Will Cruise Ships Sail In Bad Weather?

Will Cruise Ships Sail In Bad Weather
Cruises are rarely cancelled due to bad weather.
Itineraries may be changed during hurricane season or bad storms, but a cancelled cruise is an extremely rare occurrence.
It’s more uncomfortable for the guests, but ships are built to handle rough seas.

Monitoring The Weather

If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting the bridge on a cruise ship, you will have seen the huge array of equipment, which is constantly monitored by the crew and officers. The navigational systems include weather maps, satellite images, computer models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and third-party meteorologists. 

Behind the scenes at The Bridge of Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.

In January 2017, Royal Caribbean International appointed TV meteorologist James Van Fleet to head up operations at the Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami. Part of Van Fleet’s job during the hurricane season, is to monitor a 25-foot wall of weather screens and share information with the crew of all the Royal Caribbean family of ships and the executive team.

Carnival Corporation monitors weather from its multi million dollar command centre. The first facility of its kind in Southern Florida is staffed 24/7 and has a 74-foot-long video wall with 57 LED screens that shows the status of all the line’s 27 ships, including weather and safety updates.

Making The Decision

The number one priority for cruise lines is guest safety. It is not just the decision of the onboard crew, it’s a team who makes that decision based on the latest weather patterns, based on the options or other alternatives.

Cruise Lines will reroute the ship if the forecast is serious enough. Ship captains study forecasts and will alter course to avoid storms. Sometimes rough seas are unavoidable or storms are worse than expected. On rare occasions, a ship may have to go through the outer bands of a storm to reach safe haven in a port. Most times however, the ships will go out to sea to avoid storms.


All modern cruise ships have stabilisers to keep rocking and rolling to a minimum. Cruise ships can typically “outrun” most storms, passengers may still experience rough seas as their ship skirts the edges of a storm. 

MSC Grandiosa docked in Southampton

Cruise ships are made of heavy steel that’s even heavier with a full load of passengers and crew onboard. With all that weight, they can roll with the waves. In the roughest seas a ship may list, or tilt to one side, but even that’s unlikely. Shipbuilders test things such as buoyancy and centre of gravity during construction. This includes putting scale models of ships through all sorts of storm simulations.

What To Expect If Your Ship Hits Bad Weather

A cruise ship can list enough to send deck furniture skidding and bar glasses crashing. While passengers might be scared or uncomfortable, the ship is typically not in any actual danger of capsizing.

If you’re already on a ship and meet rough conditions, listen to the instructions of the captain and crew. It’s common for the crew to put down non-slip mats and add signage reminding you to exercise caution when walking. Van Fleet says part of his job is communicating with the crew when such procedures may be necessary.

All is calm on the Allure of the Seas

Listen to the captain’s report from the bridge everyday which will include a description of sea conditions. This will help you to decide what preparations you need to make for the day. If you get seasick, be prepared with over-the-counter motion sickness medications, homeopathic remedies, or a prescription patch from your doctor.

Alternative Plans

Note that attractions such as the pool and water slides may shut down, or the outdoor decks may be closed altogether. In very rare situations, the Captain may require all passengers stay in their cabins. In general, you’ll likely feel some rolling, but that goes for the entirety of your trip, too. 


Even if you’re not usually prone to seasickness, cruising through rough waters can test even the strongest of stomachs. Effective solutions to seasickness include acupressure wristbands, antihistamines and Dramamine. If you didn’t bring any with you, the ship’s store will have some in stock, and the purser’s desk will usually have Dramamine for free. Once you start feeling the symptoms it might be too late, so don’t delay!

What To Do If Your Itinerary Changes

Listen to the ship’s intercom for announcements of port or itinerary changes. You may also receive information via a letter delivered to your stateroom. Even if it’s not cancelled your cruise may be affected. Ports that require tendering often have to be skipped because high winds make the process unsafe.

Although cruise lines don’t generally issue refunds for missed ports, they do have to refund port fees.

The cruise line or organisers may cancel your excursion, even though the port may not be skipped. The cruise line will issue refunds automatically, private operators will usually issue a refund if your ship never docked, however you may need to contact them to request it.

Look for alternatives to outdoor activities like spending an afternoon at the gym or the spa. The cruise line will usually put on extra activities. Make reservations for a speciality restaurant or a show immediately to avoid disappointment.

Suggested Reading

Essential WAVE Season Survival Guide

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