It's a concern that has played on the mind of any cruiser: will the ship sail away without me? Many amongst us have had visions of sprinting the length of the dock as the great bulk of our home away from home pulls away.
Generally, the policy of every line is that the ship waits for no man. It is the responsibility of the passenger to make sure they are back onboard, and it's fair enough - after all, a ship with hundreds or thousands of holidaymakers aboard can't be thrown off schedule waiting for stragglers. Of course, concessions can and have been made for special circumstances like onshore accidents, medical emergencies or inclement weather, but mostly it is essential to be on the ship before the scheduled departure.
Stories of missing the boat
We have no idea how many passengers do get left behind, but it doesn't seem to be a very common occurrence amongst our Australian and Kiwi customers. Good time management! However, globally there have been a few high-profile cases of passengers missing the boat.
In April, a video of a mother and father frantically running after a departing cruise ship in Nassau went viral. In true media sensation style, headlines were all about how their children were onboard the departing vessel, a distressing situation for sure. However, as it turned out the kids aged nine and twelve were safe with relatives - just a little upset about leaving their parents onshore. Their mother had not returned to the ship as departure time approached, and their father decided to disembark to find her, making them both late.
Earlier in the year, a British woman had to be rescued from the Atlantic Ocean near Madeira when she missed her ship after a row with her husband, and attempted to swim back to it. Needless to say, this is not a recommended course of action, and she was lucky to be saved by passing fishermen!
These are only the most sensationalised stories, and of course there are more pedestrian incidences of cruisers getting stuck onshore. They do serve as good warnings to ensure that you do not miss the boat!
Tips to avoid being left behind
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to make sure you get back on the ship in a timely manner. Have a read of our top tips and your next cruise holiday should go smoothly.
- Check and double-check departure times! There are plenty of places you should be able to find these - in your daily newsletter, over the PA system, and on signs posted near the gangways. One thing to take careful note of is also that ship's time can be different from local time - and it's ship's time you need to pay attention to. Bring and wear a watch that is always set to ship's time! Mobile phones tend to automatically adjust to local time. Most lines also require you to be back at least half an hour before the official departure.
If you don't trust your time keeping abilities, book a line-organised shore tour. Although we hate to discourage anyone from being adventurous in their onshore activities, if you are planning a tour that involves travel more than a short driving distance from the dock it's definitely safest to go with the cruise line's own option. They guarantee the ship will not leave before the tour gets back - or in the case of major delays, will make provision to get you to meet the ship at no extra cost.
If you are using an independent tour operator, check their track record. Usually their reputation depends on getting passengers back to their ships in time, so they do their utmost and many have perfect punctuality. It's also a good idea to book a morning excursion which returns to the dock a few hours before departure - you can use the extra time to explore the immediate area.
Make sure you have enough cash on you for an emergency taxi, and in the correct currency! Public transport is cheaper but if you're running late, a cab is a godsend. Some will not take credit cards, so having a decent cash stash is a very good safeguard!
This one goes almost without saying: Give yourself extra time to go where you want to go and do what you want to do. Building in a time buffer is a pro tip for almost any aspect of life, but especially important when your holiday could sail away from you! When deciding how long to leave for getting back to the ship, think of the worst-case scenario (i.e the trains or buses are cancelled), figure out a back-up plan, and double the time you think that would take.
- Be prepared just in case the worst does happen. Whenever you step off the ship, bring all your important documents with you. This includes a passport, a credit card, cruise line contact details and anything else you wouldn't want to be stuck without. Hide them somewhere they won't be stolen, like a money belt that goes under your clothes.
Have you ever missed the boat? We'd be interested to hear your story in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Don't forget to commit our tips to memory for your next cruise from Australia! Your next cruise could sail for the beautiful South Pacific islands, New Zealand, Asia or even further.