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The Ultimate Guide Of What To Do When Things Go Wrong On Your Cruise

The Ultimate Guide Of What To Do When Things Go Wrong On Your Cruise

There’s three things a lot of Brits like to do above all others; moan about the weather, queue up for things and complain to people about other stuff.

Given that you’re on a cruise, you’d hope there wouldn’t be the need to complain to anyone but occasionally (very occasionally) a situation may arise where you feel you need to speak to someone.

Who to speak to though? Do you head straight to the Captain? Would he listen to you if you did? How does a cruise ship’s hierarchy actually work?

Below are twelve of the most common situations that can arise on a cruise ship that you might need to complain about, and what you should do about them if you’re unlucky enough to have them happen to you…

Umm, Excuse Me…Is That My Suitcase Still On The Dock There?

First of all, relax. The kind of situation where your luggage just hasn’t arrived on-board is incredibly rare. If it does occur, then one of three things will have happened…

1- It Actually Is On-Board

Chances are your case has made it to the ship safely and is waiting to be delivered to your cabin. Be patient as this can sometimes take a couple of hours. If after that time it’s still not there, just head down to the purser’s desk to speak to someone.

Either (though not likely) your bag will have been delivered to the wrong room or (more likely) it will have been scanned by security and contraband will have been detected. Your luggage should be with you in no time!


2- It’s Someone Else’s Fault

If your bag really isn’t on-board, you may need to face the prospect that it never made it from the airport. It’s possible the airline has sent it to the complete wrong place. Though rare these days, it could still happen. Stay calm if it does and get in touch with reception.

You can arrange to have your bags delivered to your next port of call and don’t worry, almost all cruise lines have clothes shops on-board that you can purchase some replacements in to tide you over which you can then claim back from either the airline itself or your insurance company once you’re home.

3- Splash!

Lastly (and fortunately) the rarest of possibilities is a porter dropping your luggage over the side of the gang plank as they’re bringing it on-board. We even hesitate to mention this as we’ve only ever heard of it happening once and the cruise line immediately took responsibility, contacted the guests and arranged to replace the contents of the bag immediately (as well as offering a nice chunk of on-board credit as compensation of course).

Baggage Carousel

Well I Didn’t Order Separate Beds!

When booking a cruise you’ll be asked if you want two twin beds or one double bed in your cabin; your specialist cruise consultant will then inform the cruise line of this; the cruise line will then inform the ship (you get the gist!)

twin beds

Now ninety nine out of a hundred times this process works perfectly, but with so many people involved you can imagine that it does occasionally go wrong.

It’s nothing to worry about however, just ring or speak to your cabin steward and he can have it corrected for you in a matter of minutes.

Will You BE QUIET! 

There’s several different ways to deal with a noisy neighbour in the next cabin, mostly depending on the kind of person you are and how awkward you think things may get.

The most obvious and easiest of solutions is to go knock and ask them to keep it down (politely of course). Cruise ship cabins tend to have thinner walls than their land based counterparts and a certain amount of background noise is to be expected so your neighbours simply might not have realised they could be overheard by you; a simple word then could resolve the situation.


If that doesn’t work or you just can’t face speaking to them, you can then ask the ships reception to speak to them on your behalf; if all else fails (and there’s space) you can request to be moved to another cabin… Again, you’d just need to speak to reception to arrange this.

No, I Asked For A Table For Two! 

Dining arrangements are always a tricky one as so many people want different things. Do you go for a small, intimate table of two for dinner? Or a big table of eight to be social?

What if you end up on early dining but wanted late? Or worse…end up on a table of eight but find you can’t stand the people you’re dining with?

table of two

If anything like this happens on your cruise then the person you need to speak to is the maître d’. They will be able to talk over the problem with you and quickly come up with a solution.

Just remember there are only a limited number of tables for two… Not everyone can have one so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t!

What Do You Mean There’s No Room? 

If you’re looking to do something ‘extra’ special on a cruise then one of the options you might want to consider is booking a speciality restaurant.

Due to the fact that the speciality restaurants are smaller, availability can be tight. A good tip to avoid this is to book your dinner for the first night; as most people will still be learning the layout of the ship and won’t even think of booking speciality dining.

Full speciality restaurant

Failing that your best course is to book as early as possible, either online before you travel or as soon as you get on-board. If that’s not possible, your best bet will be to speak to the manager of the particular restaurant you’re interested in and hope for a no show or a cancellation (you may have to be a bit flexible on the timing).

