Hurricane season is upon us and it’s time to review cruise passengers' rights. The bad news: Cruise ships must change itineraries at times to avoid hurricanes. The good news: Cruise ships can avoid hurricanes and you can’t say that about hotels. Even with two raging storms, not a single cruise was canceled this week. 

I once got a letter from a woman who felt entitled to a full refund because her ship missed Cozumel during Hurricane Wilma. I replied, “If the captain wants to face 40-foot swells and 140 mph winds the ship will likely survive; but do you want to visit an island where the coconuts are now cannonballs?”

Congress has authorized cruise lines to invoke a contract of limitations which the courts have upheld even if the passenger never reads it. They can change itineraries for any reason if there is a safety concern – even mechanical failure. The line can substitute a different itinerary or never even touch land at all for the duration of the cruise and owe you nothing.

H1N1 made the headlines one morning and by the end of the day the Department of Homeland Security called for a halt to all “non-essential travel to Mexico.” One ship aready had Cabo San Lucas in its sights when it canceled all ports of call for the next seven days.

Now, if you have a legitimate claim against a cruise line, such as an injury, you must notify it within six months and file a lawsuit in the state specified in the contract within one year. Carnival, NCL, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are located in Florida, for example, Princess and Cunard Lines are in California and Holland America is in Washington State.

Just last week, Gene Sloan of USA-Today reported on a civil case against Princess Cruises that was thrown out. There was an injury which appeared to be the cruise line’s fault, and it was filed in the correct venue, but the court ruled that the suit was filed too late according to the cruise contract.  In addition, the plaintiff was ordered to pay Princess $6,750 to cover the cost of defending a frivolous lawsuit.

Now, here's a look at bargains this week in the cruise world:

Holland America Cruise Bargains

One of our favorite premium cruise lines, Holland America, is having a whale of a sale which ends soon; Sept. 14. You can book a seven-day Caribbean cruise for $399 or a Mexican Riviera cruise for $499. This sale also applies to Bermuda, Hawaii, the Panama Canal and holiday cruises.

We always give our details through links to the cruise line web sites for accuracy, but that does not mean we recommend booking directly through the cruise line. We actually recommend using travel agents instead. Technically, this sale notice was sent to previous Holland America cruisers only, but if you are not one you can always see what a professional cruise travel agent can do.

Mexico Sea of Cortes Bargains

If you live on the west coast but you have already sailed the Mexican Riviera we highly recommend this 12-day Sea of Cortes cruise. Sail the Amsterdam, December 2, 2010, roundtrip from San Diego to La Paz and Loreto inside the Sea of Cortes. With luck the newly pregnant gray whales will already be populating the bay of Bahia Magdalena. Sail on to Topolobampo where you can board the Copper Canyon train, the Mexican equivalent of our Grand Canyon. The rest of the cruise visits Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Prices start at just $799 or $1599 for a verandah suite. This itinerary sells out every year and third and fourth guests in the same stateroom cruise for free.

If you want to go later (Jan. 2 or Feb. 6, 2011), when there is a chance to see dolphin and even blue whales, you can book the smaller Zaandam for a 10-day Sea of Cortes cruise from San Diego (roundtrip) to Loreto, Guaymas, Copper Canyon, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Oceanview staterooms start at $799 per person.  Add a third and fourth guest to your stateroom for only $299 per person.

A fourteen day Sea of Cortes cruise on the Oosterdam sailing November 12, 2010, from San Diego offers you Loreto, Guaymas, Copper Canyon, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas with Verandah staterooms for just $1599 per person. Add a third and fourth guest to your stateroom for only $299 per person.

 Holland America Caribbean Cruise Bargain

You can catch a seven-day Caribbean cruise roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Turk, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Holland America’s private island Half Moon Cay, on the beautiful, brand new Holland America Eurodam for as low as $399 per person. There are a few remaining 2010 sail dates: Oct.23, Oct.30, Nov.6, Nov. 13 and Nov. 27. Verandah staterooms are as low as $649 per person. This is a fantastic bargain for this lovely, new Holland America flagship.

Cruising 101

As always – if you need to know more about cruising we urge you to consult our Cruising101 FAQ.  

CruiseMates Cruise Glossary


I started writing about stock market investing for Motley Fool in 1995, but previously I worked aboard cruise ships. I co-founded, the first cruise travel guide on the Internet in New York City in 1999. CruiseMates, one the Web’s top cruise travel guides was acquired by Internet Brands (NASD: INET) in 2006. Once CEO, I am now the editor of CruiseMates – Paul Motter.