#4 – Book your shore excursions with the cruise line.
If you book your shore excursion through your cruise line, whether online or onboard, the cruise line will communicate and work with your excursion leaders to locate you and return you to the ship prior to departure. Earlier this year on my Eurodam cruise, my excursion booked through Holland America Line returned late, but the ship knew we were going to be late and held the ship for us. Sure, it may be a bit more expensive to book through the cruise line, but it’s much less expensive than arranging transportation to your next port of call.
*Note: Some third party excursion companies also guarantee communication with the ship if your expected return to the ship is delayed.
#3 – Bring some form of identification with you ashore.
This is a tricky subject that has been debated across cruise boards everywhere: which form of identification should I bring ashore? At the bare minimum, you should bring a driver’s license or other photo ID. Some ports (Cozumel for me once) occasionally ask for guests returning to the ship to display a room key and photo ID. Most cruisers agree that a passport is your safest bet, as it is required if you would need to leave the country for a medical emergency or even trying to catch up with your ship. Carrying your passport ashore does present some risk though. My advice would be to bring a copy of your passport ashore, because it will most likely satisfy port security and depending on which country you are in, it might be sufficient to use in the case of needing to leave the country.
#2 – Don’t Leave your ship without money or a cell phone.
Unless you are walking within a few minutes of the ship, you should always carry some money on you while in port. Depending on the country and where you are going, if you suddenly find yourself stranded in a port, you don’t want to be left penniless. This is another tough item to give advice on, but I suggest that you only bring enough money for what you might spend in port and a little extra in case of an emergency. Secondly, make sure to bring some sort of way to communicate with either the ship, emergency services, or even relatives if you become stranded. Before leaving the ship, make sure to find out the port services number or even the number to dial the ship. Many cruise lines will print emergency phone numbers and consulate addresses in the daily schedule.
#1 – Stay on ship’s time.
Some cruise lines operate on a single time zone throughout the entire cruise. That could mean that you are docked in Bermuda, but still running on New York time. If this is the case, make it a priority to set your watch, cell phone, or other clock to the ship’s time. Misunderstanding over ship’s time is a consistent factor for “missed ship” cases. If the posted departure time at the gangway states 5:00 pm, the ship departs at 5:00 pm ship’s time, even though it may be 6:00 pm in port. Some cruise lines do change ship’s time as you enter a new time zone, so ensure you adjust your watch or cell phone to the new time zone you have entered. Always watch the time and make sure you’re on time, if not, it could cost you time, money, and your entire vacation.
The (Very) Lucky Ones
The Not So Lucky Ones