Worried the cruise ship will leave without you? Keep these things in mind

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Tens of millions of people take cruises each year, and they often go without a hitch and create great memories.

Some cruisegoers may, however, be familiar with the worry in the back of their mind that the cruise line might leave without them if they don’t return to the ship on time if something goes awry. That fear often doesn’t become a reality, but it can when, for instance, a private tour or excursion goes late. 

“It’s always an unfortunate circumstance when this happens, but it actually happens a little bit more than you would think,” Travelmation President and founder Adam Duckworth told FOX Business.

Eight passengers taking a Norwegian Cruise Line trip recently found themselves facing such a situation while stopped in Sao Tome off the coast of Africa.


Jill and Jay Campell of South Carolina told ABC 15 News and other outlets they became stranded after a delay with their private tour resulted in them not returning to the ship by the designated time and not being able to get onboard. 

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The situation became more complicated after the tides at the next port in Gambia prevented the ship from docking, according to reports. They then had to deal with logistics and head to a port in Senegal, where the cruise was scheduled to dock on Tuesday, ABC 15 reported.

The eight guests have since gotten back on the ship, a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line told FOX Business.

Norwegian “provided them with authorization to rejoin the ship at Dakar, Senegal, on April 2, 2024,” the spokesperson also said. “Despite the series of unfortunate events outside of our control, we will be reimbursing these eight guests for their travel costs from Banjur, Gambia, to Dakar, Senegal. We remain in communication with the guests and are providing additional information as it becomes available.”


Being careful about timing is one way cruisegoers taking private tours or excursions can help prevent getting into a situation where the ship departs without them, Duckworth told FOX Business.

“You want to make sure to check the time before you book your private excursion,” he said. “You want to see what time this ship is scheduled to depart and then ensure your private excursion is not booked longer than that.”

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 Preparation, the Travelmation president and founder said, is also very important for cruisegoers.

“You really want to make sure to be prepared when you’re traveling in a place that you don’t know, that’s a foreign country,” Duckworth said. “So you want to make sure to take those essential items with you, whether that would be water or medication or necessary travel documents.”

In the event of getting left behind by a cruise ship, there are steps travelers can take. Stranded cruisegoers will need to determine how and where they can reunite with the ship.

Having a travel adviser can be helpful in such a scenario and, according to the Travelmation founder, they can arrange travel to reach the ship’s next destination.

“If you’re not working with a travel adviser, you’re going to want to work with the cruise lines directly or the local authorities to get those resources in your back pocket to get to the next port of call for the cruise,” he said.

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Duckworth emphasized the importance, “especially if you’re going to take the risks to go out with a third-party private tour operator, to know your surroundings and where you’re at and to do your homework” in case things go awry. For example, some places may have limited daily transportation options.


Private excursions not booked through cruise lines have seen a rise in popularity, he said, as they sometimes offer more unique experiences.

The cruise industry overall has been continuing to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, when it had to deal with low passenger counts and restrictions.

More than 36 million people are expected to partake in ocean-going cruises this year, the trade group Cruise Lines International Association has forecasted.

Fox News Digital’s Chris Eberhart contributed to this report.


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