Cruise ships, airlines rush to avoid Hurricane Florence

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Cruise lines and airlines are making changes to travel plans as Hurricane Florence churns closer to the East Coast.

Cruise ships change course

Cruise ships are changing their routes and docking far away from the path of Hurricane Florence.

As of Wednesday morning, two Baltimore-base cruise ships, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and Carnival's Carnival Pride were rerouted to the Bahamas to steer clear of the storm.

More than 4,000 passengers on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Escape ended up in the Bahamas instead of Bermuda to avoid the powerful storm's wrath.

It's all about safety as cruise lines cope with rough seas from the Category 4 Hurricane.

Planning a cruise during hurricane season can be risky. Despite months of planning, Mother Nature can get in the way and before you know it, a relaxing vacation could be impacted by a storm.

Some cruisers in the past two years saw their itineraries change last minute because of hurricanes.

"During hurricane season, yeah, you have that itinerary and you may be going to St. Thomas, St. Barts, or San Juan Puerto Rico, but all bets are off during hurricane season. You may divert but you’re still going to have a great time,” said Scott Lara, manager at Air Sea Travel Jacksonville who also runs The Cruise Genius website.

It is very rare that a cruise won’t depart on schedule, adds Lara, but once the ship gets to sea, things can change.

Lara says cruise lines will be anything and everything to keep people safe.

How to plan for a hurricane season cruise

Before you hit the high seas, there are things you need to consider.  

Travel insurance and being flexible, for example can go a long way to helping you have a great trip.

“Travel insurance on a scale of 1 to 10 is a 10. Even if you are elderly or a younger person, especially during these days of missed flights and missed luggage, travel insurance is critical to give you the peace of mind that everything is going to go OK,” said Lara.  

It’ll save you money as well.

On average, travel insurance for a week long cruise will cost about $100 to have the extra protection against the unknown.

Packing some Dramamine or a patch behind your ear to fight motion-sickness can help in the event you endure rough seas.

“Even though it’s hurricane season, people can rest assured if they are going to go on a cruise, they are going to get a great deal and the cruise line will keep you safe,” said Lara.

Airlines waiving change fees

Airlines are allowing passengers to change their travel plans without a penalty.

Most big carriers, including American Airlines, announced Monday they would waive change fees for travelers changing travel dates because of the storm.

Delta, Southwest, Spirit and United have released lists of travel dates that will be affected by the storm's imminent landfall.

So far, 23 airports are expected to see delays and cancellations from Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Olivia. 

About the Authors:

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.