You missed the Ship! What happens Next?

No matter how many times your travel agent tells you. No matter how many times your ship’s captain tells you. No matter how many times your other half tells you. Someone, somewhere might just get left behind.

In light of recent viral Youtube footage of a couple running along the deck trying to flag down their ship, it is easy to imagine yourself running along the dock only to realise you are watching your luxury cruise ship sail off into the sunset. You’ve missed the ship’s re-embarkation and departure time and you guessed it, you were left behind in a port, lovely as it may be, YOU have been left behind! And although you may have been only a few teeny, tiny minutes over, we can guarantee you that the ship WILL NOT WAIT.

There are actually REAL reasons why any ship will sail without you. Tides are a big factor, as are Port Authorities who expect a cruiseline to stick to very tight schedules. They are set in place because it’s likely another cruise ship is on its way to the exact same berth – and that means your ship needs to depart on time. Cruiselines will also incur additional costs, or other ports may be missed if there are any delays. And for one or two passenger’s vs a whole ship full, the captain WILL make that decision to sail!

NOTE TO SELF: If you (and others) are booked on the cruiseline’s own shore excursion and it is delayed, due to whatever reason, the ship will wait. And if that’s not possible, and they will try their best to avoid this, the cruiseline will make travel arrangements for you to meet the ship at the next port.

HOWEVER: And it must be said. If you are late from an excursion you have booked yourself (i.e. not through the cruiseline), or you’ve spent too long in the markets shopping for souvenirs, or delayed by traffic – even if it is not your fault – the ship is going to sail.

Let me stress that this doesn’t happen very often, but it’s often enough to have become “a thing”. Most people will listen up and make it back on time. However, for those few who think the ship will wait, and it won’t, we have the skinny on what to do next.

First of all – let’s dispense with recriminations. You missed it, nothing to do but to get on with it and sort out how you’re going to get to that next port. Think of it as an unplanned adventure… one that’s going to cost you!

Let’s give you the tools to survive…

Contact the Ship

Take the ship’s contact phone number with you at all times. You can find this on your daily ship newsletter delivered to your cabin or via app to your smartphone each day. Not only does it provide a wealth of information of what’s happening onboard, it also provides details of each port of call, debarkation and embarkation information, and the ships phone number should you need it – which in this case, we do.

You are now able to advise the ship what has happened and what you are going to do going forward. They will already know that you are not aboard, and have some details ready to guide you – most crews will be able to help book accommodation and flights should the next port be a few days away.

In-Port Authority/Port Agent

Should you not be able to reach the ship immediately, locate the cruiseline’s port agent or the in-port authorities (both should be within the port area). Some cruiselines will even step it up a notch if you are late and hand over your essentials (passports, phone, medication etc), which is handy! Once in contact, the port authority or agent will be able to assist with ongoing travel plans.

Travel Agent

Your travel agent may have a hotline for emergencies. I would consider this right up there – so give them a call. You will have to pay for it, but at least you know someone you know and trust is working behind the scenes to get you where you need to be – back onboard!

So, What Next?

You have a choice. Go to the next port and meet the ship to continue on with your cruise as if nothing had happened, or simply go home. This may come down to your finances, timeframes involved for the ship/you to get to the next port, any required accommodation, flight schedules, embassy opening hours etc.

It may come as a shock that your travel insurance WILL NOT cover you if you miss your ship because you are simply late.

Your Travel Insurance company may be able to cover you if you have been delayed by a medical emergency and the like, in which case contact your Travel Insurance company as they may also be able to assist. Most will simply fly you home, however depending on the nature of the emergency, you might be able to opt for transport to the next port instead. As a medical emergency, and in most instances, Travel Insurance will only reimburse any out of pocket expenses AFTER you return from your trip.


Always take a copy of any important documentation with you when you visit a port or destination. Snapshot it on your smartphone or tuck it away in your bag and forget it until needed. Make sure to bring your smartphone, and copies of your passport, driver’s licence, credit card details, itinerary, phone numbers for your travel agent, Travel Insurer and home contact numbers, the ship’s newsletter with their contact details – all will come in immensely handy for the following:

  • Have at least $50 in cash so you can at least get a taxi to the embassy. Preferably local currency, or any major currency.
  • Your Passport is very handy when visiting your country’s embassy for assistance. Make sure you have it or at least a copy of it.
  • Contacting your Travel Insurer or Travel Agent
  • Contacting the Ship or Port Authority for assistance
  • Touching base with the people still on the ship or back home who care about you
  • A copy of the itinerary so you know where you need to be to re-join the ship
  • Booking flights, transfers and accommodation with your credit card (online or by phone)
  • Driver’s Licence for any hire cars
  • A smartphone to google all the information, or keep you company when you get bored because you’re not onboard.

Now you have the tools to help you get back onboard should you be left behind. It’s not a hard thing to be punctual, and our top tip for every cruiser is to simply arrive back at the ship at least 30 minutes before it’s due to leave port. That way, you are on time, every time Happy cruising everyone!

Written by Jacqueline Hamilton