How To Deal With Last Minute Cruise Itinerary Changes

Cruising travel is as busy as ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing. Even though many “exceptional circumstance” rules are a thing of the past, unexpected medical emergencies, port changes, or last minute canceled excursions can wreak havoc on your relaxing vacation.

Before you set sail, here’s what you need to know to ensure you have a great vacation if things don’t go as planned.

What Happens When There Are Last Minute Cruise Itinerary Changes?

Princess Cruise Line's Emerald Princess Cruise Ship.
Image Credit: Princess.

Emergencies can strike at any time to anyone, and a downside of cruising is that a crisis for one person can result in rerouting the entire ship. While safety is always the priority, there are a few ways to plan for last minute itinerary changes.

When you plan for the unexpected, you can enjoy your trip even when things don't go according to schedule. Thinking ahead is better than being blindsided during your vacation.

On a recent 4-night Caribbean cruise, our ship experienced five separate emergency evacuations. I learned a lot about new ways to plan and how to make the best of changes if and when they come up. 

Bring Passports

U.S. Passport in someone's hand. How to get cheap passport photos.
Image credit: Shutterstock.

When cruising to and from a U.S. city, it is legal to use a Birth Certificate instead of a passport for identification. However, suppose a medical emergency occurs, and you or your traveling partner must travel home by air. In that case, you won’t be able to do it without a valid passport. With passport processing times increasing, the sooner you apply for a valid passport, the better.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is surprisingly affordable and, when cruising, provides peace of mind when booking potentially costly excursions. There are several options for coverage, so you can cover basic needs or choose a plan with the opportunity for a full refund. You can purchase travel insurance through your favorite cruise line, but using an outside vendor is often cheaper.

Book With a Credit Card That Offers Travel Protection

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When you book a vacation using a travel credit card, there is often built-in travel protection. Added coverage can be a great supplement or alternative to travel insurance. Read through the terms before you pay with a credit card to verify coverage.

Excursion Bookings and Changes

Consider booking excursions through the cruise line rather than with a private vendor. When you book through the cruise line, refunds will process automatically when a tour gets canceled due to itinerary changes.

On my most recent cruise, the charge for the beach cabana we rented was automatically credited to our account after a medical emergency evacuation rerouted our cruise to a different port. 

If you book through private vendors or hotels, understand the cancelation policy, especially for last-minute changes outside your control.

Flexibility is key. Cruise lines work very hard to keep their ships on schedule. Injuries do happen, though, which may lead to an unexpected rerouting for emergency evacuation and an entirely new port of call.

Choose a Stateroom You Enjoy

Romantic couple love eating on yacht. Happy woman standing and giving fruit to her husband in cruise ship while sunset on vacation. luxury and honeymoon lifestyle, Happy aniversary.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Book a stateroom you want to spend time in during your vacation. Calculate the number of people in the room and how it might feel if you spent a few hours a day in the room together.

Whether you miss a port due to weather or an emergency, or you are having a bout of seasickness, having a comfortable stateroom can make all the difference in the quality of your vacation.

A cruise cabin with a balcony is a great way to spend an extra day at sea without feeling trapped. Not to mention having a private space to watch the ocean go by is a luxury worth the splurge.

My family of four fit wonderfully into a junior suite, and we were so happy to have our own space on our cruise to “nowhere.”

Consider Purchasing a Wi-Fi Package

Adding a pricey Wi-Fi package may seem unnecessary if you prefer to disconnect on vacation. It is super helpful when you need to make last-minute adjustments.

Purchasing an internet connection in advance will save money, but you can also pay for 24-hour usage while on the ship if you need to adjust your plans.

Using Wi-Fi to make plans at a cruise port you weren’t planning to visit provides a sense of control and may even help you adjust to the changes more quickly. Make sure you can change any new plans if another redirection is needed.

Go With The Flow

Unexpected changes happen, and travel can be unpredictable even for the most prepared planner. It’s frustrating to feel disappointed during vacation. Still, with a good attitude and a few alternative plans, you can make the best of it and have a blast.

The fun thing about cruising is how many ways you can experience the same trip. Find the laughter on the ship and make friends. If you bring your fun, you will have a great time.

Speak to Guest Services

Docked P&O Cruise Ship
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If all else fails and you feel additional compensation is warranted, speak to someone at guest services before disembarking.

Talking to a crew member on the ship is essential because they can address your specific situation more adequately than a call-center employee after the fact. Often, monetary compensation only goes to those who request it on the ship.

Whether you sail the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, or the South Pacific, your vacation is what you make of it. Planning fun activities, excursions, and meals is exciting. But don’t skip the less glamorous plans for those what-if moments.

Preparation leads to relaxation. It is vacation, after all!