How Hurricane Season Can Sink Your Vacation Plans

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Mark Angelo has been cruising for years. He says it is his favorite vacation.

“You go to one location, you don’t have to unpack, you don’t have to find restaurants, everything is all right there and it is usually a great value for what you pay,” Angelo said.

But Hurricane Dorian came crashing down on his recent planned cruise.

As Dorian was approaching, Angelo was scheduled to fly from California into Fort Lauderdale and set sail on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas. With the Bahamas in Dorian’s path and evacuation orders in place along Florida‘s coast, Angelo pulled the plug on his trip.

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“It started to look like, first of all, for your safety you shouldn’t even be going into the area,” Angelo said. “You get these visions that you are going to end up on Gilligan’s Island and never be heard of again.”

Royal Caribbean ended up cutting the cruise short by a couple days because of the Hurricane Dorian, validating Angelo’s decision to cancel. Angelo says he expected a refund – even a partial one. But he says Royal Caribbean wouldn’t listen to him.

“It was like talking to somebody that just keeps saying ‘We are sorry, we are sorry,’ but they are not really listening,” Angelo said.

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Colleen McDaniel is the senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, a research and review website for cruises. McDaniel says consumers have very few rights when they book a cruise.

“I completely empathize with him, I would be really disappointed myself but it is not necessarily a surprise,” McDaniel said.

She says most cruise lines can change itineraries, change ports, shorten a cruise, even lengthen one, and you likely have no grounds for a refund.

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“You are going to have to understand that you might have to sacrifice this financial investment you made on your vacation,” McDaniel said.

NBC Responds unit in Los Angeles reached out to Royal Caribbean International, which offered Angelo a credit for a future cruise based on the fair he paid.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean told us: “While we understand guests may have concerns regarding weather, their safety is our top priority. We appreciate our guests and hope that this compensation inspires them to come back and enjoy a Royal Caribbean vacation.”

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Angelo is disappointed he didn’t get his money back and he wants other travelers to know the risk that comes with cruising.

“If the cruise line cancels the cruise on you, they have to give you a full refund but if they don’t cancel then they can play all these little games,” Angelo said.

Cruise Critic says travel insurance companies are very particular about what they cover during hurricanes and they encourage you to always read the fine print.

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