I have been on 50 cruises to date and would say that around 10 have had an itinerary change.
I’ve had itinerary changes both prior to the cruise and during the cruise itself, for a variety of reasons.
During this post, we will discuss why this happens, and how you may be able to get compensation.
Do You Get Compensation For Missed Cruise Ports?
No, as a general rule, you don’t get compensation from the cruise line if a port has to be missed.
Cruise lines have it written into their terms and conditions that they reserve the right to change the itinerary at any time.
There are some situations however, in which you may receive some compensation. Factors that are taken into consideration are:
- The reason for the cancellation
- How long before you sail it was cancelled
- How much of the cruise was cancelled
- How much the itinerary you booked has been changed.
Below is a section of Princess Cruises passenger contract:
Does Your Travel Insurance Provide Compensation If Your Cruise Has Itinerary Changes?
In some cases, you are able to claim on your travel insurance if a port is missed.
If you have bought a cruise travel insurance policy which specifically includes “Missed Port Cover” then you are entitled to make a claim if ports are missed.
It is important to always make sure you buy travel insurance that specifically includes cruise cover.
If you have travel insurance coverage as a perk of your bank account, make sure it covers cruises! Most don’t, but you can add on extra cover by paying an additional fee.
I always take out cruise travel insurance to make sure that I am covered in the event of a medical emergency, cancellation or lost luggage – but the missed port cover is an added bonus too!
You don’t have to include missed port cover when purchasing cruise cover.
Claiming Compensation From Your Travel Insurance
In order to claim compensation from travel insurance, you will need to have something in writing from the cruise line explaining that the port was cancelled and the reasons why.
You can go to the ship’s Reception and ask for a letter to give to your insurance company.
Many other people on your cruise will be making the same request, and the cruise line will produce a standard letter on headed notepaper and deliver it to your cabin.
Some travel insurance policies will only pay out in certain circumstances, it is important to read the terms and conditions of your particular policy to find out exactly what is covered.
My family and I have claimed on our travel insurance a number of times for missing a port.
The last time I claimed was when a scheduled stop at Ajaccio, Corsica was cancelled on our Azamara cruise.
The Captain was predicting twelve-foot high seas on the journey back from Corsica. Avoiding that area altogether was something I was very happy to do – as I do suffer sometimes from seasickness.
We simply asked reception for a letter confirming that we had missed the port, and we were able to claim £100 (around $130) per person in compensation. This more than covered the cost of the annual insurance policy we had taken out!
The Captain of Azamara Onward arranged for us to dock in Genoa instead, where the weather was much better.
I didn’t feel my cruise had been spoilt in any way by the itinerary being changed, and it was a bonus getting some money back on the travel insurance!
Why would a cruise itinerary change?
There are a number of reasons why a cruise itinerary could change. These can either happen before a cruise or during the cruise itself.
Cruise itinerary changes could be made with just a few hour’s notice. When I took a Christmas cruise, our scheduled stop at Madeira was cancelled as the Captain tried to dock but found that the strong winds made it unsafe.
The first thing we knew about it was when he made an announcement into the cabins saying we wouldn’t be docking, and would have another “sea day” instead!
Why would a cruise itinerary change prior to a cruise?
One reason why your cruise itinerary could change is because of political unrest.
I cruised with Cunard in 2016 and we were expecting several stops in Turkey including Istanbul.
These were all replaced with ports on various Greek islands. Cruise lines do have to put the safety of passengers first.
If a port is going to be cancelled/substituted due to political unrest you will usually be told months in advance, unless it is due to an unpredictable event – like a terror attack.
Why would a cruise itinerary change during a cruise?
The main cause of last-minute itinerary changes is bad weather. This has happened to me on a number of occasions, and although it can be a little annoying, I do understand why it is necessary. Cruise lines may change the itinerary because:
- They need to avoid a storm
- They need to tender into port (smaller tender boats cannot operate in bad weather)
- The rough seas would make for a less-than-ideal onboard experience
Bad weather may mean that a ship has to change port (either for a substitute port or a sea day). It is also possible to have a cruise cut short due to bad weather.
