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What to do if you miss your cruise ship

Ever been on a cruise ship after a stopover and watched fellow passengers sprinting along the pier as the ship starts moving away?

It’s easy to laugh, but it can just as easily happen to you. Maybe you get lost wandering around the maze of little streets in the port town, or completely lose track of time shopping for souvenirs. Before you know it, your ship is ready to depart and you’re not on it.

cruise ship leaves passenger behind 


So what do you do?

The first important thing to note is, if you’re late for departure, even if it’s only by seconds, the cruise ship won’t wait. After all, it has a strict schedule to stick to. What’s more, the cruise line pays for every hour the ship stays in the port. With a ship of 3,000 plus passengers, there’s no way it can possible wait for every single passenger who’s running late. It would be docked for days!

The one exception to the rule is if you are late because of a shore excursion that was sold to you by the ship. The vessel will wait for a group of passengers, but not for individuals.

If you do find yourself stranded on the pier watching your ship sail away toward the horizon, the first thing to do is contact the port agent. Their name and contact information can be found in the ship’s daily newsletter so make sure you write it down before disembarking.

The agent will rarely be able to make the ship wait more than a few minutes, but they can help you find alternative transport to meet it at the next port. We’re sorry to say this will probably mean an expensive flight or two.  

The bottom line is, unless you’re part of an organised tour, it's your responsibility to get back to your cruise ship.

cruise ship leaves port 


Here are our top tips to make sure you catch the boat:

  • Make note of the port departure times in the daily newsletter – better yet, take it with you.
  • Double check the time shown on the ship and be sure that your watch/phone is set to the exact same time.
  • Write down the ship agent’s name and contact details (again it’s better to take the newsletter with you).
  • Book your shore excursion through the cruise line – the ship will wait for the whole group if it’s running late.
  • The second you realise you’re running late, call the ship’s agent immediately.
  • Using public transport? Double check the schedule and give yourself extra time in case there are delays. The further out you go, the more time you should allow to get back.
  • Take enough cash (local currency) so you can jump in a taxi if you’re cutting it fine.
  • Take a credit card just in case you do miss the departure and need to organise travel.
  • Take your passport (or a good photocopy) with you for ID – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
  • Before you set off on the cruise, take out comprehensive travel insurance.

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