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{Extended at Sea}: Our Experience on a Cruise Ship Sailing Extended During a Hurricane

When Disney Cruise Line debuted their newest (and fifth) cruise ship, the Disney Wish, the cruise lines were still in their shutdown phase. Our group somewhat randomly chose our cruise dates for a convenient time in our lives, hoping that we’d avoid any hurricane-related effects. The ship was selling fast, and we were thrilled to book our staterooms.

As I packed my bags for my arrival two days before the cruise, I started to hear whispers of tropical depression 9, which looked to potentially affect the Caribbean and eventually Florida. Our cruise was still unaffected, but as I flew to Orlando, I started to feel that would most likely change.

We booked a four-night cruise with stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay, and ultimately, we ended up on a six-night sailing with three full days at sea.

Disclosure: Although I’ve received media rates and complimentary sailings, I paid the full price for my Disney Wish cruise.

wet pool deck with deck chairs on cruise ship

Extended at Sea: Our Experience on a Cruise Ship Sailing Extended During a Hurricane

We boarded our September 26th sailing with some contingency plans in our back pockets. We had somewhere to stay on Friday night (the day of our planned return), and refundable flights that were ready to change. Before sailing away from Port Canaveral, Captain Andy informed us that the ship would likely return to port late on Friday. He encouraged us to call and change our flights while we all still had cell service.

I was easily able to reach Jetblue after requesting a callback. Because of the impending Hurricane Ian, change fees had been suspended, and I was able to move my flight back to a later departure on Friday.

Wooden fixture, and chairs on wet outdoor deck

Rainy Weather in Nassau

We arrived in Nassau as scheduled. I’ve visited Nassau many times on cruises, so I opted to stay on board to explore more of the new ship. That ended up being a wise decision, as the skies opened up and the rain started coming down heavily.

That evening, Captain Andy broke the news to us that we would no longer be returning on Friday. Instead, we were planning for a Saturday or Sunday return. Most guests seemed to be quite happy with that decision, and cheers could be heard throughout the ship. Because of our extension, the next sailing of the Disney Wish was canceled.

The ambiguity of the return did make some guests a little uncomfortable. We were concerned that flights would start to book up over the weekend as Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday flights were canceled. I had purchased WiFi, so I utilized the chat feature on the Jetblue app to move my once-changed Friday afternoon flight to Sunday afternoon. Once again, the fee was waived due to the circumstances.

In his announcement, Captain Andy let everyone know that the Disney Cruise Line would change any flights that were booked directly through Disney. Other guests could receive assistance at guest services, where complimentary internet and phones were offered.

If you’ve tried to reach an airline recently, you probably know that wait times have been extended. I sympathized with the guests who were hunched over phones on hold.

Disney cruise funnel in the rain

Castaway Cay Day

On Wednesday, we were scheduled to visit Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. After arriving at the island, Captain Andy made the decision to turn around and sail away from the area. The waves and wind were just too strong. While we love Castaway Cay, we knew that there was no way we’d enjoy a day in that weather.

Although the weather was rough, the sailing was not. The new Disney Wish must have some fantastic stabilizers because we really didn’t feel any rough seas at all. Once we moved on from that area of the Bahamas, the weather improved and we were able to spend some time outside.

Later that day, we were informed that we’d definitely be returning on Sunday. Captain Andy also told us that we’d try to return to Castaway Cay on Saturday, assuming the weather cooperated.

Because there are very few activities planned on the ship during the Castaway Cay stops, our cruise director informed us that they were working to add movies, trivia, shows, and other activities. Shortly after that, we were told to refresh the app to see all of the new options.

At some point, the stateroom televisions started receiving the Weather Channel on one of the Disney stations, so even those without internet packages could see what was happening in Florida.

Dark clouds over infinity pool

Extra Days at Sea

The next day was our scheduled day at sea, so the schedule was already packed with fun activities. Captain Andy also informed us that we’d be making a quick stop at Nassau, which happened during our dining rotation in the early evening.

Friday, our original return date, was an unscheduled day at sea. Once again, the cruise staff worked tirelessly to add some new activities. These include never-seen-before game shows, as well as activities that are typically done only on longer sailings, like napkin and towel folding, nautical knot tying, and a special entertainment class showcasing a dance routine. They also received approval to show Hocus Pocus 2, which had just been released on Disney Plus.

Captain Andy found us some calm waters with a clear sky, and we were able to enjoy more time at the outdoor adult pool.

On these extra days, as you’d expect, the laundry room became a popular place. The fee for laundry products, washers, and dryers was not waived, but it was easy enough to charge these items to your stateroom. Luckily, the Disney Wish has a large, beautiful laundry facility, and the app alerts you when it’s time to move or pick up your items so you don’t have to hang around waiting.

Disney Cruise Line offers rotational dining, where guests move to different dining rooms along with their serving team each night. For the two additional nights, we just restarted the rotation and had the same menus as our first two nights. While I wondered if they would start to run out of food choices, we didn’t experience that at all.

Disney Wish docked with blue sky and cloud

Return to Castaway Cay

On Saturday, I woke up to that beautiful Castaway Cay view. The weather was absolutely perfect, and we all got to experience a full beach day on the private island. I was thankful that Captain Andy and the Disney Cruise Line made the effort to return us there.

Ultimately, we had an excellent cruise experience, despite the rough seas. I didn’t experience any unusual ship movement at all.

There was no additional charge for the two extra days. However, we had been informed that Disney does not automatically add gratuities for those extra days. So, we went to guest services to have them manually added so that the crew members who assisted us during our sailing were fairly compensated.

If you are sailing during hurricane season, and need to prepare, here are a few tips that would help.

  • Ensure you have all of your flight details readily available. Download your airline’s app to make things easier and have the phone number easy to access.
  • Pack extra essentials, like prescription medicine, diapers, and formula. I had packed two extra days of medication and I ended up using all of it.
  • Know your home schedule for a few days after your trip. That way, if you have to cancel any appointments you know what you need to do.
  • Bring a few extra outfits to be prepared. Or, pack laundry products so you can do laundry without buying soap and fabric softener.

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