Entertainment managers on cruise ships love to have their little joke. “Don’t worry if you are late back to the port,” they tell passengers on their first day on board. “You’ll get great pictures of us waving as we sail away.”
The problem is that missing your ship is not funny. All your belongings are on board and you have to catch up with it at the next port – at your own expense of course. Cruise ship itineraries are planned at least two years before their sail date. They specify the time the ship arrives and leaves port. Passengers going ashore are asked to be back on board half an hour before the departure to make sure they don’t miss the boat.
It doesn’t always go to plan. Cruise lines rarely discuss things that go wrong, but one executive let on that there are instances every month where passengers miss their ship. And that is for just one line. All kinds of things can and do go wrong. They might have forgotten to note of the all-aboard time, got stuck in traffic or caught out by a cancelled train.
Mr & Mrs Pratt were sailing the Danube with The River Cruise Line, went off for a walk in Melk in Austria and got back to the quay at midday as requested. Unfortunately they hadn’t changed their watches to European time so it was midday in the UK, not in Austria.
They were lucky. The ship had gone but the local guide waited for them and gave them a lift to Vienna, the vessel’s next stop.
Why the ship won’t wait
Cruise line bosses refute absolutely the suspicion that captains always depart at the appointed time, even if it means leaving people behind, to encourage passengers to buy cruise-organised excursions that carrry no risk of this.
Instead, they say, it is down to avoiding penalty fees. Dockers and pilots (a local captain who joins the bridge when ships enter and exit ports) are paid to be ready at the appointed hour to guide the ship out. If there is a delay, it costs money.
That sounds reasonable until you hear the cruise director, in the same breath as joking about the missing the ship, say the captain will wait if the line’s tours are not back for the all-aboard time.
No wonder cynics – usually the British, according to one cruise line executive – believe they are being scared into buying the ship’s own tours. These are pretty expensive compared with going it alone. A walking tour in Rome with Princess Cruises, for instance, will set you back $130/£103 per person while the train costs about £14 one-way.
While the British are the least trusting, they are also the most cautious and usually back on time, the exec said.
David Selby, the former boss of Thomson Cruises (now Marella Cruises), said captains would make a decision on whether to wait depending on the number of people missing, the distance to the next port and the weather.
If the ship had to go faster to get to the next port, it would use more fuel and thus be expensive. If the following day was at sea, they might decide to wait a while.
“We try to do right by everyone but we have to protect the itinerary and deliver the holiday our guests booked,” Selby said.
Your ship has sailed
One had to feel sorry for the American on a train coming back to Carnival Vista in Livorno after a day in Florence with his family. They all got out in Livorno where he realised he had forgotten his baseball cap and got back on the train, only for the doors to shut.
The family returned to the ship, he had to get a room for the night and rejoin them in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, which was the next stop. It was probably the world’s most expensive baseball cap. Missing your ship in Europe is a hassle but it is fairly easy to get to the next port and with luck it’ll be in the EU. Miss your ship in South America, Asia, Australia or the Caribbean and things start to look really bad.
Chances are you’ll have to get to another country to rejoin the ship, which means jumping through endless bureaucratic hoops because your passport is on board. It’ll be very expensive and to cap it all it’ll likely mean missing a couple of days of the cruise. The ships’ port agents are responsible for helping sort out onward travel but at the passengers’ own expense. Just occasionally, though, people take matters into their own hands. In 2016, 65-year-old Susan Brown missed her ship in Funchal and jumped into the Atlantic to swim after it. Luckily she was rescued by a local fisherman.
Far more classily, a woman who missed her Fred Olsen ship in Gibraltar was taken by pilot boat to rejoin the vessel and clambered aboard clutching her bag of just-purchased La Senza underwear much to the amusement of other passengers.
Missing the ship might not be a joke for those who miss the boat, but at least it gives the passengers on board a good laugh.
By Jane Archer, Telegraph.co.uk
Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
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