Why Cruise Ships Don’t Wait for Late Passengers
Today’s local news had a story about some parents who got left behind at a port stop in the Bahamas while their kids, who they left on board, departed with the ship. These particular kids had an uncle on board, yet the news anchor made a big deal about how cruise ships should be prevented from leaving if it meant separating parents from their kids. It’s pretty obvious that news anchor has never taken a cruise.
Cruise ships have a schedule to adhere to. Their time in port is scheduled around both the itinerary of that particular ship and the use of the port facilities by other ships. Besides that ship having a schedule to keep, the dock space may be needed for another ship. If ships were not allowed to leave people behind they would never make it to the next port on time because irresponsible passengers would delay them at every port. All the ones who don’t think the rules apply to them would come back whenever they felt like it regardless of when the ship was scheduled to depart.
The large cruise ships all have childcare facilities. Parents are allowed to leave their children there and go onshore without them. It is then the parent’s responsibility to return to the ship before the scheduled all-aboard time so that they are there when the ship is ready to leave. If they are not back it is their problem. The ship would have to put the children ashore rather than waiting for the parents to return if they were not allowed to split the family. Since this family had an uncle on board who could care for the children in the parent’s absence that would only have added to their expenses. Ships have internet so it’s not like the parents couldn’t contact the uncle for updates on the children’s welfare.
The all-aboard time is published in the ship’s daily newsletter, which passengers receive in their cabin the night before. Some ships also post it at the gangway. If ship’s time differs from shore time it is the passenger’s responsibility to return by ship’s time.
Any passenger who wants to insure they will not get left behind can book a shore excursion through the ship. Ships have to wait for their own excursions, so even if those are late the passengers will still find a ship at the dock when they return. Venturing out on your own means you are responsible for yourself and if you don’t return on time you are out of luck. That includes excursions booked through outside providers not associated with the ship.
What Happens to Passengers Left Behind By Cruise Ships
People who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of getting left behind at a port stop are not entirely on their own. The same cruise ship newsletter that gives the all-aboard time also has emergency port information, often a phone number to call. Some cruise lines have cruise ship agents at their often-visited ports. If a passenger has not made it back to the ship security will look in their cabin safe for their passports, and if found these will be taken off the ship. The cruise agent will meet the passengers on the dock with their passports in hand and help them make arrangements to catch up to the ship at the next port. They can help arrange for hotels as well if needed. Of course this is all done at the passenger’s expense. It’s a good idea to take the emergency phone number with you when leaving the ship, or take a photo of it so you have the info in your phone or camera should it ever be needed.
If the cruise line does not have an agent at the port passengers can still get assistance by calling the emergency number. If the cruise line has asked passengers to take their passports with them when they leave the ship they probably do not have an agent at that port or any means of getting the passports to anyone who left it on board. Without a passport people won’t likely be able to fly to the next port or anywhere else and would have to get there by land or sea. Occasionally people can take a taxi to the next port, but more often it is another island rather than down the coast of the same land mass.
Passengers are not always required to cruise with passports, but if they ever get left behind in port or have a medical emergency in the family they will wish they had one if they don’t.
People get left behind fairly often, so if you cruise and you don’t want to experience getting left behind firsthand either take the ship’s excursions or always make sure you know if there is a difference between ship and shore time and stay on ship time. Also allow extra time to return to the ship from wherever you go in case of traffic jams, transportation issues, rounding up family members who wandered off, or anything else that could delay your return. If you cut your return time to the last minute, an extra minute taken here and there on the way back could mean the difference between being the pier runner who gets to the gangway in time and the one who watches the ship sail away without them.
If you plan to drink during the port stop drink responsibly. Cozumel is one of the ports where people get left behind most often and one of the most common reasons is they drank to much and were passed out in a bar somewhere when the ship left or got too drunk to pay attention to the time.