When I sailed on Norwegian Spirit in 2019, the Captain chose to speed up and return to the port of Civitavecchia early to avoid bad weather brewing in the Mediterranean.
Another time, I took a Christmas Cruise from the Uk to the Canary Islands and came across some very bad weather. Instead of visiting Madeira, we had an extra sea day instead.
This was honestly the last thing I needed, as I was feeling very seasick, and was very keen to get my feet back on dry land!
I was able to claim the missed port of Madeira on my travel insurance policy.
In exceptional circumstances, your itinerary can change completely. It happened to me!
Recently on board an NCL cruise, I booked my next cruise with a travel agent that they had onboard. Their representatives told me that the cruise would be going to the Bahamas and NCL’s private island.
When I got home and looked on the NCL website I quickly realised that this itinerary didn’t exist for the date and ship that I had booked.
The Norwegian representative had booked me on a cruise visiting Mexico, Honduras and Belize – not The Bahamas – as promised!
This is a very rare occurrence and I would have been entitled to a refund if I wanted one (but I didn’t).
Are Cruise Lines Able to Change the Itinerary Without a Reason?
Yes! Cruise lines can change the itinerary without a good reason. It is written into their terms and conditions that they are able to change the itinerary as they see fit.
I’ve heard rumours of cruise lines picking different ports which have cheaper taxes.
When cruising in Norway, I have had changes to ports because the cruise line has decided that there are too many cruise ships in the port on a given day.
What you see is not always what you get with cruise itineraries. Please don’t let this put you off cruising. Think of it as a magical mystery tour!
What happens if my cruise is cancelled completely?
If your cruise is cancelled completely you will be issued with a full refund.
You may also be given ‘credit’ to spend on your next cruise with the cruise line.
This really is a last resort and happens very rarely. It is far more likely that the ports of call will be altered.
Very occasionally there may be a problem with the ship, and the ship might have to go into dry dock or need other repairs. This is very disappointing for the passengers but is beyond the cruise line’s control.
In April 2023, passengers expecting to make a transatlantic crossing on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 were informed on the day of the cruise that it had been cancelled due to “Technical Issues.”
This caused travel chaos for passengers, many of whom were American and expecting to return home to the USA on this iconic ocean liner.
Cunard offered the passengers a full refund and a 20% credit towards another cruise with Cunard. It must have been SO disappointing though!
Can I Get Compensation For Missed Excursions?
If you’ve booked your excursion with the cruise line this will be automatically refunded to you.
Cruise lines do not have to refund you anything for missed excursions booked independently.
If you’ve booked a tour in advance through an independent agent you may lose all your money.
Some “Hop on Hop off” buses offer a full refund guarantee if you cannot use the ticket you booked in advance.
I booked Hop on Hop off tickets for the whole family when we recently visited Lisbon in Portugal. We waited and waited by the bus stop, but no “Hop on Hop off” bus ever arrived!
I was easily able to get a full refund directly from the bus company.
I wouldn’t usually book tours like this in advance, I usually book tours when I get to land. (Unless of course, they have a refund policy that allows you to get a full refund if you don’t make it to that port.)
Before You Go!
It is unusual for cruise itineraries to be changed due to bad weather, and having read this article you may be worrying that you will feel seasick when cruising. I do get motion sick and seasick, but I am rarely ill on a cruise ship.
Find out practical ways of avoiding seasickness, and what you can do to feel better in the article below:
If you do get seasick or have a medical emergency whilst onboard, cruise ships have medical centres, staffed by doctors and nurses. Being treated in the medical centre can be expensive though. Find out all about the medical centres and their charges here:
It is essential to take out good, cruise-specific travel insurance when booking your cruise! This will cover you for medical cover, lost luggage, cancellations – and some have additional “missed port” cover. Find out why you need insurance and how to get it here:
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