It's my impression that rough seas can preclude tendering into HMC at pretty much any time of the year, so I don't know that sailing outside of hurricane season would matter much. We've been fortunate enough to visit HMC on all four HAL Caribbean cruises so far, even though the trip back to the ship has been rough on occasion. (Of course now that I say that, the whammy fairy will probably take care of our planned November stop at HMC.)

 

Frankly, I wouldn't plan a trip where my enjoyment of the whole thing hinged so much on something so out of my (or anyone else's) control. It's just begging for disappointment. It's also just one day out of the whole week of cruising.

 

But if you're so bummed about the birthday, maybe you should choose another, surer way to celebrate it?

 

Susan

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HMC can never be guaranteed, but I think you are far enough out of the major hurricane season in October to make stopping at HMC an almost sure bet.

 

Also, you are in luck. We are planning a group cruise on the Westerdam for the end of October, 2006 (see the group cruises board). So, why don't you plan on joining us. You might be able to take advantage of some attractive group rates and bennies. Then you'll have all of us to enjoy HMC with.

 

Blue skies ...

 

--rita

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We've been on 4 HAL cruises in the past 3 yrs and have only made it to HMC twice.. were cancelled twice due to rough seas. So you're setting yourself up for major disappointment if your enjoyment of the cruise hinges on getting to HMC. Our most recent cruise was in Nov 04 and we did not get to go to HMC due to weather. I'd concentrate your "must do" activities on islands where the ship actually docks and consider HMC a bonus if you get there..

 

In Tortola, if you are willing to give up a trip to the Baths, you can go horseback riding on the beach with Shadow's Stables (284) 494-2262.

 

Good luck

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You are setting yourself up for disappointment if anythihng changes on your cruise. Things happen, storms, engine problems, rough seas etc.

 

I can't agree with kyros about HMC being a sure bet. No matter what time of the year it is, the HMC stop can be cancelled. Twice in the spring it was windy and the water was rough, so our stop at HMC was cancelled.

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Hope that this helps. I have done 7 eastern (my favorite route) and have only made it to the island and that was last January which was nice as it was after the changes. Have sailed with a hurricane on its way into St. Thomas and we just left early and sailed around it. Remember the cruiseline does not want to loose passengers or its cruiseship and it just heightens the adventure.

 

Have fun whatever you choose.

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Can not disagree more with Kryos that HMC is ever a sure bet. No port is ever a sure bet, particularly those that involve tendering, and especially HMC. Hurricane season isn't any more a problem at HMC than any other time of year. The average is supposed to be 50% success in visiting HMC on any particular cruise and that is exactly what our experience has been. The last time we were not able to tender was just this past April- beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, yet the winds/surf did not allow tendering.

 

DON'T let your cruise depend on getting to HMC. If you do, it's a bonus, but select a cruise that will be wonderful even if you don't get into any of the tendering ports.

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Glad you asked, a couple HAL ships you do not hear much about..

 

First the TitanicDam

titanicslide33ftride.jpg

 

Then the PoseiDam

poseidam.jpg

 

And the SlinkieDam that barely made it back to Ft. Lauderdale with all the weight of the World Cruise shoppers.

 

slinkiedam.jpg

 

Now I think I will go and hiding.gif

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As one poster put it, your setting yourself up to be dissappointed. We've had the chance to visit HMC 3 times and only made it once. That only time they recalled everyone on the island back to the ship. The shame of it all is HMC is beautiful but the ancorage and tendering is iffy at best. It would seem a dock could answer most of these problems but what do I know.

 

As to hurricanes, we've done a few cruises over Thanksgiving and were only affected by hurricanes once and that time we were following behind it.

 

Good luck with your planning.

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Wow! This sure gave me a reality check! So many people speak so glowingly about their HMC experiences and I had no idea that the chances were so low that we'd get to actually get there. (50% chance of enjoying HMC....whoa.)

Guess I bought the beautiful pictures of gorgeous, tranquil waterand blue skies in everyone's pix as a given. I had no idea it was so iffy.

I need to prepare the family that the cabana day we planned might not come off....

Thanks for asking, debjo, as first time Caribbean cruisers, I made some inaccurate assumptions. Since the Zuiderdam will also be tendering in Grand Cayman, I believe, we might have lots of sea days.

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You have to remember, cruznon, that HMC is a Bahaman island in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean.

 

We missed Grand Cayman also, but the cause was a major storm. The winds around HMC must be a lot trickier because so often it is missed when the weather is beautiful, but the seas are too choppy. :p

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GREETINGS TO ALL YOU SAVY HAL PAST PASSENGERS!

 

You might think, by my question, that I'm leary of high seas or getting sea sick during a storm while I'm on a ship...that's not my concern! You see, I have been planning a SPECIAL cruise for my 50th birthday (Oct 2006).

