Caribbean vacations: Trying to reason with hurricane season

This is a tense time of year for all those cruise and Caribbean enthusiasts out there, as scientists finalize their predictions about what kind of hurricane season the year will have.

For 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a “normal or slightly busier” year for hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. What’s normal? NOAA says most years see 11 named storms, with six developing into hurricanes (and usually around two that are real whoppers).

This year? NOAA is predicting 12 to 16 named storms, with two to five becoming genuine hurricanes.

So, depending on how you look at it, that’s either good news (they’re predicting less full on hurricanes) or bad news (they’re predicting more tropical storms and depressions).

Hurricane season officially runs June 1 till the end of November.

What does this mean for your cruise plans? Hard to predict. As with every year, thousands take to the seas — or forget the seas, they just head for their Caribbean vacations — hoping for the best. Since forecasters are not calling for a significantly worse year, there seems no reason to cancel or alter plans.

Typically, trips to the eastern Caribbean are more affected by hurricanes and tropical storms than trips deeper into the western or southern Caribbean.

NOAA is quick to point out that they are right only about 65 percent of the time. The busiest hurricane season on record was in 2005, which saw 28 named storms; NOAA had predicted 12 to 15.

There were 15 named storms in 2007, six hurricanes, to of which were classified as “major.”

A scientist at Colorado State University, however, is predicting 15 named storms this year, with eight hurricanes, four of which will be major.

Try to reason with any of these predictions.