When your website receives over 350 cruise reviews every week, you see a lot of complaints. While many of the grievances are perfectly reasonable, we do see some cruisers vowing to never sail on a cruise line again for something that was completely beyond the line’s control. Here are 5 things we regularly see blamed on the cruise lines that really shouldn’t be:
1. Missed Ports
Blame Mother Nature, not the cruise lines. - Photo by Maryna Patzen / Thinkstock
Cruise lines make money off of shore excursions, so they never want to skip a port — especially their private islands where every dime you spend goes right back to them. Unfortunately, smaller ports and private islands require tender boats to go ashore, and rough seas can make the trip dangerous and uncomfortable.
But the weather was perfectly fine! Winds or sea conditions not observable to the naked eye can make it unsafe to dock at a pier. Plus, captains and bridge officers have access to sophisticated weather sensors and forecasting tools. Even if it's safe to operate tenders now, it may not be in a few hours when it's time to get passengers back to the ship, so they err on the side of caution.
Can’t we go to another port or come back later? Nope. It takes hours to travel between the closest ports, and even if another port is close by and there's minimal travel time, berths are reserved years in advance. Likewise, there’s simply no time to visit the port "on the way back." If there is a sea day, it's needed for travel time to get the ship back to the home port on schedule.
Shouldn’t we get a refund? Cruise lines typically refund port taxes and excursions to passengers when a stop is skipped, but they rarely offer any other compensation, as the cruise contract you agree to when making your reservation specifies that itineraries can change at any time, for any reason.
2. Long Lines at Embarkation and Debarkation Delays
Long waits are frustrating, but cruise lines don't run the port. - Photo by Simon Duvall
Cruisers often blame the ship's staff for long lines at the cruise terminal when they're boarding the ship or for delays on getting off the ship after the cruise.
It took forever! Cruise terminals are under the control of local governments, and local officials control much of what happens in the terminal. Additionally, all passengers have to disembark and the ship has to be cleared by local authorities (Customs and Border Protection in the US) before passengers are allowed to board. In today's security-sensitive environment, these clearances can often take longer than expected, delaying embarkation.
They were completely disorganized! The cruise lines try to keep the process orderly by publishing to-the-minute timetables telling you when you're scheduled to disembark the ship when your cruise ends. But all too often, things get backed up and embarkation runs 30, 45, even 60 minutes late. This happens when the government doesn't staff enough customs officers or there are other delays in the terminal.
3. The Casino Was Closed
Casino on Norwegian Breakaway - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line
Passengers excited for a round of Blackjack when they board the ship often complain when the casinos aren't open right away.
They took too long to open! Cruise lines would like nothing more than to be able to take your money 24/7 in the slots or on the craps table, but they have to follow local laws and customs. As a general rule, cruise ship casinos can only open in international waters, which is about 12 miles offshore.
Why was it open at some ports but not others? A few ports, including Nassau and Bermuda, allow cruise ship casinos to open in the evening and overnight if the ship lingers in port after 8 or 9 pm. But this is the exception and not the rule, and since the lines want to maximize revenue, this one of the primary reason why ships pull out of most ports by 5 or 6 pm.
4. ID Requirements
You don't necessarily need a passport to cruise, but we highly recommend it. - Photo by Thinkstock / Maudib
We often hear stories of passengers denied boarding because they lack the proper documentation. Invariably, they blame the cruise line for their lack of preparedness.
They wouldn’t let me on! It's the passenger's responsibility to ensure that they have the proper documents for their cruise. And for the record, it’s the government that sets ID requirements for international travel, not the cruise lines.
But I had multiple forms of ID! For US citizens, a passport is strongly encouraged for all passengers, but an original, certified birth certificate and government issued photo ID is acceptable for some cruises. If you don’t have these two documents, or your birth certificate is a copy instead of the original, it doesn’t matter how many other forms of ID you have, you aren’t getting on the ship.
5. Solo Cruisers Shouldn't Have to Pay Double
Avoid single supplements by booking a studio cabin. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line
Passengers traveling alone hate that they often have to pay a 200% single supplement.
I shouldn’t be penalized for traveling alone. This is true, and this one actually is sort of the cruise line's fault, but think about it: Virtually all cruise cabins are built to accommodate at least two people, and the vast majority of cruisers travel as a couple or family, with at least two paying passengers in a stateroom. This is what the cruise line expects when they build ships and set prices for each cabin.
Hotels don’t do this. Yes, but hotels don’t price the room hoping to make extra revenue when you buy things in the lobby, whereas cruise lines price their cabins expecting you to spend money on specialty dining, drinks, shore excursions and other activities on board the ship. So unless you eat, drink, and gamble twice as much as the average passenger, the lines aren’t making as much money. And even if you do, the ship isn’t going to refund your single supplement.
But I like to travel by myself! We hear you. Get around it with studio staterooms on Norwegian Cruise Line which are priced for singles or look for 125% or 150% single supplement offers (typically from the more expensive luxury lines).