 

There aren't that many hurricanes during Oct and after, but storms and rough seas can be a part of sailing anytime of the year. Generally, the capt. can sail around storms and try to avoid them, but there are no guarantees.

I get seasick very easily, but I haven't suffered from it for years. I start taking less-drowsy Dramamine the day BEFORE sailing and take one a day for the duration of the cruise..whether I'm in port, or even if the seas are calm and I don't ever have a problem...no matter how rough it is.

The higher up the cabins are, the more sway there is...and too low and that's not very comfortable either.

Hope this helps.;)

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Ditto to all of the caveats above. "The perfect day" to celebrate on HMC is something to really look forward to. But not to the degree that disappointment will be so great as to taint the entire cruise experience. Just remember that any port, any day, can pose problems if Mother Nature so chooses.

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Wow! This sure gave me a reality check! So many people speak so glowingly about their HMC experiences and I had no idea that the chances were so low that we'd get to actually get there. (50% chance of enjoying HMC....whoa.)

Guess I bought the beautiful pictures of gorgeous, tranquil waterand blue skies in everyone's pix as a given. I had no idea it was so iffy.

I need to prepare the family that the cabana day we planned might not come off....

Thanks for asking, debjo, as first time Caribbean cruisers, I made some inaccurate assumptions. Since the Zuiderdam will also be tendering in Grand Cayman, I believe, we might have lots of sea days.

 

Yup, the sea can be very "iffy". Storms can crop up any old time and no captain worth his salt would take a chance with the safety of his passengers.

I do think though that HAL could stop being so damned cheap and hire private cats and/or tenders to take pax ashore in places like Grand Cayman or other places they have to tender. Those lifeboats are the worst.

I certainly wouldn't plan a cruise with HMC being a major part of the cruise though.

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I am not a Holland America vet...in fact, I'm a virgin with an upcoming first cruise on the line in September.

 

However, I would tell you that the chance of a hurricane disrupting your visit to Half Moon Cay is very low, regardless of the level of activity in the Caribbean in any given year. Playing typical mathematical odds, what are the chances of a hurricane this year at any time? Then, what are the chances of a hurricane in the weeks before or during your cruise? Then, what are the chances of the hurricane being in the area of your cruise? And what are the chances that it strikes that island? Each of those odds are long, and they are compounded to make the chances of any one location or cruise being affected by one. So you should no more let that dictate whether or not you book the cruise than you should avoid driving due to the chance you may get in an accident, or avoid flying due to the chance your plane might go down.

 

As for other factors which prevent you from getting to the island...rough seas, wind, choppiness, thunderstorm, or other natural events...sure, those can happen. I don't see Half Moon Cay being inordinantly higher than any other tendering stop in chances of getting on the island. And just because some people have been unfortunate in their luck, and maybe find their ratio only 50% or so, there are others who have been far luckier. For example, my mother has been on (I hope she excuses me if I missed a few) at least 14 Holland America cruises, of which at least 10 included Half Moon Cay on the itinerary. Only once were the tenders unable to take them ashore. So her ratio is around 90%.

 

Of course, the chances of having one of these events cancel that stop on your cruise are just as great off hurricane season as during it.

 

In my 20 cruises, I've been lucky enough to reach all but a single destination out of hundreds of ports...and that was due to political instability and violence. I've been very lucky indeed...I certainly wouldn't COUNT on never missing a port or tender opportunity, but I also wouldn't cancel an opportunity to cruise because of the chance it might happen.

 

So I'd encourage you to just book it, don't worry about it, and enjoy it regardless. The odds of a hurricane depriving you of that port are probably similar to the odds of having a profitable day in the casino, or winning the best secret cabin prize on the islands. Maybe of all the long-odds chances you are running, one of the more positive ones will hit (better put a dollar in a slot machine at least once). ;)

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Wow! This sure gave me a reality check! So many people speak so glowingly about their HMC experiences and I had no idea that the chances were so low that we'd get to actually get there. (50% chance of enjoying HMC....whoa.)

Guess I bought the beautiful pictures of gorgeous, tranquil waterand blue skies in everyone's pix as a given. I had no idea it was so iffy.

I need to prepare the family that the cabana day we planned might not come off....

Thanks for asking, debjo, as first time Caribbean cruisers, I made some inaccurate assumptions. Since the Zuiderdam will also be tendering in Grand Cayman, I believe, we might have lots of sea days.

 

 

I wouldn't be so concerned about Gran Cayman, unless there is a major storm or hurricane you should have no trouble tendering there. We were able to tender at GC during the cruise I mentioned where we followed the hurricane.

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To have a great time on a cruise you have to be flexible and "go with the flow" as nothing is guaranteed when it depends on the seas.

