After a wet and wild 24 hours outside the heads, the 2,500 people onboard the Carnival Spirit were happy to be on solid ground when the ship finally docked on Wednesday morning.
It’s the first time in 10 years that Sydney Harbour’s port has been forced to close, as severe storms battered the east coast of NSW.
And the first time in 14 years that a Carnival Cruise Lines ship has been stopped outside Sydney heads.
Cruise ships are unavoidably at the mercy of the weather, but do they have a legal obligation to compensate or assist passengers when a storm strikes?
In short, no.
Most major cruise lines categorise severe weather conditions as a circumstance outside their control or “force majeure” and are not legally required to compensate passengers.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get nothing for your trouble.
In this case, Carnival went above and beyond what was required and compensated both passengers on the stricken ship and those who were on the following cruise, which had to be delayed.
Passengers onboard during the storm were given a $50 onboard credit.
The line made alternative arrangements for those who had booked their full cruise/flight packages through Carnival while passengers who had booked flights or accommodation independently were given free phone calls to make changes.
Similarly, passengers waiting to board the outgoing cruise were given assistance with finding accommodation in Sydney.
These passengers were refunded one day of the cruise and given a $50 onboard credit.
They were also given the option to cancel and receive a full refund, despite the fact that Carnival usually charges 100% of the total fare for cancellations made within 14 days of departure.
Cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean will generally treat these situations on a case by case bases and there’s no guarantee of the type of compensation you’ll receive – or if you’ll receive any at all.
This could also be one time that travel insurance is worthwhile.
Most policies will reimburse you for expenses incurred from weather related delays, be it flight change fees or additional accommodation.