Cruise TipsWhat to Do if Your Cruise Ship Leaves Without You (3 Vital...

What to Do if Your Cruise Ship Leaves Without You (3 Vital Steps)

If your cruise ship leaves without you, all is not lost. However, there are a few important steps you should take right away.

Our free cruise newsletter offers the latest cruise news and deals: Sign Up

Sky Princess cruise ship sailing out of Port Everglades Florida
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

When planning the details of your cruise vacation, the last thing to cross your mind is the possibility of missing your cruise ship.

Although missing your cruise ship isn’t very common, these instances do unfortunately occur for several reasons both within, and outside of your control. This is every cruise-goer’s nightmare that they hope to never have to experience.

To avoid finding yourself in this predicament, there are several actions you can take to be proactive, and prepared such as: choosing your excursions wisely, paying attention to time – especially as it fluctuates within differing time zones, and booking your flights for the days prior rather than the day of departure.

Here are some things you should know if you happen to find yourself in this situation, and the 3 things you should do if you miss your cruise ship.


Will a Cruise Ship Wait for Late Passengers?

Generally speaking, no, cruise ships do not wait for any passenger(s) who are running late – be it on the initial day of sailing, or when leaving a port after visiting a destination.

However, there are some exceptions to this which we will talk about below.

The arrival and departure times at each location is posted on your itinerary when you book your cruise and is announced every day thereafter while on board. Additionally, you can find this important information recorded on your cruise line’s app, which is helpful to download and utilize during your vacation.

For cruise lines which still distribute daily paper itineraries, the port arrival and departure times will be recorded there, too.

It is important to familiarize yourself with this important information so you can avoid missing your cruise ship due to timing. Cruise ships run on a very strict, tight schedule to allow for other ships to dock in the same port following their departure, so any delays can cause significant issues to the itinerary.

Related: Cruise travel insurance and why you need it more than you think

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever


Do Passengers Get a Refund for Missing Their Cruise?

The short answer again is no, cruisers will not receive any form of refund if they miss their cruise departure.

The reason for this being that it is the passenger’s obligation to arrive on time for their cruise. To receive any form of a refund, cruise vacations should be cancelled within the guidelines stated by the specific cruise line, which is typically 30 days prior.

Investing in additional coverage through travel insurance may alleviate some losses due to missing your departure, but this is dependent on the circumstances.

Related: How to cancel a cruise: cancellation policies by cruise line


Can a Passenger Board at a Different Port of Call?

If you happen to miss your initial boarding on the first day of your cruise, you may be wondering if you can simply fly to the next port of call and board there. While this sounds like a viable option, it is usually not possible.

The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 was implemented to prevent passengers from embarking and disembarking at different ports within the United States.

For example, if your cruise was sailing out of New York, and the first port of call was in Miami, you would not be permitted to board there. This is because foreign-flagged vessels are not permitted to pick up and drop off passengers. Cruise ships are almost always foreign flagged, meaning, the country they originate from are outside of the United States.

The Passenger Vessel Services Act does not reference transportation in foreign ports, so this may be possible to do under certain circumstances, however, the cruise ship is permitted to refuse a passenger for any reason they deem necessary.

There are rules and regulations specific to the country you may be sailing within, so it is always best to speak with your cruise line directly.

Here is a video of what we call “pier runners” trying to make it back to the ship on time.


What Should You Do If You Miss Your Cruise Ship?

Here are three things you should know if you find yourself in this situation:

1. Contact Your Cruise Line Directly

Should you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of missing your cruise for any reason, the first action to take is calling your cruise line directly. It is important to inform them of where you are to address the next steps, and to see if there is a possibility of boarding at a future port of call. A port agent stationed at the port of disembarkation should be able to assist you in contacting your cruise line directly.

Your cruise line can assist you with cancelling, and rebooking any additional necessary items related to your cruise, such as airfare, excursions, dining, and more. Should you need to schedule new accommodations or arrange for meeting up at a different port of call if this is possible, your cruise line agent can assist with this as well.

