Skip to Content

3 Reasons Why People Get Left Behind By Cruise Ships At The Port (It’s Not To Do With Not Buying Cruise Line Excursions)

When you are taking a cruise, you really don’t want to risk missing your ship.

Cruise ship passengers often seem to be in the news because they have missed the ship and been “abandoned” or “stranded” by the cruise line in some far-off location.

This seems a little unfair, as cruise lines make the “all onboard” time very clear, in their App, In the printed daily schedule, and on boards by the gangway.

They also often mention the all onboard time in onboard announcements by the Cruise Director – they really do make every effort to make sure they don’t lose any passengers along the way!

I like to walk around the ports if possible – exploring Thessaloniki, Greece.

Cruise companies will encourage you to buy a cruise ship excursion.

Cruise ship excursions are more expensive than independent excursions, but the cruise line will guarantee they will wait for you if your excursion is late back for any reason.

This is the main reason many choose a cruise line excursion over a private excursion.

Whilst delays with cruise line excursions do cause some late departures, and independent excursions may cause some travellers to miss the ship altogether – there are other reasons people miss the ship too.

#1 Time Zone Issues

You might travel through multiple time zones when you take a cruise.

For example, when I recently sailed on Celebrity Infinity, the time jumped forward two hours when I arrived in Greece. When we sailed to Turkey, the time went forward another hour so we were three hours ahead of UK time.

The cruise line kindly left time change notes in the cabin to remind us, but your phone/watch may not automatically update the time and it is easy to get in a muddle.

If your watch or phone is out of sync with ship time, you might arrive back at the port an hour after you should have done, just in time to see the ship sailing away into the distance.

(This also happened on our Celebrity Infinity cruise. We waited and waited for the last two remaining passengers, and they arrived on the dockside as we sailed out of the harbour!)

Sailing away in Greece – we left a couple behind on that dock! They were over an hour late…

Find out what will actually happen if you miss your cruise ship in the article below:

What Actually Happens When You Miss The Cruise Ship?

#2 Public Transport and Road Delays

You might find you have trouble getting back to the ship because you have taken public transport to visit a place far away from the port.

The further away from the ship you travel, the greater the risk of you not getting back in time

Roads might be closed, there might be an accident, or scheduled trains or buses might be cancelled.

I ALWAYS leave buffer room. I’m usually back on the ship a couple of hours before I need to be.

I build extra time into my schedule in case things don’t go to plan. If the Hop on Hop off bus doesn’t turn up, I will have time to walk or get a taxi instead.

Don’t rely on local taxi drivers knowing their way around either! I recently read a story about a couple whose Taxi driver dropped them off at the wrong part of the cruise port, and by the time they drove to the correct terminal, the ship had left!

Bigger cities, like Athens, Barcelona, Marseille etc have many different terminals/berths/docks.

When I recently travelled to Athens, the Taxi driver went to the wrong terminal – and there was clearly no Celebrity ship docked. We then had to drive to another dock/terminal further on to find Celebrity Infinity.

It didn’t matter to us, we had plenty of spare time – but it is a little worrying when you are expecting to see a large cruise ship waiting for you – and you can’t see it anywhere!

That must be an absolute nightmare if you know your ship is about to sail without you…

Some ships have itineraries where they stay in the same place overnight. When I travelled on Azamara Onward, they docked in Nice, France for two days.

This allowed us to travel by train the twelve miles to Monaco on the first day, safe in the knowledge that if we were delayed for any reason, the ship would still be docked in Nice when we returned.

We then spent day 2 exploring Nice, which was just a gentle walk from the ship.

When I cruised around the British Isles and Ireland I used public transport to visit lots of places of interest. I knew that as i was in my home country, I could always make it to the next port, or home, if disaster happened and I missed the ship!

Find out about that wonderful British Isles cruise with Princess here:

#3 They Didn’t Check The “All Onboard” Time

When you get off the ship, it is common sense to check the “all onboard” time.

There is normally a board by the gangway, telling you the time you need to be back by.

You can also find this information in the cruise ship App or in the daily paper schedule.

The paper daily schedule includes Port Agents emergency phone numbers in case you are delayed or have a problem whilst in port.

It might be worth putting the daily schedule on your bag, or taking a photo of the emergency contact details on your phone.

costa daily schedule in English
Costa’s paper daily schedule. You will find the “all onboard” time listed along with emergency contact numbers for the Port Agents

Before You Go

Although I have never actually missed the ship, I have made plenty of other annoying mistakes I have been cruising! Find out about those here:

8 Annoying Mistakes I’ve Made on Cruises (Some Expensive and Some Just Frustrating)

Find out about the weirdest things I have seen other guests do on a cruise ship here:

The Weirdest Things We’ve Ever Seen Guests Do On A Cruise – 29 Examples

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.