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9 Port Day Mistakes Every Cruise Ship Passenger Should Avoid

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Waking up to a new port each morning is one of the many attractions of cruise travel. Once you have decided on an itinerary and booked your cruise, it is time to start planning exactly what you want to do in each port.

However, many cruise guests don’t plan how to make the most of their port days. But even a bit of preparation can go a long way to making your experience even better.


Don’t fall into the trap that others do. Here are the mistakes to avoid on your cruise port days.

Getting Left Behind

It happens.

You have probably seen reports of this happening. One of the most well-known is the incident when the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship left 8 passengers on an African island when their private tour did not return them to the ship on time.

I have also personally seen it happen. On my cruise on Sun Princess one of the passengers did not make it back to the ship in Mykonos. The Captain waited for a considerable time, but the ship did leave without him.

Apparently, they had been trying to contact him on his cell phone, but he wasn’t answering – a good reason to make sure that your phone contact that the cruise line has is correct.

In this case, the passenger made it back onto the ship in the next port stop of Santorini. This was a relatively easy fix for the guest. A ferry from one Greek Island to the next is not a difficult solution to meet the ship in another port.

But not all situations would be so easy. You may not have a passport, your medication or even enough funds.

Just don’t take any chances. Always be back on the ship in time.

But make sure you know the time. Ship’s time isn’t always local time, so make sure that you are very clear on the time you need to be back on the ship.

Always know the all aboard time. Set an alarm on your phone that will allow you enough time to get back to the ship. Whatever you have to do to remind you when you need to head back, then make sure you do it.

To avoid the worry of getting back to the ship on time you can always book an excursion through the cruise line. If you are on a cruise-sponsored excursion the ship will always wait for you to get back onboard. The downside is that cruise excursions are usually higher priced than other excursions that are not booked direct.

Not Having a Plan

Sometimes you think that you can just arrive at the port and come up with a plan that morning. It rarely works. I have done that and it just usually leads to a frustrating situation where you don’t know what to do with the time that you have available.

Being more spontaneous does work in some ports, usually where you know you can easily walk into the town, or there is a shuttle bus to the port.

Even then, a bit more research can pay dividends. Research the local tourist attractions in port to find out opening hours and whether you need to book in advance. Find reviews of local restaurants so that you can make a good choice.

Any time that you spend in planning will most likely have a huge benefit and mean that you get more out of your port visit.

Not Safeguarding Your Belongings

This can really put a negative spin on your experience. Tourists, particularly in certain ports, are a target for pickpockets.

I recently experienced this when my husband had his phone stolen at the Trevi Fountain in Rome. He was being careful, most of the time, but that minute or so he wasn’t was an expensive and time-consuming mistake.

Make sure that you are mindful of your surroundings and take all precautions that you can.

Related: 9 Must-Know Tips to Keep Your Valuables Safe on Vacation

Not Packing Your Bag Correctly

Remember to take the things with you that you need that will keep you comfortable throughout the day.

Always remember to take a bottle of water for each person.

Think about how the weather might change. What is a beautiful morning may turn into a thunderstorm later in the day. Always check the local forecast.

One of the things I always put in my bag these days in warmer climates is this UV Umbrella. You never know when you are going to need extra shade, and this is really light-weight but high quality.

To be prepared for the rain this lightweight jacket is an essential packing item.

Not Setting the Alarm

The time in cruise ports can be short. If you are off the ship early in the morning then you will maximize the time that you have to spend there.

Remember that you may not get a chance to visit that destination again, so it is wise to make the most of it while you are there.

Getting up early, even on vacation, can have so many benefits. Seeing the sunrise and watching your arrival into the port can be one of those most memorable things that you treasure forever. It can definitely be worth that early morning wake-up call.

Getting a head start on your fellow cruise passengers can also have advantages. No long search for a table at the buffet, or a shorter line for the tender boat.

Not Taking Advantage of Less Crowded Ship Amenities

Sometimes you may just not have enough interest in a port to get off the ship.

When you stay on the ship on a port day this can be a great opportunity to enjoy all the amenities on board without the crowds.

This can be a great time to enjoy the pools or any attractions on the ship that usually have a line. If you want to go to the spa, port days are usually cheaper than days at sea.

Missing out on the Local Flavors

Some of the best experiences of the ports that you visit are indulging in the local cuisine. Do some research and find out where the locals eat.

Make sure to try local specialties. When in Rome try fried artichokes, Paella in Barcelona and Dolmades in Athens

You can often find local food tours of a city where an expert guide takes you around all the best foodie destinations.

Not Venturing Out on Your Own

Some ports are very easy to explore on your own, without taking an organized tour.

One example of this is Barcelona, Spain. It is very easy to travel from the cruise ship to the port on a shuttle. This drops you at exactly the spot where you can take the Hop on Hop Off Bus tours to explore the city.

There are many incredible cruise excursions available in Alaska, but if you want to go it on your own, then the port of Skagway is a wonderfully easy port to walk around and explore. Rather than taking a trip on the White Pass Railway as part of a tour, you can book this independently and save money.

Skipping the Cruise Sponsored Excursions

Sailing on a cruise is a great opportunity to see some amazing places.

Don’t miss the chance to cross off some items on your bucket list. Go dog sledding in Alaska, visit The Colosseum in Rome, go ziplining in Belize and visit the  El Yunque National Forest in San Juan.

There are some unforgettable experiences and taking a cruise ship tour can mean that you will have the experience of a local guide and the security of knowing that you do have the guarantee that the ship will wait for you if there are any unexpected delays.