Hurricane Irma, which Wednesday slammed the Caribbean and killed at least four people, has forced cruise lines to cancel trips and alter the routes of ships already at sea. Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line have told passengers some ships won't sail in the next few days.
Hurricane Irma, currently a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds, is expected to make landfall over the weekend in southern Florida, where a state of emergency has been declared and evacuations are underway in some areas.
"A quick review shows that some cruise lines are rerouting itineraries and some are canceling," Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, writes in an email. "Some existing cruises will extend their return dates until the storm passes."
Here's what we know so far about how the storm has affected the cruise world.
1. What cruises are canceled?
As of Thursday morning, Cruise Critic reports that 14 cruises have been canceled, 10 have been shortened and 10 are sailing on revised itineraries. Check the website's updated list of cruises.
--Disney has canceled two Bahamas cruises on the Disney Dream that were scheduled to leave Friday and Monday. A weeklong cruise that was supposed to depart Saturday to the Eastern Caribbean on the Disney Fantasy also was canceled.
-- Carnival has canceled cruises to the Bahamas, including a sailing Thursday on Carnival Liberty and a cruise Friday on the Carnival Victory.
--Royal Caribbean International has canceled a Saturday cruise to Cuba aboard Empress of the Seas, and two cruises to the Bahamas aboard Enchantment of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas.
--Norwegian Cruise Line has canceled a Friday sailing to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Sky and a Saturday weeklong cruise to the Eastern Caribbean on the Norwegian Escape.
Other lines have canceled itineraries as well, and more cruises may be affected when the hurricane gets closer to making landfall in Florida.
If you are booked on an upcoming cruise, check with your cruise line to find out whether your ship will be sailing. Most lines post updates on their Facebook page and Twitter feed too.
If you're already on your cruise, you may return earlier than scheduled. Disney, for example, is bringing the Dream and the Fantasy back to Port Canaveral on Thursday, two days earlier than planned, because of the storm.
2. What refunds can I expect if my cruise is canceled?
Cruise lines are refunding passengers the price of the trip — and sometimes offering incentives for future cruises if you rebook quickly.
Royal Caribbean International, for example, makes this offer to affected passengers: "The cruise fare and fees will be 100% refunded to the original form of payment, and we are also offering a 25% future cruise credit, based on the cruise fare, if a new cruise is booked in the next 30 days."
Also, cruise lines that cut their trips short are offering refunds for missed days. For example, guests on a Disney Cruise that returned early "will be refunded two nights of their voyage fare and provided a 25% discount on a future cruise" if they book by Oct. 18.
Again, check with your cruise company about compensations for canceled or shortened itineraries.
3. Now that I can’t go, will travel insurance cover the cost of my flight, hotel and any other costs associated with my trip?
The answer is maybe. It depends on when you purchased your travel insurance.
Squaremouth also says:
--you may be able to receive coverage for flight cancellations that were triggered by Irma; and
--you may be able to cancel your trip if your destination is in the path of the storm or if there's a mandatory evacuation for the hotel or resort where you planned to stay.
It also depends on the type of insurance you purchased. Cancel for any reason travel insurance, for example, covers 100% of your trip costs for any reason not covered by standard insurance.
Also, check with your airline to weigh your options. Most are waiving change fees for selected destinations because of Hurricane Irma.
4. Can I buy travel insurance now in case my trip is affected by Hurricane Irma?
No. You had to have purchased insurance by Aug. 30, before the storm was named, because after that date "the storm is no longer considered unforeseen," Squaremouth's website says.
Two more storms are in the wings: Hurricane Jose in the Atlantic and Hurricane Katia in the Gulf of Mexico.