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Ten Things You HAVE To Do If You Get Left Behind In Port

We saw a video of a couple who’d obviously got a bit carried away in port and ended up missing their cruise ship. (You can see the full video below…)

It got us wondering though… Would you know what to do if the worst happened and you missed your ship?

It’s something no one ever really thinks about as it’s so rare… but it could happen, right?

Would you know what to do? Would you panic?

Take a look at our tips below (purely in the spirit of ‘just in case’- this is rare after all!) and maybe think about them next time you get off in port. You don’t need to do a lot… but that ‘not a lot’ could make all the difference…

Prevention Is Always Better Than A Cure

We’ll get onto what you should do if the worst happens in a minute but it shouldn’t need saying that prevention will always be less painful than the cure.

It’ll always be much, much better to make sure you’re on time for the ship leaving than having to deal with the aftermath. So what can you do?

Travel down the day before

One thing you can never rely on is traffic.

Yes you may have checked a route planner, yes your satnav may say the journey will only take three hours and yes you may think you’ll get there in plenty of time but what happens if your car breaks down? Or there’s a train strike? Or you get stuck in traffic?

Trust us… there’s nothing worse than that watching the clock count down to the time your ship sails and being powerless to do anything about it. Unless you live local to your port the Cruise.co.uk team would always recommend travelling down to the day before and stopping in a hotel (many of them will even look after your car for the duration of the cruise!)

Think about it… you get to add another day to your holiday, get a hassle free embarkation day (being able to stroll onto the ship whenever you want) and never run the risk of missing it!

traffic jam

Check your travel insurance

Some insurance policies are great, whilst others (especially the free ones you get from your bank etc.) may only give you a basic cover. Check your policy covers you for missing the ship before you leave and if it doesn’t try to find a policy that does!

Travel insurance

Ships time vs port time

It can be confusing for many new cruisers (or to be honest even experienced cruisers) but due to the different time zones you cross or may be about to cross, there can be a big difference in the ships time compared to the actual time in the port you’re visiting.

You may think you can keep track of it but our top tip would to be always set your phone to the ship’s time and set a couple of reminders when you’re off exploring to give yourself plenty of time to get back. Remember to take into account how difficult getting back maybe as well… are you catching a train? Getting a taxi? Are you in a city or an empty tropical island? – these factors should all be considered!

Top Tip: If you do take your phone out with you remember to set it to airplane mode so you don’t get stung when you get home by roaming charges (see our guide to avoiding internet charges abroad here).

Cruise ship clock

Be careful who you book shore excursions with

If you’ve booked a shore excursion with the cruise line then you can afford to relax a little. The cruise line reps will keep an eye on the time for you and as there’ll be so many people on the excursion, if anything were to happen, the ship will wait (or at least the cruise line be responsible for sorting everything out in getting you to the next port of call). Either way there’s no/minimal stress for you. The problem with that though is that cruise line excursions are notoriously overpriced… but is it safe booking with independent companies?

This is where you’ll need to do your research we’re afraid. Many independent shore excursion companies do run their trips to time with cruise line schedules… but the ship won’t wait if you’re late so make sure you do some background checks on the company… especially with reviews by past guests!  

If you’re off doing your own thing our last tip would be to always try and give yourself an hour’s leeway. Failing something pretty catastrophic, that should give you more than enough time to get back to the ship in an emergency.

Shore excursion

Hope For The Best But Plan For The Worst

So as much as it’s not nice to think of it happening, what should you do to prepare for that ‘just in case’ situation?

Passport and credit cards

It’s unwise to take out your actual passport (or even your credit card if you don’t think you’ll need it) but if the worst happens it’s better to be safe than sorry. Before you leave for your cruise take photocopies of your passport and credit cards (both sides). Leave the originals in the safe in your cabin but take these copies with you.

You’ll be amazed at how useful they’ll prove if you get stuck and need to make your way home/to the next port of call.

Womans passport

Important telephone numbers

As well as the above you’ll need to know who to get in touch with if things go wrong. A list of numbers you should always have on you would be…

The ships;

The port agent (you can normally find this on the daily schedule delivered to your room each day);

The cruise line’s customer service number (the 24hr version if you’re in a different time zone);

The address/telephone number of your countries embassy in the port you’re visiting;

Your specialist cruise consultant’s number;

And the emergency contact number for your travel insurance company.

We know it’s not a nice thought but carrying these will make your life so much easier if anything happens!

Top Tip: Don’t carry any of the above in a wallet or handbag that could get stolen as they’ll be essential in figuring out what you do next (although you would have to be particularly unlucky to miss the ship AND get pick pocketed on the same day!)

mergency telephone numbers

So You’ve Missed Your Ship. What Next?

So you’ve tried to prevent it… planned for it just in case… now what do you do if it’s actually happened?


Is it just us or is there something very comforting in knowing the worst has happened and there’s nothing more you can do about it? Bottom line is you’re still on holiday so try to enjoy yourself. Yes it’s not ideal and yes it’s probably stressful but you’ve planned for this and have insurance (hopefully) for it. Chances are you won’t be able catch up with the ship till at least the next day so make all your plans then go enjoy yourself! Think of it as a bonus night in a port of call.

Cruise Ports

Find your port agent

The first thing you need to do on missing your ship (after having a good ol’ swear to vent your feelings anyway) is to locate your port agent.

These are members of staff employed by the cruise line stationed permanently in each port (note: most but not all ports will have them). This person/persons will be invaluable in helping plan what you do next.

Post agent

Make your phone calls

Remember that list of telephone numbers we told you to carry? This is the time you’re going to need them. Start at the top and work your way down the list.

Call the ship and find out just where it is and when you’ll be able to catch up with it then try the cruise lines customer service line, your travel agent or your insurance company. At least one of these should be able to help you sort out transport to the next port of call and a hotel for the night.

Stessed phone call

Fetch your stuff

If the ship knows you’re going to be late (they keep a careful eye on who’s boarded and who hasn’t) then odds are they’ll have packed up everything in your room and left it at the port for you. It doesn’t always happen, depending on time and the cruise line, but the last thing you want is to get back to the ship in the next port only to find all your stuff is waiting for you at the last port because you didn’t realise it was there!

Cruise Holidays

So there you have it; a step by step guide on what to do if you miss your cruise ship!

Has this ever happened to you or someone you know?

Have you ever seen it happen?

What did you do?

Let us know in the comments below…

Bulletin Editor

Editor and Creative Copywriter of Cruise.co.uk's bulletin blog, bringing you cruise news, tips and guides daily! - Contact: [email protected]

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