What Happens if You Miss Your Cruise Ship

First Thing - Don't Miss your Ship

You want to do everything you can to not miss your cruise ship.  Unlike other travel where a delay will put you behind several hours – missing a cruise ship can put you behind several days and be very expensive, not to mention all of the logistical hassles.

The ship doesn’t want to leave you, but often they can’t delay their departure.  Cruise ships do not have flexible schedules.  Departures not only effect the thousands of passengers, but also the workers on the ship, the workers on the dock, the workers at the next port and possibly even other cruise ships.  Just like landing planes are directed by traffic control, the docking of ships are coordinated and there are just too many dominoes to let them all fall because someone is late

There are things that you can do to minimize the chances of you missing your ship and we highly recommend them.  But if you still happen to miss your ship, here are the steps to take and options that you may have.


For Boarding Your Ship:

Plan to arrive the day before.  Yes, you’ll have an increased expense of a hotel room and maybe an extra transport, but that is small compared to the expense and hassle of actually missing your ship.  We can’t recommend this enough.

Plan extra time to arrive at the port.  Traffic can get snarled with everyone coming and going at the port on departure day.  Generally the last passenger can board an hour before the ship sets sail.  But don’t wait to get on board at that time!  It would only take a slight traffic hiccup or detour to put you behind that deadline and missing your ship.

Sometimes due to regulations of some locations, you will not be able to board at a different port.  This is due to trade, shipping, and emigration laws there may be restrictions about where you can board or disembark.  This is for new embarking passengers or permanently disembarking passengers and doesn’t apply to passengers who get off and then get back on the same port.  But this is another good reason to not miss the boat!

If you do miss boarding:

If you missed your boarding due to a flight scheduled through the Cruise line, they will help you make the arrangements to meet them at the next available port and this is usually with no extra cost.  Make sure you understand your particular cruise line’s policies as they do vary.

However, if you missed boarding for ANY other reason, your expenses and arrangements will not be covered by the cruise line.  For this reason, we strongly recommend insurance.  You can get insurance directly through the cruise line when booking, or you can go through a third party.  

Whatever you do, insurance is a great idea.  Just make sure that you know what their coverage and policies are.  Some insurances have a cap at $250.  Your expenses will likely be higher.  We often hear that they have insurance through the airline or their credit card, but read the policies carefully.  Sometimes they do not cover what you expect or have severe limitations.  You want to be properly covered.

Now, if you missed the ship due to your own negligence, it doesn’t matter who booked your flight or where you have insurance, you’re likely on your own as far as cost goes – but you’re not on your own for figuring out how to get there and make arrangements..

Talk to the agents with the cruise line that are there checking people in and telling you you’re too late.  They can often help connect you with transportation and lodging if needed both at the departure port and the next port you can catch the ship.  Your travel agent can also help coordinate reservations.  

Both companies will be helpful, just be prepared to pay the expenses. 


At A Port Mid Cruise:

If you booked an excursion through the cruise line, the cruise will wait for you if you are delayed.  This is a reason to book your excursions through the cruise line.

However, if you want a more local and unique experience, you can still safely have a non-cruise line excursion.  Just plan to be back at the ship at least an hour before you need to board this ship.  This will give you the flexibility to deal with unexpected hiccups.  

The locals know what time the cruise ships leave and no one wants you to be left behind.  The cruise ship doesn’t either!   Most cruisers who miss the ship are people who lost track of time and were late getting back on their own.  It’s rare to miss because of an excursion.  So if you are going on your own – keep track of what time it is!

The cruise ship doesn’t want you to be left behind either.  When you get on and off the ship, the cruise will scan you out and then back in.  If you have not been scanned back in, the standard procedure is to call your name over the PA system just to make sure that you didn’t board without being scanned back in.

If there is no response after about 5 minutes, another announcement is made over the general emergency system.  Still no response a member of guest services, accompanied by a security officer will check your cabin to see if you are there.  

If you’re not there, they will assume that you are not on the ship.  They will then try to make it possible for you to rejoin the cruise.  They will look for your passport and use a master key to check the safe.  If they can’t find your passports, the ship assumes that you have them with you and will set sail.

If they do find the passport they will give it to their ship agent stationed at the port (there is one at every port).  Then, when you arrive at the pier, having missed your ship, you will be able to retrieve your passport from the agent and then be able to use it needed for an international flight to catch back up with the ship.

It’s a good idea to have a picture of your passport on your phone just in case the ships efforts don’t work in your favor during international travel.

Again, the agent and your travel agent can help you make those arrangements if you need them.  The ship agent will know what the next port you can rejoin is, and may be able to suggest the most convenient options for arrangements for rejoining.  They should be aware of local resources and can connect you to the next ship agent as well as help you make flight, hotel, and transportation arrangements.

They will be able to contact the ship, and often you yourself will also be able to contact the ship through their app to make the correct arrangements for rejoining the cruise.  So the process should go pretty smooth, it is just quite expensive.  So again, keep track of time when you are on your own at a port. 


If you plan ahead and prepare for the unexpected you won’t miss the boat for your cruise.

However, if something catastrophic happens, you have resources and options in ship agents and travel agents to help get you back on your trip and enjoying your vacation!  Happy sailing!

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