How NOT to Miss Your Cruise Ship After A Day in Port

Recently I saw a YouTube video by TravelGuyTravel titled, “Does the cruise ship wait for you?” which had me pondering that question from the perspective of a new cruiser. Have you seen the video? Here’s the ever so important question: Is there a way not to miss your cruise ship after you spend a day in port? You bet there is! Follow these easy rules…

miss your cruise ship
Tender pulling the ramp to our ship (Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas) in Cabo san Lucas

If you haven’t taken a cruise before and are thinking about it, you might not know how the process of getting on and off the ship in port works. It’s actually quite simple.

  • When the ship arrives in port, after it is cleared by the local authorities, an announcement is made on the overhead PA system telling you that you can now leave the ship.
  • Be sure to bring with you all of your identification that you will need to get back on the ship. This can include, depending on the cruise line and the port, your ship card and your government issued ID, such as a passport.
  • You then make your way down the decks to either exit directly to the port below or to the tender, a small boat that will take you to shore.
  • You can expect the tender to be full at certain times of the day so if you are rushing to be on the last tender back, it may not have room for everyone.
miss your cruise ship
View from our cabin on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas pulling into Cozumel, Mexico.

Before you even exit the ship, you should know the hours the ship will be in port. Many ports have the ship arriving in the morning, say 8 am, and then departing in the afternoon, perhaps 4 or 5 pm. Other ports have late arrivals and late departures, such as San Juan where the ship may arrive at around 3 pm and depart at 11 pm. When you are planning out your day, you should have an idea of what you will be doing in port before you leave the ship, but more importantly, you should definitely have an idea of how long it will take you to get back to the ship from wherever it is that you will be for the day.

miss your cruise ship
View from our cabin on the NCL Dawn looking toward the port in Hamilton, Bermuda.

You should also budget time to get back on the ship once you have arrived back at the port. You will have to go through port security, usually someone asking to see your ID and your ship ID (your cabin key card) before proceeding back to your ship. When you show your ID to security, they are actually doing a head count to ensure that everyone gets back on the ship before departing from the port. Sometimes the ship is right there, but sometimes you’ll have to walk quite a distance to get to the ship. Some people think they’ll just rely on the vans or other modes of transportation available at the port to escort them to the ship, but these are often filled with people who require assistance due to mobility issues or those with young children, etc. and as such, you shouldn’t expect to jump on at the last second to get you to where you need to go on time because it may not be there or there may not be sufficient room for you.

Consider weather and how it might affect you and your need to get back to the port on time. You might think, “It’s only rain,” but in some places that in itself can cause traffic jams, which can result in a 15-minute ride turning into a 1-hour ride back to the ship. Additionally, if it’s raining, everyone will be thinking the same way you will be. If you need a cab, so will everyone else and it might be difficult, if not impossible, to locate one that will a) pick you up and b) take you to the port. If you’re using a cab, see if you can arrange with the driver or the company a set time for pick up when you are dropped off, then you can at least breathe easier during your day of fun and relaxation.

miss your cruise ship
Here is our ship, Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, in the port of Costa Maya, Mexico next to another Royal Caribbean ship, the Grandeur of the Seas. The combined total number of cruise passengers on both ships exceeds 6800.

Why is getting back to the ship on time so important? If the cruise itinerary says that the ship will be in port from 8 am until 4 pm, it means 4 pm. It doesn’t mean that at 4 pm they start thinking about leaving port. No, it means that the ship sets sail at 4 pm whether you are on the ship or not. So when I saw this video, as sad as it might seem that someone was left behind, they knew what time the ship was setting sail and thousands of other passengers were able to make it back on the ship in time for departure.

miss your cruise ship
On the left is Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas next to the Carnival Destiny in Nassau, Bahamas.

It is important to add that all this is coming from someone who has known to be late to many appointments and other events throughout my life. Just ask my husband! I don’t wear a watch because I like to be on my own time, but I can guarantee you that when I am on a cruise, I am back on that ship long before it is time to set sail. For example, if the departure time is 5 pm, you better bet I am back in my cabin at least an hour, if not more, before sail time. The general rule of thumb for us while on a cruise is to be back in our cabins about two hours before sail time. We end up enjoying our day and aren’t stressed out thinking we might possibly miss getting back on the ship. The thought of cutting it close and missing the ship is more than I can possibly handle and I do not want to be one of those people trying to figure out what to do because they were left behind.

What do those people that have missed the ship have to do to get BACK on the ship? In the video someone asks if they are going to “pull over” for them, which of course, they are not going to do.

  • The ship sets sail and the captain has his orders to sail the ship to the next port.
  • The passengers who missed getting on the ship have to get to the next port on their own dime.

Imagine trying to get a flight at the last minute after running to try and get back on the ship. You’re completely stressed out, all of your belongings are on the ship without you, and you have to book a last-minute flight, which will almost certainly be a very expensive flight. That’s an easy way to ruin a vacation. It’s not just missing your ship that can ruin a vacation, but also if an accident occurs whilst you are on board the ship. You have to remember to be on your best behaviour, otherwise, things might happen. You might also find that accidents happen no matter how good you are. If this is the case then it’s a good idea to get a lawyer involved. If you are unsure about who to use then you could check out this Naylor Law firm.

The easiest way to avoid this huge mess of a situation is to make sure you are back on the ship with plenty of time to spare. You won’t have any arguments with your spouse, the embarrassment of missing the ship, the added expense to haul yourself to your next cruise port, and in this day of YouTube, the added infamy of having it all recorded on video.

Now you know when you’re supposed to return to the cruise ship after a day in port. Don’t be that passenger stranded in port as the cruise ship leaves.

Have you ever missed your ship when returning after a day in port?

4 thoughts on “How NOT to Miss Your Cruise Ship After A Day in Port

  1. Dear Marian,
    10x alot for your informative posts specially this one & the “must have travel accessories”
    I’d like to know how you usually spend your time while off the ship to a new port .. means if you are landing in Italy or France or any other country.. how do you spend those hours before getting back on board?! Do you plan it in advance or you just give it a spontaneous tour?!!
    thanks in advance
    Nana

  2. That’s a great question and one I will probably elaborate more on in a future post. I generally plan in advance so I have something set for my day in port. However, on those itineraries that are extremely port intensive with no sea days, I might choose one of the ports as a free day to roam and explore on my own. It really does depend on the itinerary and if I’ve been to that port before. Hope that helps!

  3. It did help indeed, thank you so much & as am enjoying your other posts , I’d like to wish you a lovely day hoping to keep up your helpful & beneficial writings =)
    be blessed,
    Nana

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