Don’t wave goodbye to your own cruise


When my husband and I first cruised, over 20 years ago, we booked the cheapest flight we could find on the day of sailing and took a local taxi from the airport to the pier in Acapulco. The ship wasn’t using the main pier, plus the taxi driver got lost. Eventually, we were tendered, along with another couple, out to the ship about an hour and a half before it sailed.

I don’t do that anymore. Now, I prefer to arrive a day before sailing, even for relatively nearby ports, in case of canceled flights and delayed luggage. This practice saved us once in Venice when Lufthansa left our suitcases in Munich and we didn’t get them until the following day just before the ship sailed.

Even for travelers who like to cut it close, there’s another reason to rethink that option. Just like airlines that are closing the plane door 10 minutes prior to departure, some cruise lines are closing the ship door earlier, too — much earlier in some cases.

Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, and Azamara Cruises have a new policy that they WILL NOT ALLOW anyone to board less than 90 minutes prior to departure. And, if the passengers have not registered on-line, they need to be there 2 HOURS prior to boarding. No Exceptions!

According to Celebrity Cruises, this is to help with “government regulations in some ports that require cruise lines to submit a departure manifest 60 minutes prior to sailing.”

Other cruise lines have not yet followed suit, but will probably be watching how the new system works and just how many passengers get left at the dock.

It is possible that this new policy is aimed more at people who drive to the pier since many travelers these days have learned not to trust airline schedules. It also may be to encourage passengers to book air through the cruise line — then it’s the line’s responsibility to get people to the ship and to transport them to the first port of call should they miss the sailing.

In any case, the solution to this is a no-brainer. Show up on time.

Miss a flight? There may be another one an hour later — not so with a ship.

Waving “bon voyage” isn’t nearly so much fun from the dock.

  • John F

    If you read the contract of carriage for a cruise it is NOT the cruise line’s responsibility to get you to the ship if air is purchased through their air desk.

    Of course they will work with the airlines, and may even hold the ship, but they are not required to get you to the ship if you are delayed by a cruise line purchased air segment

  • Wrona

    Actually all the cruiselines now have similiar policies to give them time to meet the 60 minute prior to departure deadline DHS imposes on them for turning in the complete manifest.

  • Janice Hough

    Actually, if you read the contract of carriage, I just did for Princess, they are not required to do almost anything. They can cancel ports, shorten the cruise, cancel the cruise, leave early,return late, return to a different port (it does say then they will get you back to the original port.) But in my experience, they will hold the ship or get you to the ship if you have their air. If you don’t, they will give you directions to the first port…

  • Skip

    When I was working on a cruise ship, we sailed out of Miami and our first port of call was San Juan PR. Every single time we docked in San Juan, we were met by a small (and sometime contrite) crowd of folks who had missed ship. Every single time.

    I do only carry-on luggage and I still arrive a day ahead of schedule. The cost of a hotel room is a lot cheaper than a walk-up, one-way airfare to the next port of call.

    Excellent article, one that bears re-running every season.

  • Garth

    On international cruises, even 3 day leads are not enough. On a recent cruise, my wife and I started our international cruise trip on Saturday to meet a ship departing on Tuesday. Weather and other airline related delays resulted in our arival in the at the destination airport 6 hours before our ship was scheduled to sail. Unfortunately, our luggage didn’t make it. But that is an entirely different story. Fortunately, the cruise line made all the travel arrangements and accepted full responsibility for our lost luggage and alternative connections. Sometimes overplanning is the only reliable solution.

  • Janice Hough

    Yuck. And sometimes it is just not fated. On the same trip where Lufthansa delayed our luggage it was a stormy week in Chicago. We were on a twelve day cruise from Barcelona and one poor gal didn’t get her luggage until the second to last port.

    One other tip, ALWAYS bring a change or two of clothes, and your swimsuit if you use one, in your carryon luggage.