Missed Ports, Shore Excursions and Arrival Times

| August 10, 2005

Art Sbarsky, CruiseMates Consumer Affairs Editor, answers letters and comments on key issues posted by readers. If you have a question about cruising, send it to .

Subject: Missed Port Compensation

Now that hurricane season is here, several readers have wondered what type of compensation is due if a cruise line misses a port stop, because of a major storm or for some other reason.

Art says:

Technically, legally, etc., if a ship misses a port because of weather problems, it's a force of nature and nothing is legally due to passengers. However, many cruise lines have a flexible policy that gives back port charges, offers an on board credit or cocktail party, or even a future cruise credit to make up for this type of itinerary change, whatever the reason. Carnival's fleet brochure points out: "If an itinerary change occurs while a ship is at sea, Carnival shall attempt to substitute an alternate port. No compensation shall be provided to passengers when an alternative port is offered. If an alternative port is not provided, guests shall be provided a shipboard credit of $20 per person. The Vacation Guarantee shall not be affected by this policy." This seems fair. If you find yourself in this situation, go with the flow and accept what is offered. If absolutely nothing is offered, you have the right to complain. Do it in writing immediately. And follow up shore-side if nothing is done on board.

Subject: The Best Way to Buy Shore Excursions

"Is it better to buy the expensive cruise line land tours, or to buy local purveyors' cheaper land tours, and save money? We are going on the Grand Princess August 18 from Venice to Barcelona. Any advice will be appreciated by four people. Many thanks," writes reader Robert Bliss

Art says:

As they say, you say tomato, I say tomahto. There are arguments to be made on both sides. If you book your shore tours through the cruise line, you have built-in reliability and safety. The cruise line has a responsibility to make sure your experience is completed satisfactorily, and that you return to the ship on time. Most likely, a ship's rep will accompany the tour on your mode of transport (i.e., a bus) to make sure all goes well. If you book your own shore excursions, you run the risk of not getting the service or tour you want. You run the risk of language issues. And you run the risk of missing the ship's departure if the operator doesn't get you back in time for some reason. But it is also true that you most likely will save money, especially if you have a group of four. And you will also have complete control of over what you see and do. If you have the spirit of adventure and money is key, booking locally may be the way to go. If you're conservative by nature, taking the line's shore tours may fit your style better. Either way, enjoy the cruise.

Subject: Port Arrival Time

A reader posted a note saying that that they were traveling to Los Angeles from Australia for a cruise. They were due to arrive at 8 a.m. the day of a 5 p.m. cruise departure, and wanted to know the latest time they could board the ship.

Art says:

The technical answer? The cruise documents will probably say the guest has to board by 4:30. This gives the ship's staff time to stow the equipment and sail at 5 p.m. as scheduled. Figuring an hour from the airport to the dock (longer if it's a weekday and there's rush hour to contend with) and factoring in customs/immigration/luggage, there's a maximum cushion of about four hours. Since the reader booked free tickets, the cruise line will have no responsibility to track the flight schedule. If the flight is late and the guests miss the sailing, there's no recourse. For this reason, it's always safer to book flight arrival a day early, especially if one if coming from a long distance or dealing with winter or hurricane season.

OK, I'm off the soapbox for this month. If you have any comments on these or other issues, please let me know. Send a note to my e-mail address listed above.

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