Will the Ship really leave without me?

Will the ship sail without me?

If you’re like me, you’ve been seeing a YouTube video on Facebook, and even on the news, about a couple who were left behind on the dock as their ship sailed away   So, will the cruise ship really leave without you?

The short answer is yes.  A cruise ship will leave you behind if you are late getting back to it at any port of call.

Let me explain a bit more about how it works.  Cruise ships are on a pretty tight schedule, and have to leave port at a certain time to get to their next port of call on time.  Leaving late means that they have to make up the time, which uses up a lot more very expensive fuel.  And once they are moving, they cannot turn around and come back.

Check out this YouTube Video from Inside Edition


Starting with Embarkation (first) day, if you are not to the terminal on time, or if you do not have the required documentation, the ship will leave without you.  I’ve seen where a newly married couple did not have proof of the bride’s new married name left behind because her documentation did not match the name on her cruise reservation.  I always tell my daughters to book by the name on their passport if it’s different from their married name.  You don’t want something as small as this to keep you from your cruise.  Also, parents traveling alone with their kids may need a notarized letter from the other parent giving permission.  Grandparents will need permission from the parents.  These are all safety issues to protect the children.

Always double check the documentation needed for the cruise line and the port of call, and be sure that you have it with you.  Do not put  your documentation into your checked on luggage, because if you can’t get it back in time, your luggage will sail without you. Put everything important into your carry-on luggage so that you can get to it when you need to. 

Always stay on Ship’s time!

They will post the back on board time in the ship’s daily newsletter, always double and triple check that time. It may have changed since the last time you checked.  And ALWAYS stay on ships time!  Ship’s time is always the same time as the embarkation port.  Do not change your watches if you cross time zones.  Your port may have a different time, but do not go by that time when it comes to getting back to the ship.  Always wear a watch and keep it on the same time as the port of departure.  I can’t empathize that enough! 

You have to be back onto the ship at least half an hour before the scheduled departing time. We always leave at least an hour. Normally there are signs at the gangplank as you get off telling you when to be back.  If there are no signs, ask a crew member.  They will be more than happy to tell you when to be back.  They do not want to leave you behind.


If you take a ship’s excursion, the ship is obligated to wait for you if the bus has mechanical problems, is stuck in traffic, etc.   If you brave it and take an excursion from a local, the ship has no obligation to you.  We’ve taken local tours before, so it can be done.  But check out the tour operator’s reviews online before you go, and schedule the tour early in the day.  We’re doing a local classic car tour in Cuba this year, but we’re taking the car part early in the day just in case they have mechanical problems, and doing the walking tour after lunch so we’ll already be close to the ship. 

One ship waited…but it’s rare

I have actually seen a ship wait for late passengers, but that is not guaranteed.  Once, while we were docked in Cozumel, the departure time was 10:00 pm, which meant all back on board by 9:30 pm.  But we heard announcements on the loudspeaker  at 10:00 pm asking several people to call the service desk. We walked out on the Muster Deck, and heard the officers on the dock saying that seven people were still missing.   We were supposed to be on our way, but the ship waited.  About a half an hour later, some stragglers started coming down the dock.  And they were not in a hurry.  The Ship’s officer was  yelling at them to hurry  up, but they took their time.  Please do not ever do that!  They were so lucky that they didn’t come down that dock to see the ship sailing away in the distance. 

What if I do miss my ship?

Before a ship sails, it checks the computer to see if all passengers have made it onto the ship.  They will first call out names of missing passengers to see if maybe it was a glitch in the system, and they are in fact, aboard the ship.  Then they will send someone to check your cabin to see if you’re in there.  If they cannot find you,  they will check your safe for your passports.  If they find them, they will leave them with the ship’s agent on shore so that you can use them to get home.  I always take our passports on shore with me, just in case, along with a credit card. 

You’ll be responsible for any costs that you accrue in getting back to the ship.  You can either get a flight to the next port to meet the ship, or you can fly back to your port of debarkation.  You will not have your luggage at this point, which is why you should always have your passport and a good credit card. 

Obviously, it would be a horrible experience to miss the ship, so don’t do it!!  Always be extra careful to watch the time, don’t forget to keep your watch on ship’s time, and have a designated non-drinker so that someone will be watching the time. 

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