6 ways you can ruin your cruise in an instant

May 31, 2021

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For the record, most cruises go swimmingly.

You board a ship, you have a great time, you leave. End of story.

But as we’ve written about before, every so often, things do go wrong on a cruise. And they can go wrong in many ways. Sometimes they can go wrong for reasons beyond your control. But other times they can go wrong due to mistakes that you make either in advance of booking a sailing or in the midst of one.

We’ve told you before about the little mistakes you can make that can take away from the cruise experience — from overpaying for tours to forgetting key toiletries. Now it’s time to talk about the really big mistakes that you can make — the sort of mistakes that can end your cruise in an instant.

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For first-time cruisers wanting to be sure nothing goes horribly wrong on their first sailing, or even veteran cruisers looking for a refresher, here’s a look at the 6 things you absolutely do not want to do when cruising, lest you end up ruining your trip in a moment:

Forgetting your passport or other documents

(Image by Evgenia Parajanian/Shutterstock.com)

If there is one sure-fire way to ruin a cruise in an instant, it is this. If you show up for a cruise without the right documents, you will find yourself turned away before you even step foot on the vessel.

In most cases, the “right documents” start with a passport. In some cases, you can board a cruise ship without a passport, provided you have other government-issued identification and a certified copy of your birth certificate. But for the vast majority of cruise itineraries around the world, you will need a valid passport — and one that is at least six months away from expiration. If you don’t have one or forget to bring one with you to your ship, you will be turned away.

A passport isn’t the only document you might need. Depending on your cruise itinerary, you might also need visas to various countries that the ship will visit.

In addition, in recent months, a growing number of cruise lines have announced new requirements that passengers show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to board ships.

Not leaving enough time to get to your cruise

If you only follow one piece of advice in this story, it should be this: Always plan to arrive at your departure port a day ahead of schedule. It is the only way to ensure you won’t miss your ship — something that happens to cruisers more often than you would think.

Many cruises depart in the afternoon, so it might seem just fine to fly or drive to a port on the morning of departure. But all it takes is a moderate flight delay, or a pile-up on the highway, to upset such plans. If you’re delayed in your arrival at the port, the ship will not wait for you, and your trip will be at least partially ruined.

We say partially because, if your ship leaves without you, you might be able to “catch up” with it a day or two or three later in a different port. But even in this case, you’ll still be facing lost days of vacation, lots of added cost and untold stress.

Note that if you’re traveling overseas for a cruise, we recommend traveling to the port two or even three days in advance. This isn’t just so you don’t miss the ship. It’s also so you have some time to recover from jet lag. European cruises, in particular, can be port-intensive, with lots of touring, so you want to be ready to hit the ground running right after the cruise begins.

Not leaving enough time to get back to your ship when in port

Call it a corollary to the above. You can ruin your cruise in an instant by missing the initial departure of your ship. But you also can ruin your cruise in an instant by missing your ship’s subsequent departures from ports that it visits during the voyage.

This can happen when you head off touring in a port on your own but don’t leave yourself enough time to get back to the ship before its scheduled departure.

This, too, happens more than you would think. I’ve been on quite a few cruise ships pulling out of ports where I’ve seen a frantic couple running down the pier waving to the vessel. They had timed their return to the ship just a little too close. In such cases, if the ship already has released its lines and started to pull away from the pier, even if it remains within shouting distance, it is unlikely to return.

Behaving badly on board

This should go without saying, but … do not start a fight on a cruise ship or act in other inappropriate ways that could get you flagged as a troublemaker. You might very well find yourself put off at the next port, however far away from home that might be. Recall, for instance, the case of the young Royal Caribbean cruiser who thought it’d be funny to leap into the water from his balcony on a cruise and post a video of his jump on Instagram (where, yes, it quickly went viral). He promptly was escorted off the vessel — and banned from the cruise line for life.

Things that can get you kicked off a ship in an instant include fighting with other cruisers, deliberately entering restricted areas on cruise ships, damaging cruise ship property and violating serious safety rules (such as jumping into the water from a cruise ship balcony).

The bottom line is that captains of cruise ships have wide latitude to discipline inappropriate or unsafe behavior on vessels by removing the offending passengers.

Skipping the muster drill

If you’re new to cruising, you may think the muster drill — the assembly at the start of a voyage where passengers are taught about safety on board — is a minor thing. You might think it’s something you can skip. But regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard take the muster drill very seriously, and so do cruise lines. If you don’t attend one, you likely will be in violation of local laws in the country from which your ship is sailing and also breaking cruise line rules. At the very least, you will be forced to appear for a “make-up” muster drill on the day after departure that might very well overlap with one of your preplanned activities. But in some cases, you might find yourself put off the ship at the next port.

Bringing illegal drugs on board

One more verboten activity that can get you kicked off a cruise ship in a hurry is bringing aboard or consuming illegal drugs. In some destinations that cruise ships visit, you also might find yourself taken to a local jail and charged with serious crimes if you’re found to have illegal drugs in your possession while on a ship — even drugs that might be legal for you to possess back home.

Police in the popular cruise destination of Bermuda, for instance, have been known to raid cruise ships docked at its Royal Naval Dockyard in search of drugs that include cannabis and arresting passengers found in possession of them. This includes passengers who have legal prescriptions to use cannabis in their home countries. Cruisers in the past have been fined thousands of dollars by Bermudian authorities for possessing even small amounts of cannabis.

When it comes to drugs such as cannabis, the laws that apply to possessing and consuming drugs while cruising are the laws of the places your ship visits, not your home country or state’s laws. If you’re in Bermuda on a cruise ship and have cannabis, you will be held to Bermuda’s laws on such possession, not your home state’s rules.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean

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