While the obvious fall-out from Hurricanes Irma and Maria – the twin forces of nature that have roared in the Atlantic this month – is the damage wrought to islands in the Caribbean, and to the south-east of the United States, this latest period of tumultuous weather has also provoked large gulps of concern in cruise passengers. Atlantic Hurricane Season traditionally runs until the end of November, so there may be worse to come.
This will not be a pleasing thought if you have booked a voyage heading for the likes of Barbados or St Lucia in the next few weeks. And yet the comforting reality is that encounters between cruise ships and extreme storms tend to be rare – and that even when one meets the other, the former can deal with the latter without too much worry.
Oasis Of The Seas – an ocean-going behemoth owned by Royal Caribbean – is a case in point. The largest passenger ship on the planet when it was launched in 2009 (and still the third largest, able to hold up to 6,296 passengers), it was built with an extra-wide hull which gives it added stability in ferocious conditions.
At 198ft (60.5m) across at maximum width (and 154ft/47m at the waterline), Oasis Of the Seas is too big to fit into the Panama Canal but its broadness means it can withstand the most unfriendly waves. This was proved in November 2009, on its delivery voyage from the Finnish shipyard where it was built to its new home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. En route, it moved through what officers recorded as “almost up to hurricane force” winds, and swells in excess of 39ft (12m) – but coped admirably.
This same hardiness is true of smaller vessels. You can find footage online of another Royal Caribbean ship, Anthem Of The Seas – which is around two-thirds the size of its giant sibling – slipping blithely through the Atlantic in September of last year, even as Hurricane Hermine strikes its 14th deck with a surge.
Even a freak wave of a size conjured in popular imagination by movies such as The Poseidon Adventure would be unlikely to unduly trouble a modern cruise ship. Discussing the Atlantic's sour welcome for Oasis Of The Seas in 2009, Matthew Collette, a professor of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of Michigan, told the journal Live Science: "If [a ship] was struck by [a freak wave], I would expect there to be local damage at the point of impact - maybe some broken portholes or bent railings. But little else."
This is not to say that serious incidents do not occur. In August 2008, the P&O Australia vessel Pacific Sun ran into hellish conditions - 25ft swells and 50-knot winds - while 400 miles north of New Zealand. This stormy weather wrenched slot machines away from their positions in the casino, and threw crockery across dining areas – 40 guests were injured in the process.
More serious still was was an incident in February 2014. Rough seas caused a fatality when waves struck the MS Marco Polo as it was sailing off Brittany. The impact smashed windows in the restaurant, and 85-year-old British passenger James Swinstead died after being showered by the breaking glass.
The latter tragedy was discussed in a comment piece by Telegraph Travel's cruise correspondent Jane Archer. But in this, she explained that, while the news was very sad, she had only heard of one previous case of windows being shattered at sea.
Top 10 | The world’s biggest cruise ships
"Maybe the ship should have given a warning that, due to the rough weather, people should stay in their rooms. But you have to balance this with not wanting people to panic," she continued. "The sea can be very, very powerful."
Both the Pacific Sun and the MS Marco Polo, it should be added, are older vessels - lacking some of the technology that makes current cruise flagships more impervious to oceanic bluster.
Launched in the Swedish port of Malmo in 1986, Pacific Sun was sold on by P&O Australia in 2012, was renamed MS Henna by new owner, Chinese travel company HNA Group - and was scrapped earlier this year.
Cruise secrets: 12 things you didn't know about holidays at sea
MS Marco Polo, while still active for British operator Cruise & Maritime Voyages, is even more of a veteran - it was constructed in the (then East) German port of Wismar, on the Baltic, in 1965. Its age is seen by many passengers as part of its appeal. Telegraph Travel's review of the vessel, by writer Pat Richardson in 2012, said that the long service record “adds character for many passengers.”
“Her deep draught and stabilisers give a comfortable 'ride' in boisterous seas,” the review continued, "and she is well-maintained: successive refits and refurbishments have kept her navigational technology, public rooms and accommodation and passenger facilities up to date.”
The obvious note of concern that could be raised here is that both these disturbing situations took place outside the Atlantic hurricane zone - and indeed, were not caused by hurricanes. While this is true, this is also a cause for reassurance. Although frightening in their aggression, hurricanes are easily identified and carefully monitored.
Put simply, the main reason that cruise ships do not capsize in hurricanes is that they are not placed in harm's way. Weather prediction systems mean celestial fury can be tracked in advance, and avoiding action taken. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line both erred on the safe side this month. Each cancelled two sailings as Irma raged. Carnival, MSC Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Line all re-routed ships out of her path. The best strategy for surviving a hurricane is not to face it in the first place.