The cruise industry will tell you not to worry about rough seas—and you'd actually do well listen to them. It's not in their interest to take passengers on a ride that has the potential to make some people seasick. So most cruise lines program itineraries on waters that they can count on: predictable seas that their ships can handle and easily steer clear of brewing storms (often to the point of changing ports of call in the case of cruising the Caribbean during hurricane season). That's not to say that bad weather can't crop up unexpectedly, but cruise lines do their best to avoid turning their ships into bucking broncos at sea.
However, there are a few waterways in this world that naturally have rougher seas than other passages. Educate yourself on the itineraries that can be rough and then decide if the allure of the voyage outweighs the potential for some tossing and turning.
1. Oceans vs. seas
In general, you'll find ocean voyages to be rougher than those in seas. That's simply due to the sheer size of an ocean with less shoreline to help buffer rough seas. There are two types of ocean cruises that can experience harsh seas:
Transatlantic Crossing: If you're a cruise fan, you will eventually want to take a transatlantic crossing; it's a veritable rite of passage for cruise lovers. Crossing the Atlantic is best done during the spring and summer months when the ocean is a bit more calm. As temperatures drop, the ocean currents can become choppier. This also holds true if you're sailing to Canada, New England, or Bermuda.
Transpacific Crossing: Plenty of cruises leave the West Coast for Hawaii and those can encounter some chop as well—though it can be harder to predict when and where rough waters may occur.
2. At the meeting point of two bodies of water
Drake Passage/Cape Horn, Chile: This is one place that even dyed-on-the-wool cruise fans may give a pass. The southernmost point in South America is also is the gateway to Antarctica; every ship heading to the White Continent must make this crossing and the water is almost always notoriously rough. You might hear from travelers who've sailed the passage, only to say it was as calm as bath water but that's the exception and not the rule.
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa: The Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean at the southernmost point of South Africa, the Cape of Good Hope. Its choppiness isn't a seasonal thing; every ship rocks and rolls when traversing the Cape. To what extent depends on the size of the ship, the type of stabilizers it's using, and the weather in the area.
3. Seasonal Issues
Seasonal bad weather and rough seas are easy for cruise lines to deal with. They either avoid the area altogether or closely monitor sea conditions and re-route their ships to skirt any potential for rollicking waves. Here are the spots that you might be concerned about:
Bahamas, Bermuda, Mexico, and the Caribbean: Many cruise lines visit these destinations even during hurricane season. It's incredibly rare for a voyage to be cancelled outright but the itinerary can be changed to avoid potential bad weather. Be aware that you are not entitled to compensation if your ship swaps one port for another; you agreed to that in the line's cruise contract, which goes into force once you pay for your voyage.
Brace yourself for more of the world's roughest cruise itineraries.
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