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August 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 36, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Planning a Dive Trip during Hurricane Season?

from the August, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In our June email to subscribers, we wrote that before you book a trip anywhere in the Caribbean from August to October, consider that the National Oceanic and Atmopsheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting anywhere from 14 to 23 named storms, and three to seven hurricanes that hit Category 3 or higher. While most of the Caribbean is affected, favorite diving destinations such as the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Cozumel, the Caymans and Belize are especially in harm’s way.

As you can imagine, many people in the dive industry took us to task. For example, Gerlinde Seupel of Aquanauts Grenada wrote: “Hi Ben, not very helpful to join all the panicking forecasters who know nothing. The last 10 years, their predictions were always wrong! Instead, you should advise your readers of the approaching hurricane season and to consider precautions but still keep on traveling. After all, without traveling divers, your publication has no readers nor writers!” Seupel advised that travelers should get trip insurance.

Yes, a traveler in hurricane season should get travel insurance, but first we must note that NOAA forecasts for named tropical storms and hurricanes have been accurate in five out of the 10 years in this decade, according to a USA Today analysis. Its prediction was too low in four years, and too high in just one year, 2006. Eight of the 10 years saw above-average activity for tropical storms and hurricanes.” Of course, NOAA can’t predict where they will hit but a wise traveler should do his research, or head south of the hurricane belt to Bonaire or Grenada anyhow.

However, keep in mind that trip insurance is not a panacea. Most insurance policies will cover a trip disrupted because of a hurricane (when you are forced to arrive late or leave early for your trip), but you’ll be reimbursed only for the affected days until the airport or resort reopens. You will usually be reimbursed for the days you are forced to stay at a resort during a hurricane, but read the fine print on your policy to make sure you are actually covered. And remember that you’ll usually only be covered if you buy your insurance at the same time you book the trip or before any kind of hurricane watch or warning is issued. Otherwise, the hurricane might be deemed a pre-existing condition, meaning no compensation for you. If the airlines are operating and allowing passengers to fly to the destination, you’ll usually be expected to leave for your vacation even if a hurricane threatens. Most insurers won’t pay as long as the airline is flying, even if the resort you booked and paid for is totally destroyed by the storm. In a case like that, it’s better to take advantage of the airline’s more flexible change policy and rebook your trip for a different time and a different place. Of course, you can always buy the “cancel for any reason” policy, but those premiums can be twice - - or more - - the cost of a standard trip policy.

And if you don’t have trip insurance? You’re at the mercy of the hotel and dive operator for reimbursement. And for sure you won’t be diving. You’ll spend a lot of time worrying and wondering just what to do with your time. In 1989, I went to Grand Cayman for seven days. Dived two days, couldn’t get a flight off the island, spent two nights on the floor in the East End Community Center and waited three more days for a flight. And no dive boats were going out. Wasn’t how I expected to spend my holiday.

- - Ben Davison

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