woman standing with luggage at airport

Do This If a Cruise Port Is Canceled

Imagine you’re on your cruise ready to go ashore at that port of call you’ve been dying to visit. In fact, you booked this cruise just so you could go to this port of call. Then you hear the captain announce that this port has been canceled. If you’ve been on a few cruises, you don’t have to imagine. But do you know what to do after the port has been canceled?

There are a number of reasons why a port might be canceled. Bad weather, illness, political unrest – the list goes on.

After the initial announcement that you won’t be getting off the ship, the captain will follow up with a reason. One popular reason is illness (and the one that happened to us) so that the port of call did not want to grant entry. 

You see, at the previous port, it was reported that some individuals drank the local water and got sick. They were quarantined. Unfortunately, a bigger more pervasive problems ensued. The captain went ship-wide and asked everyone to make sure they washed their hands. And if fellow passengers saw someone leaving the restroom without washing their hands, to remind them to do so.

The ship’s crew did everything possible to prevent the spread of illness, going so far as serving passengers at the buffet. The captain notified the passengers that the port didn’t want to let us in and worked with them up to the last minute. They even got local officials to agree to come aboard and see for themselves that we were not a danger.

Despite a valiant effort, we were denied entry.

What The Cruise Line Did After the Cruise Port Was Cancelled

After turning back out to sea, all passengers were given a small credit to their stateroom. Sounds like a nice gesture. After all, the crew did everything possible to prevent the spread of illness. In fact, they had done such a good job that the number of cases went down.

A credit added back to your account is great! Buy a few more dinks. Get those souvenirs you forgot to pick up for friends and family. Go to that specialty restaurant you’ve been eyeing the last few days. The choice is yours.

However, that is not your only option. So we’re going to tell you what you can do. We’re also going to give you cruise tips to ensure missing a port of call can turn out to be a good thing.

What You Should Do After a Cruise Port Is Canceled and Why

Think back to when you booked your cruise. What did you pay for? Your stateroom. Gratuities. Taxes. And… port fees.

What are port fees?

Port fees are the fees that the port charges the cruise ship to dock. The cruise line isn’t going to pay them out of pocket. They pass them on to you. It’s a major reason why that $299 cruise you saw totaled for a few hundred dollars more than that.

You paid these port fees upfront before you boarded your cruise. Because you never made it, you can ask for that money back. Be nice and they may refund your money. The cruise line is not under obligation to refund the port charges.

You likely won’t have to go that far. More likely than not, the ship may issue a credit to the stateroom. And if the cruise line gives the stateroom a credit, that might be enough to keep you happy. In our case, it was $50 for the room. So for us, we felt that we were treated fairly by the cruise line.

How To Deal With a Canceled Port of Call

Remember, the cruise line is not obligated to return your port fees. But like most things regarding cruising, they’ll usually work with you 

In the event your fees are not returned and you don’t get a credit, stay calm. The crew and cruise line want you to enjoy your vacation. Check your daily newsletter they place on your bed or check the cruise ship’s app on your phone to find out what activities have been arranged for this unexpected sea day.

Here are some things we recommend to do if a cruise port is canceled.

Activities To Do On a Canceled Port Day

WaterParks & Pools

Waterslide and pool on cruise ship
Waterslides and pool

If your cruise takes you to warmer climates like the Caribbean, it’s likely that the weather will be nice. Many newer cruise ships have waterparks on par with the best amusement parks. Because so many people enjoy the pool areas, many of these same cruise ships have multiple pool areas. There will still likely be a lot of people on the lido desks. But since most people were planning to be ashore, they may have found other things to do on the ship besides going to the pool.

Observation Lounge

Couple on observation lounge on cruise ship
Relax on the Observation Lounge

After a visit to the observation lounge on a cruise ship, you’ll wonder why it’s so empty (relative to the pool deck). Situated forward of the ship (the front), you’re presented with a 180-degree view of what the crew sees. Because it’s inside, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the weather is. It’s a great place to relax with a book or enjoy the view with a drink. 

Cruise tip: Some ships have food in the observation lounge. This is a good place to go on embarkation day. The buffet and poolside restaurants will be packed with people at that time. So this is an ideal place to satisfy your munchies without the crowds.

Card Room/Game Room

Restaurant on Pride of America cruise ship
Pride of America refurbishment 2016

This is another less explored area of modern ships. There is so much to do on a cruise that areas like this often get overlooked. 

Here you’ll find board games, chess, checkers and similar things to entertain you in a more relaxed atmosphere. Unlike the Observation lounge, this is an area you’ll probably want to have some company to enjoy. After all, what fun is it to play checkers by yourself? 


Library on cruise ship
Chill in the library

Most cruise ships still have libraries onboard. If you brought books with you on the cruise or have them on your tablet, the library provides a nice, quiet environment to wind down in. If you didn’t bring anything to read, there are usually books available to you in the library. Just remember to put them back.


Couple receiving spa treatment
Wind down in the spa

Who doesn’t like to be pampered? If your port day is canceled, this would be a great time to head to the spa for a massage, relaxing in the sauna or some of the many other services offered in the spa. Just remember, this isn’t one of those services that come included in the cost of your cruise

Cruise tip: On embarkation day, head up to the spa when everyone else is going to the buffet. In various areas of the ship on embarkation day, there are a number of things the cruise ship will give away for free or at a discount. Spa treatments are one of them. So if you think a day at the spa is something you plan to use, go as soon as you get on the ship. Afterward, you can indulge in the buffet. 

Catch a Movie

Movie theater on cruise ship
Catch a movie

On cruise ships large and small, there are areas to catch a movie. Some have dedicated movie theaters. Others have big screens around the pool area. Still more – particularly on smaller ships – have a screen on the deck housing guest services. Check your daily briefing the ship will give you the night before to see what will be showing.

Sleep In

Couple in stateroom on cruise ship
Sleep in

Let’s face it: you’re on vacation. You wake up early every morning to hopefully beat the rush hour traffic. Even on vacation, excursions require rising early. So if a cruise port that you intended to visit is suddenly unavailable, it creates the ideal opportunity to do what won’t be an option once your cruise is over. 

So sleep in. Get room service. And enjoy a day not being on a schedule.

Book Your Cruise Now

Cruising is one of the best ways to vacation. Even if something unexpected should arise, be assured the crew will do everything in their power to provide you a happy and memorable vacation. J’s Dream Team will put together a package for a cruise you’ll enjoy, but even get you some freebies you won’t get on those travel engine websites.


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