While it is not a guarantee, some cruise lines have offered guests the opportunity for future cruise credits in the sum of the portion of the cruise that was missed. For this reason, it does not hurt to ask your cruise line what the options are regarding your circumstances.


2. Make New Travel Arrangements

Missing your cruise ship means that new travel arrangements are going to be necessary – either for traveling to a different port of call, or returning home, and calling the cruise a wash.

Your cruise line will be able to recommend the best plan here depending on your specific itinerary and legal regulations. In most circumstances, your cruise line can help you make new arrangements, and cancel your former ones to reduce the stress of doing so on your own during a difficult time.


3. Contact Your Travel Insurance Company

If you have invested in travel insurance for your vacation, it will be extremely important to contact them directly should you miss your cruise.

While it isn’t a guarantee, your travel insurance may be able to get you a reimbursement in the event of flight delays, or cancellations, car service delays, or other circumstances related to things outside of your control. This will depend on the company you invest in, the plan you choose, and the situation at hand.

If you miss your cruise ship due to timing issues, or other personal issues, your travel insurance may not cover these incidents, and you may be on your own. Similarly, if the plan you have taken out does specifically cover cruise vacation incidents, you are unlikely to see any refunds, so it is important to do your research when choosing your insurance plan.

Norwegian Cruise ship in port in Nassau, Bahamas
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

How to Stay Prepared to Avoid Missing Your Cruise

You’re probably wondering, how can I stay prepared to best avoid missing my cruise ship? There are several steps you can take to ensure you will arrive on time, every time, and avoid the unfortunate incident of missing your trip, and subsequently ruining your vacation.


Book All Your Excursions Through Your Cruise Line

When choosing who and where to book your excursions, it can be overwhelming with all the different options. While it may be tempting to go with the less expensive option through a third-party vendor, this may not always be the best choice outside of your wallet.

Third-party vendors do not have any contract, and therefore, no obligation to your cruise line. This means, if they experience an unplanned delay or mishap, they are not responsible for returning passengers to the vessel by a certain time. If this happens, your cruise ship will leave without you, regardless of the circumstances.

Booking your excursions directly through the cruise line’s website, or agent over the phone means that the cruise line will then be aware of any delays and will wait for those parties that may be stuck in a situation compromised by delays.


Familiarize Yourself with Ship Time

Although cruise ships sail through different time zones, the vessel itself sets a steady time that does not reflect the port’s time – this is called the ship time.

The time of your port of call docking will reflect this time, and so it is important to become aware of this. Most cellular phones today automatically adjust to the port, or the country time, so bringing a watch along with you while cruising is often a good suggestion.

Your ship will announce the current time when arriving in port, and when it plans to sail away, and there are clocks on board as well. However, keeping current of this time while on land is imperative to ensure you don’t miss your ship within the hour.


Set An Alarm on Your Phone

If you’re worried about missing your cruise ship while at a port of call, and don’t want this to dampen your vacation plans, setting reminders can be a very helpful way to enjoy your time while staying responsible.

Setting an alarm on your phone while out exploring a port is a great way to ensure that you do not lose track of time and arrive to your port too late. This method can help you gauge how much time you have left on land, which can ensure that you maximize your time.


Bottom Line

While missing your cruise ship isn’t an everyday occurrence, it is something that every cruiser should be mindful of when coordinating their vacation plans.

Missing a cruise ship is not like missing a plane, or a train, where you can simply jump on the next one that follows to the same destination. There are a lot of moving parts that go into each sailing, and you may be stuck with a financial burden instead of happy memories of your cruise vacation.

Following the aforementioned tips can be increasingly helpful to ensure you don’t miss your sailing, and know how to address the unfortunate situation in the event that you do.

Read more: 10 things that will get you banned from a cruise ship

Learn the cruise secrets most people don't know and cruise like a boss. Check out Intelligent Cruiser here for a better cruise vacation. (Sponsored)

J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
Cruise TipsWhat to Do if Your Cruise Ship Leaves Without You (3 Vital...


Comments are closed.

Recent Popular Posts