 

We were in Grand Cayman in March on a seemingly beautiful day when the island was hit with unexpected swells at about mid-day. Several cruise ships had tendered people in, not just HAL. Disney was using a local boat to tender large numbers of passengers at a time and that boat had a mis-hap (it was damaged as the swells pounded the boat into the pier) and Disney had to launch their own tenders. Needless to say it took from about 2 pm until about 8 pm to get everyone back to the ships. We left Grand Cayman after dark that day. The skys were blue and the winds were reasonable, but the ocean had deep swells.

 

It may be interesting to note that we have been to HMC 3 out of the last 3 Caribbean cruises. The odds may be 50%, but no one can know for sure how they will come out for you. To be fair on one of those days the winds whipped up in the afternoon and the last few tenders dealt with some significant seas, to say nothing of the challenge of raising the tenders back on board in that weather. But we did get to HMC!

 

Just be laid back and ready to "go with the flow"!

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We're 3 for 3 with going to HMC.

Two of those cruises were in early November, one was this past May.

 

However, bad weather can happen anytime, anywhere. On our first cruise with HAL, Nov. 2003, we did not call on St. Martin because of the weather -- 18-foot waves, gale-force winds, driving rain. Instead we ended up in St. Thomas a day early, docking around 9 p.m.

 

The statistical peak of hurricane season is Sept. 10.

 

Remember, hurricanes can wreak havoc on these islands in the Caribbean. You may be sailing in November, but one of the ports on your itinerary could be closed due to hurricane damage from earlier in the season. That includes HMC.

 

We were on one of the first ships to call on Grand Cayman last year, after the port reopened. [November] Many of the stores were closed, and some of those that were opened had no electricity. The island was a shambles.

 

I'll echo what so many others have said: If you are pinning all your hopes for a great cruise/birthday on one or more ports ... you really run the risk of disappointment.

 

You said you'd be "devastated" if something prevented you from going to HMC.

You have to realize that it is a possibility.

As Peaches said, even on good-weather days there can be sea conditions which prohibit tendering.

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As a Californian, we've never sailed the Caribbean.

We're not used to hurricanes--we just get "shook up" from time-to-time--like yesterday!!

 

As a Caribbean "newbie" I have a lot to learn. Our past experiences have been in the Pacific Coastal waters, Sea of Cortez or the Gulf of Mexico. If we miss HMC, I'll be disappointed, but hey, I'm on a cruise!:) It seems more and more ships get tendered because many ports have so many ships in at once.

Thanks for all the info folks. We all take our chances on weather when aboard ships.

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Wow...thanks for all the insightful responses since I posted this question last night!

 

I think that deep inside I "knew" all of what you've so kindly shared with me...having been on several cruises already. I just like to know ahead of time what "challenges" I might encounter on any given trip. If I know what may "come down the pike" that might spoil Plan A, I'll be able to have Plan B, Plan C, or Plan D to fall back on.

 

All that said...reading up on the Holland American experience, the newness of the Westerdam, and a Caribbean Itinerary that wasn't all about shopping in St. Thomas...all things that made me want to research further. It was the offerings at Half Moon Cay that really tipped the scales and made me want to book this trip. The only "negatives" that I could find were the risk of a hurricane or something else that would prohibit stopping at HMC, and the fact that there aren't any "butlered" suites on HAL ships.

 

So I guess you have all confirmed my worst fears...now I just have to check through my research and see if there are some other excursions that HAL offers in the Eastern Caribbean for this sailing that may serve as a fitting substitute for the things I wanted to do at HMC (should I book this and the ship not stop there).

 

Thanks michmike...for the information about horseback riding on the beach in Tortola...perhaps there is still a way that I could do that AND go to "The Baths".

 

And for blackbird71...thanks for bringing some levity to this "serious" subject...you made me laugh when I needed to, as I read through these responses...very clever!

 

For kyros...thanks rita for clueing me in on the October 2006 group cruise, I'll check it out tonight...who knows...I may be joining you.

 

Glad my question helped you out Cruznon...that's what Cruise Critics is all about! I tend to be one that asks a lot of questions when I'm considering a "new to me" cruise or cruiseline. Then we I get back, I love sharing my "words of wisdom" for the next cruiser coming "onboard". Best of luck in your cruise planning too! I'm sure we'll pick the one best for each of us. With the help of everyone on these boards...you can find out almost anything...just keep asking your questions!

 

 

This thread need not stop here...I still welcome any more "words of wisdom"...my motto is...I can never be too prepared! I guess I should count myself quite fortunate that my two cruise experiences with private islands (NCL) have been positive ones. In fact, on all the cruises we've taken thus far, we've never missed a port-of-call. That just makes me think that the future "odds" might be stacked against me. Can you tell that I'm the kind of passenger that the cruise lines don't make much money from casino expenditures with!

 

Until later...

Debjo

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