What To Do If You Miss Your Cruise Ship And Will You Get A Refund?


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Cruise vacations are making an incredible post-pandemic recovery and are becoming more and more popular with travelers. The influx of new ships, new destinations, and new ports means more cruisers and, with that, inevitably, more mishaps. It is always important to be prepared for anything, especially when traveling, but do you know what to do if you miss your cruise ship? What are your rights, and can you get a refund?

a larger white cruise ship waits for passengers on a long wooden pier

Plenty of bad things can happen on a cruise vacation. Accidents and natural disasters can derail a planned sailing. Bad weather or outbreaks of sickness onboard can ruin a vacation for a whole shipload of people. While many bad scenarios are out of your control, there is one common misfortune that typically is not. Missing a cruise ship’s departure is usually avoidable, but it still happens.

a female in a white dress with a backpack holds a hat as she raises her arms at missing her cruise ship in front of her

Imagine standing at the dock, watching your ship sail away without you. What if you are in a foreign country, and all your belongings are slowly sailing away from you? Cruisers should always be prepared for this situation and take precautions to avoid it. They should, however, also be prepared for what to do if they do miss their ship and know if they are entitled to a refund.

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cruise ships sit in a busy cruise port

What To Do If You Miss Your Cruise Ship

If you find yourself on the pier running after your ship, you know you’re not in a good situation. Unless you are coming from a shore excursion booked through the ship, it is unlikely that the ship will wait for you. If you’ve tried contacting the ship and they’ve confirmed you cannot board, there are a few things you can do.

a group of passengers try not to miss their cruise ship by walking down the pier towards two large cruise ships

First, locate a port agent and explain your situation. Oftentimes, the ship’s crew will have located your passport prior to your missed departure and left it with the port agent. If they do have your passport, you’ll have a few options.

a female tourists looks at a map while standing next to a large white cruise ship

Sometimes it is possible to make travel arrangements to meet the ship at its next destination. The cost to do this will come at the passenger’s expense. That means that any ground transportation, hotel stays, and airfare to get there are up to you. If you booked your cruise through a travel agent, they will be able to help with the logistics.

A large white cruise ship sails through the waters next to a small boat. there are mountains and an orange sky in the distance

One exception for passengers who miss their cruise departure while on a shore excursion booked through the ship. In that instance, the cruise line will make arrangements and pay for passengers to meet up with the ship at its next destination.

15 March 2019 Cozumel, Mexico:  Royal Caribbean “Harmony of the Seas” is moored at her Puerta Maya Cruise Ship Terminal berth as her guests come and go for excursions, shopping, and food / drink. Harmony of the Seas and her sister ship Allure of the Seas hold the record for largest crew ship in operation. Her maiden voyage was 29 May 2016.  The ship is 362.12 m (1,188.1 ft) long with a beam of 66 m (217 ft) and weighs 226,963 Gross Tons.  She has 18 decks, carries 6,780 passengers maximum and a crew of 2,300 at a cruise speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)

If meeting your missed ship at the next port is not an option, you’ll need to make plans to get home at your own expense. Passengers need to contact the cruise line to make arrangements to have any belongings shipped back home and will be responsible for the cost of doing so.

An unmarked airline flies over the Caribbean

In the event that your passport was not left with the port agent (assuming you are in a foreign country), you’ll need to locate the nearest embassy of your home country. Officials at the embassy will help you with a new passport. Again, the expense of doing this, and for your onward journey, is up to you.

a person holds a new U.S. passport

Will You Get A Refund?

Missing your cruise ship is a costly mistake. While it is best to avoid doing it in the first place, you should know beforehand what you are entitled to if you do miss your ship. While a full refund is likely out of the question, policies will differ between companies. The reason for a missed departure can also make a difference.

a woman holds her hand over her eyes as she talks on a white cell phone looking upset

Don’t count on a refund if you missed your initial departure due to delayed or canceled flights, with one exception. If you booked your flight through the cruise line, they will work with you to get you to the ship or possibly provide you with a travel credit. Either way, contact the cruise company to see what the options are.

Cruise ship in beautiful cove with sailboats

If you miss your ship because of illness, you could be eligible for a future cruise credit if enough notice is given. Each cruise company has a different policy, so be sure to check this before you book.

Passengers who miss their ship because they simply didn’t make it in time are less likely to receive compensation. Regardless of the situation, always call your cruise line and ask what the options are. They might be willing to work with you and offer some sort of compensation to ease the blow of missing out. Cruise lines will sometimes refund the cost of pre-booked activities or other onboard components that have already been paid for.

Mahahual, Mexico - January 6, 2022: Passengers disembark from one of several cruise ships, including the Liberty of the Seas and Carnival Pride, docked on Mexico's Costa Maya.

Tips To Avoid Missing The Boat

The best thing to do is to avoid missing your cruise in the first place. There are many things cruisers can do to ensure this won’t happen. Here are a few top tips:

Puerto Vallarta -  Mexico: This Cruise Ship from the United States just arrived in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and many of the hundreds of visitors are coming ashore and many inquiring regarding local tours as musicians wander around the newly arrived tourist and on this March day with all the excitement in the air it is a beautiful day under the cloudy sky.
  • Book flights through the cruise line – they’ll be more likely to help you out in the event of delay or cancellation
  • Arrive at least one day early for your cruise departure
  • Set your clocks to “ship time” if you are traveling through different time zones
  • Know your scheduled “all aboard” times and get there well in advance
  • Book your on-shore excursions through the cruise company
  • Contact the ship if you are running late
  • Purchase travel insurance with trip interruption coverage. Be sure to read the fine print, as not all policies will cover a missed departure
  • Don’t overdo it on excursions. Don’t travel too far (unless you are on a ship-sponsored tour). If you plan on drinking, take extra precautions to ensure you’ll make it back to the ship on time
a Cruise-Ship-Passenger wearing a red and black skirt looks up at a towering cruise ship

In summary, missing your cruise ship can ruin your vacation. Plan ahead for the worst-case scenario. Always take the necessary measures to ensure you make the boat on time. If you miss your ship you likely won’t receive a refund. Regardless, it is always a good idea to ask for some sort of compensation.

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