If it’s truly important for you to get a place then make sure you make a bit of a nuisance of yourself; make sure you go every day to see if any spaces have opened up. They’ll know you’re serious that way and your request is more likely to stick in their mind. Never fear if you don’t get in though; we’re sure the food in the other restaurants will still be superb!

But I Really Wanted To See The Vatican/Leaning Tower Of Pisa/Iguaza Falls/ Taj Mahal! 

When it comes to shore excursions the most popular attractions will always book early (normally before the cruise even starts) so if you can, make sure you book them online. If that’s not possible then head straight to the shore excursion desk after check-in to get yourself added to the waiting list for your excursions of choice.

Failing this, you may have to arrange a private tour yourself, either through an independent company or by just heading to the places you wanted to visit on your own.

Leaning tower of pisa tourists

My Shore Excursion Sucked!

If you booked your shore excursion through the cruise line then you’re in luck. If you had a bad experience you’ll be able to complain about it to the excursions manager as soon as you get back on-board.

It’s probably worth noting however that you shouldn’t expect a refund if you just didn’t enjoy the excursion, for a refund or compensation there’ll of have to have been something actually wrong with it. But if you don’t get the answer you’re hoping for from the excursions manager on-board then you’ll need to follow up the complaint in writing with the cruise line itself once you’re back home.

complaints dept

Things get a little more complicated if you’ve booked it through a private company as it will be quite hard to complain once you’re back on-board. If at all possible you should try and find a manager at the end of your tour, failing that you may just have to make the complaint once you get home.

WHAT Did You Just Say?

You’ll be glad to know that bad service from a staff member, be it your waiter, cabin steward or a member of the bar staff is extremely rare as the cruise lines take so much pride in the levels of customer service they provide and the staff they hire to provide them.

However, if you do receive service that you feel falls below the standards you expect then the best thing to do is deal with it immediately. Try to speak to the staff members manager; so the maître d in the case of a waiter or the bar manager/hotel manager in the case of bar staff/cabin steward.


If those are unavailable, you may need to head to reception to make your complaint. The cruise line will move quickly to resolve the situation but it will massively help them if you set out what outcome you’re looking for. Will a simple apology do? Are you looking for on-board credit? A full refund on your cruise? Giving them that kind of information will speed the complaint along and hopefully resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction.

But I Only Booked The Cruise To See That Port!

Sorry to be the ones to tell you, but there isn’t a great deal you’re going to be able to do if you miss a port of call on your cruise. All cruise lines have it marked very clearly in their T&C’s that they can change the itinerary or even drop a port of call with no notice.


If this happens before your cruise and it’s a massive change (rather than just one or two ports) you may be offered a refund or the option to switch to another cruise (may). If it happens whilst you’re on the cruise however there’s not a lot you’ll be able to do.

Just remember the cruise lines will be doing it for a reason…either bad weather or safety concerns in the port itself. They’ve your best interest at heart after all!

Lemme Out, Lemme Out!

This will be another of those situations in which there won’t really be anyone to complain to. If you fall ill on holiday with something like the Noro virus (or another stomach bug), rather than something like a cold, then you’ll probably find yourself confined to your cabin for a few days.

Prison cell

The cruise lines don’t do this to be cruel (they don’t want you missing out on your holiday), but they do need to stop the rest of the passengers on-board being infected.

Remember, you’re on holiday so why not rest up, relax, abuse room service and maybe read a book or watch a movie or two? Make the most of it!

I Can’t Update My Facebook Status!

Internet speeds are the last of the most common cruise gripes you won’t be able to complain about. Slow internet speeds are just a fact of life when you’re stuck out in the middle of the ocean.


The good news is that internet speeds are getting faster as well as cheaper, with cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival leading the way in massively increasing the speeds available as well as dropping the daily charges.

Until then… well you’re on holiday! Switch off, relax, enjoy the break and just check your emails when you reach the port (and can get free Wi-Fi in a local café).

I’m Pretty Sure I Didn’t Order That!

Finding unexpected purchases on your bill is perhaps the easiest of problems to sort. These days you can track your on-board purchases via the TV in your stateroom or even on an app on your phone with some cruise lines, so mistakes are easy to notice.

The key is to deal with them as soon as you spot them! Just head down to reception and ask to speak to the purser and the charge will be wiped from your account.

unexpected bill

Be careful if you’re planning on pulling a fast one though, they will go back and check the receipts so if you’ve signed for something then later try to take it off your bill you may have to answer a few pointed questions.

Have you ever had to complain on a cruise (we know, we know… We find it hard to believe as well!) Was it resolved? How? Let us know in the comments below…

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

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