How to avoid disappointment and frustration when leaving on a cruise!

I’ve had to run many times through airports to catch my connecting flights because of flight delays or cancellations. One time that comes to mind happened when we were on our way to Papeete, Tahiti for our cruise in the South Pacific. We were traveling from Montreal via Detroit, and then connecting in Los Angeles, but as luck would have it there was freezing rain in Detroit so our flight was delayed for over an hour. Winter connections are always risky. As a result, we ended up having only 20 minutes to make our flight to Tahiti. We had to hustle. I said to my husband: “Follow me!” and I ‘bullied’ my way off the plane. Well actually, I asked politely, but with assertiveness, so that other passengers would let us pass by. I explained that we had to get off the plane as quickly as possible because our flight was leaving in less than half an hour and they, even people seated in business and first class, let us through! Thankfully!!

We ran and ran and made it on the plane with only a few minutes to spare, but our luggage didn’t! The next flight was 2 days later, so we really had to be on that flight. Our cruise was leaving the following day and instead of sightseeing we had to shop for clothing, bathing suits and toiletries. Fortunately, we had taken the insurance offered by the cruise operator and our suitcases were brought to us at the next port!

A couple of days later, we heard a passenger complain to other cruisers that his family missed their flight from Los Angeles (the one we were on) and that somebody’s suitcases had priority over them to fly to Huahine as the small plane couldn’t handle the weight of both! Mum’s the word; those were our bags!

Some tips to avoid missing a cruise

  • Arrive at least a day before your sailing day. Missing the cruise ship can cause a lot of problems and can be costly. Why not add a day or two and enjoy the departure port at your leisure instead? For our Greek Islands cruise I remember feeling rushed after landing in Athens because shortly after all the formalities were done we were transferred, ushered onto the ship and had to participate in the muster drill almost immediately after boarding. A hectic day indeed after an international flight!
  • Take a direct flight if you can. If you can’t, leave plenty of time for connections (especially in winter months). Try connecting at an airport as close as possible to your departure port or connect in a main hub where multiple options to your destination are offered. If need be, this would also give you access to alternative modes of transportation (car, train, ferry or bus) to get to your departure point. For our cruise to the Baltic we connected in Amsterdam since we didn’t have a direct flight to Copenhagen, that way if we missed our connection, we could get there by ferry. We also added a few days before to explore this lovely city. It’s like two vacations in one.
  • On sailing day, get to the port with plenty of time to spare. One never knows how much traffic there could be or what other situations could arise that would prevent us from getting there on time. We’ve had situations with luggage handlers, gate agents, security line-ups, and even extra security or blocked off airport sections for politicians. Embarkation can be denied if late. For all cruises we were on, we had to be on board at least 2 hours before sailing time. Check the fine print on your ticket. I can’t imagine getting there too late and seeing my cruise ship sail away without me!
  • Stay at a hotel near the cruise terminal so it’s easy to get there in time. Sometimes, you don’t even need a transfer. This was the case for us when we left from Seattle; the port was across the street and we walked over with our luggage. In other cases this would not be practical, if the port is far from the city center and all the attractions as it is in Rome, Athens, Stockholm as well as many other places. Just be sure to check the location of the port before making hotel reservations.

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