As a Florida native, I'll admit I don’t worry much about hurricanes. They usually don't blow close enough to us to warrant much concern, anyway. So imagine my surprise when, five days into our cruise on the Disney Fantasy, a hurricane crashed our itinerary.
There was not even a hint of a hurricane when we boarded on Saturday (the storm didn’t even form until Monday). And once we sailed out of our 4G network, we were in full cruise mode — no internet or email, not even Facebook. Our first hint came after the Wednesday call on St. Thomas, when there was talk of running into "some weather". Then, on Thursday, the captain announced we would be skipping Castaway Cay — a hurricane being on top of it and all — and instead sailing back to Port Canaveral on an alternate route.
Despite the shock and the sketchy weather, the Fantasy crew did an outstanding of job of keeping us entertained. There were trivia contests and cooking demos, karaoke sessions and dance parties, and the Disney characters made the rounds. Even on Friday evening, as the ship rocked and rolled in Sandy’s wake, the farewell show went off without a hitch — none of the performers so much as tripped.
Yes, we did encounter some big waves and strong winds as we hugged the Florida coast on our way back to port. We heard dishes breaking and saw furniture being secured (and some pieces that had migrated all on their own), but I have to commend the ship’s crew: From the captain to the housekeeping staff to the entertainers, everyone kept their cool — and, more importantly, kept everyone calm.
When we finally got to port on Saturday, the long wait to disembark was made much more pleasant with a nice surprise: As a gesture of goodwill, Disney offered all passengers a generous discount on a future vacation. Not just a cruise, mind you, but also on a stay at their land-based resorts, presumably for those who might not be so excited to go on a cruise anytime soon.
So, here’s the moral of the story: Not only will I be taking them up on their offer, I’ll be using it to book a cruise. Maybe even in hurricane season. For one thing, I really like Castaway Cay. But more than that, I love to cruise. It took 15 years and 16 voyages before I encountered a hurricane in the Caribbean — and most of my trips have fallen during hurricane season — but when I did, the crew kept the ship out of harm’s way.
That’s not to imply that anyone should take a hurricane lightly. If you and a hurricane are eyeing the same destination, let the hurricane win. But there’s also no need to write off the Caribbean entirely from June through November. After all, despite the devastation Sandy caused on a number of islands, things were far worse in the States.
So don't be afraid to book that summer cruise vacation. Just keep an eye on the weather.
For the latest on Hurricane Sandy, visit weather.com, and if you’d like to help those who were affected by the hurricane, consider donating your time or money to the Red Cross (to help people) or the ASPCA (to help pets).