Unveiling the Major Reason Why Cruisers Miss Their Ship at Foreign Ports

Don’t miss your ship. That’s the fundamental rule when embarking on a cruise and docking in a foreign port.

Surprisingly enough, it happens more frequently than one can imagine. A recent incident, where a group of cruise travelers missed their ship in Africa, triggered anxiety among prospective cruise passengers.

The group ended up spending a gargantuan amount of money to reunite with their vessel, a story which was prominently featured on every cruise-related news website for a whole week.

So, the question arises, why do some passengers fail to return to their ship on time? There are numerous reasons for this, but we’ll highlight one major one below.

The ship’s captain sincerely requests that everyone be present before embarking towards the next destination. It’s important to consider the potential inconveniences to other passengers due to late arrivals or the requirement to adjust the schedule because of a few individuals.

If you happen to return to the ship late, don’t worry. We have previously discussed the consequences of missing your cruise ship.

This article will highlight the primary reason behind occurrences of this nature.

Remember to always keep track of the ship’s time. This may seem unusual, but cruise ships often operate on a different timetable than the port they’re visiting.

The captain tends to make an announcement about the local time and ship time to remind passengers to adhere to ship time for departure.

However, on every cruise, a few passengers invariably forget. They often use their smartphones as their watches, neglecting the fact that their phones will automatically transition to the local time.

Consequently, when the ship disembarks at 4pm, but their phone indicates it’s only 3pm and they have ample time, we are left with unhappy passengers standing on an abandoned pier.

For this reason, I usually prefer to use a traditional watch (not a smart watch) and maintain it on ship time throughout the journey.

Find out more: Drive or fly: 8 questions to consider before planning your cruise voyage

A valuable tip for cruising is to ask the cabin steward about the local traffic situation. Crew members, familiar with the different ports, will have first-hand knowledge about congestion, especially in busier ports.

If crew members are late and miss the ship, it can have serious implications including losing their jobs. As they often have the chance to get off the ship and explore the port cities, they gather a lot of useful information that can be beneficial for passengers.

For instance, you may look at a map and find that a nearby beach is only 5 miles away. However, rush-hour traffic congestion could mean a journey back to the ship that takes 30-45 minutes.

Other issues with public transportation, taxis, or rental car trouble could also delay the expected time to get back.

Underestimating traffic is a major reason some passengers fail to get back on the ship in time.

But it’s not the biggest reason.

Read more: 10 biggest mistakes cruisers make on port days

From my observations, this is the main reason why people fail to board their ship. 

They find an extraordinary cruise trip that they can get for half the price compared to booking through the cruise line.  Sure, it’s a 2-hour journey from the port, but it’s a unique opportunity, so why not?

Indeed, you can cut costs by arranging trips outside of the cruise line.  But remember this issue.  If your journey drags on and you booked via a 3rd party, the cruise ship won’t wait for you.

If you organize a trip through the cruise line, they will wait for you even if it gets delayed, and they will stay in touch with the excursion operators throughout the process.

My advice is, if you choose to organise a self-guided tour, ensure it’s relative to the port and concludes well ahead of your cruise ship’s departure time.

These aren’t the sole reasons people get left behind. I’ve just pointed out the main ones.

Additional reasons could be medical emergencies, mishaps, or simply losing awareness of time whilst browsing for trinkets. Also, some are under the impression, “The ship will wait for us, no rush,” which is an error in judgement.

The fact of the case is that when a ship carries more than 4,000 passengers, it feels nothing short of a minor miracle that even 99% arrive back on time.

And for those who do make it back in time, it has become a cruisers ritual to watch the “pier runners” trying to make it onto the ship as passengers cheer them on from the lido deck above.

Some cruisers will miss their ship from day one as well. I always recommend people fly into the departure port a day ahead of time. This makes the whole day a lot less stressful and gives you a buffer should a flight be delayed.

Read more: 7 reasons you should never fly on cruise day

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