What happens if you return to your cruise ship late?  Well, lots of different things can happen, but, I am going to tell you from experience what happened to my husband and I on our first trip to Alaska.  So here goes.


Port Time – Excursion time!


Alaska White Pass Railway picture of scenery


We were in the port in Skagway and we were on one of Norwegian Cruise Lines great ships.  We had taken the White Pass Scenic railway excursion.  It is an amazing excursion that gives a breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites.  The tour is around 4 hours long and depending on the schedule of your cruise, not much time is left to shop and explore.  That was the case for us.  Traveling with my mother in law and a friend of hers, they immediately went back to the ship after the excursion was over.


Not Much Time To Shop


Shopping in Skagway Alaska


My husband and I stayed in town to shop knowing that we only had roughly an hour to be back to the ship.  Fortunately, there was a shuttle that would pick up folks in town and deliver them at the ship dock. Usually running every 20 minutes, it was a convenient and quick way to travel.


Only 20 Minutes Before The Ship Sails


Out of Time showing a watch


After shopping and losing track of time, we realized that we had only about 20 minutes to be back on the ship.  I wanted to wait at one of the shuttle stops and ride the shuttle back to the port.  My husband had other ideas.  He was positive that it would take less time to walk to the port than it would be to wait for the shuttle and ride it back.  After discussing it for a few minutes and against my better judgement, we set out to “rush” back to the port where our ship was docked.


The Wrong Dock?


It took us about 15 minutes to get to our ship dock.  We looked and saw the easily identifiable NCL logo on the ship.  Relief!!!  We had 5 minutes to spare.  We had made it.  We were safe.  Until we weren’t.  As we came a little closer to the dock, we realized that it was indeed a NCL ship, but, not ours.  Our ship was on the other dock on the other side of the bay.  No way possible to get there in 5 minutes.  It was going to be at least a 20 to 30 minute walk as we had to go completely around the fenced in area to get to the correct ship.


We Should Have Taken The Shuttle


Wrong way sign on the street


Oh my goodness!!!  Of course, I went on to remind my husband that we could have taken the shuttle.  We could have already been onboard had we ridden the shuttle.  Now we were probably going to be left behind.  Oh my!  Now what.

As we continued our walk….well really a slow run, I continued (to my shame) to remind my husband that we had wasted a completely free and easy shuttle ride.  We could have been saved all of this frustration and walking.


Never Ride With Strangers?


We had rounded the corner and were walking through a parking lot.  The ship was still a good 15 minutes away and fortunately it was still in port even though it should have pulled out by now.  Maybe we could make it?  Maybe?  As we walked through that parking lot, a beat up car pulls up next to us and comes to a quick stop.  The young woman rolls down the window and she quickly and tersely says “Are you the Whitakers?”  Yes, we are.  She immediately says “get in!!!”   I’m not sure why we would get into this beat up little car with a young woman who we did not know, but we did.  We jumped into the back seat and she picks up a microphone and yells into it – “I’ve got them, I’m on my way”.  We weren’t sure what to make of it.


He Owes Me Big Time


It took about 5 minutes in her car to deliver us to the ramp next to the ship.  Waiting at the end of the ramp were several NCL employees.  Hanging over every balcony facing the port were hundreds of people cheering.  To this day, I think they were cheering because they knew we were holding up the ship and they were ready to depart.  I have never been so embarassed in my life.  I gave my husband one of those “you owe me big time looks” as we walked up the ramp to the ship.

They took our ID’s and as we were boarding, they were hauling up the ramp right behind us.  I tell you the truth when I tell you that we set sail almost as soon as our feet were inside the ship.  We got to our room to discover that they had been calling the room looking for us for the last half hour.  They had made repeated announcements over the ship speaker system looking for us.


We Were Lucky – Really Lucky


A Four Leaf clover being held


We were lucky…I mean we were really lucky.  NCL was kind enough to not only wait for us, but, to send someone out to find us and bring us to the ship.  They waited for us.  Thanks NCL!!!


So, now let’s talk about what CAN happen if you are late for your cruise ship.


If You Are Late


The ship may leave without you: Cruise ships operate on a strict schedule, and they have departure times that passengers must adhere are required to stick to. If you fail to return before the designated departure time, the ship may depart without you. You would be responsible for arranging and paying for your own transportation to the next port of call to rejoin the ship.


Unable To Return On time


If you find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to return to the ship on time due to circumstances beyond your control, for instance a flight delay that has been booked through the cruise line or an excursion that has been booked through the cruise line, the cruise line may assist you in rejoining the ship at the next port of call. They may provide guidance, arrange alternative transportation, and help you catch up with the ship.


Additional expenses.


If you miss the ship’s departure and need to catch up at the next port, you would be responsible for any costs associated with transportation, accommodation, and other expenses incurred while not on the ship. Travel insurance is recommended that covers such situations to help with these costs.  Don’t let your luggage sail on without you.


Risk of being left behind.


It’s crucial to note that cruise lines clearly communicate the required return time and warn passengers about the consequences of being late. Be sure to set your watch/phone to the correct time zone.  If you consistently fail to return on time, the cruise line may consider it a violation of their policies, and they may refuse to allow you back on the ship, leaving you stranded at a port.  We were lucky – thanks again NCL.  Also, make sure to take your ID with you.  Whether you are using your passport or Drivers license, always have your ID on you.

To avoid being late and ensure a smooth cruise experience, always follow the ship’s guidelines regarding departure times, check your watch/phone to make sure that the time on your watch is the same as the ships time.  Be sure to allow ample buffer time for any off-ship excursions, and stay aware of the ship’s communication for any updates or changes.

Until next time!

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