Technically, we are talking about missing the ship or, to be more precise, a cruise ship. According to the cruise news and reviews Web site Cruise Critic (http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk), this is a nightmare scenario that worries many cruise travellers. In a recent survey, Cruise Critic revealed that missing the ship and getting left at port was the biggest concern for 55 percent of cruise travellers, above hurricanes and storms at sea (27 percent), getting seasick (14 percent) or falling overboard (3 percent.)
In a separate survey, nearly 90 percent of cruise travellers said they make sure they didn’t miss departures by arriving earlier than scheduled. More than 10 percent admitted to having either missed or nearly missed their departures.
“If you’re late, the ship won’t wait,” warns Cruise Critic Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown. “The captain is obliged to keep to the schedule. However, the crew will do their best to contact the missing passenger and help them get back to the ship – or catch up at the next port of call. You need to keep track of time and not travel too far from the ship without a reliable way to get back.”
“Otherwise,” continues Spencer Brown, “It can be devastating. Imagine being marooned on the quayside as your dream holiday sails into the sunset, and the nightmare of trying to catch up with the ship. Arriving late from an excursion, passengers can be left stranded without money, passports and any idea of how they are going to get home.
To help cruise travellers avoid missing their ships (and to be prepared if they do), Cruise Critic has produced the following guide:
* Fly to the departure city the night before so that the timetable has some built-in flexibility in the event of air delays or cancellations.
* Book the cruise line’s air/sea package—if the cruise line is handling the flights, it is more likely to help in the event of a delay or cancellation. Staff will be aware of the flight’s status and may be able to take action to hold the ship for a late-arriving flight.
* Always carry the ship’s phone number (sometimes it’s printed on your plastic cruise card) and the phone number of the port agent, which is usually printed in the daily programme.
* Make sure you know whether the ship is operating on local time or “ship’s time” (the ship does not always change time onboard to match the local time zone – so double-check before leaving the ship), and adjust your phone/watch accordingly.
* Always have cash, a credit card and some kind of ID, preferably a copy of a passport, when ashore.
* If using local transport, know how and when you’re going to catch the bus/tram/train back to the ship, and allow time for things to go wrong.
* If, in a desperate situation, you are not likely to make it, call the ship. All sorts of factors affect the departure time – the distance to sail, what time the pilot has been booked for, who else needs the dock – but the captain may be able to wait, or the ship’s departure may have been delayed.
* If the ship has departed, ask the cruise line’s local agent for help with things like booking flights or ground transport to the next suitable port or finding a hotel if necessary.
* Always, always take out travel insurance.
* Wear a (reliable) watch!