10 Worst Cruise Fails You Can Prepare For

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Lots can go wrong when you travel, as any avid traveler will tell you. There’s so much that’s out of your control. Weather, transportation, your fellow travelers — they can all somehow wreak havoc on your carefully laid plans. However, that said, there are some travel disasters that you can prepare for ahead of time, and thus decrease the likelihood of something actually going wrong.

These are our top 10 worst cruise fails — all of which you can prepare for ahead of time.

Missing the Cruise Ship

Really, you missed the cruise ship? That’s rookie mistake number one! All you had to do was show up! We joke — it happens to the best of us. Plenty of people have either missed the cruise ship or witnessed others missing it.

You can take some measures, though, to try to ensure that you don’t miss the cruise ship before it departs.

For one, as one Reddit user suggests, don’t try to be cheap and not spend money on a hotel in the port city, the night before your cruise. This user’s friend wanted to arrive in the port city the day their ship was set to depart, and when a flight delay occurred, they ended up missing the ship completely. To be safe, you want to arrive for embarkation the night before, and spend the night in a hotel, so you’re ready to leave when the ship is.

Cruise News Update
Cruise News Update (Photo Credit: NAN728)

Luckily, lots of hotels in popular cruise port cities recognize you’ll need to stay overnight before your cruise departs, so they’ll often offer pre- and post-cruise bundles that include a stay, breakfast and sometimes even a ride to the port.

For example, the Miami Airport South Hampton Inn & Suites offers a park and sail package that includes one-way transportation to the Port of Miami, free parking for up to seven nights and breakfast.

Of course, missing the cruise ship isn’t a problem that’s relegated to your initial departure. You can also miss the cruise ship when you’ve disembarked at one of your destinations.

To help avoid this, keep the ship’s time in mind when you’re in the port of call (the ship’s time will differ depending on the cruise line and where you’re at, but it’s the time all the ship’s clocks are set to, and the time that the ship operates on; you’ll want to operate on it, too).

Cozumel Cruise Pier
Photo Credit: Yingna Cai / Shutterstock

Also, remember that ship schedules are strict, and there’s not a lot of wiggle room between when the ship requests passengers return and when the ship sets sail (often about 30 minutes). That’s not a big grace period — and cruise ship captains won’t hesitate to leave you behind, if that’s what’s best for the other cruisers.

Lastly, always keep your passport handy (not a passport card or some other form of identification), to make getting onto and off the ship easy, as well as so you’ll have it in case you do miss the ship in a foreign locale.

Leaving Behind Travel Documents

And on that note, one of the worst cruising fails you could make? You make it to the port, you’re ready to board the cruise ship, you start digging around in your bag and… you realize that you left your travel documents at home.

Worth Reading: Passport Book Vs Card – What Is Best For Cruises?

Passport for Cruise
Passport for Cruise (Photo Credit: Ricardo Reitmeyer / Shutterstock)

This is a mere matter of organization, but if you know that organization is not your strong suit, use a travel packing list and check it twice (or more) before you leave the house.

Celebrity Cruises offers a cruise-specific packing list, which specifically mentions the documents you’ll want to bring with you. At the end of the article, there’s a handy bulleted list that you can print and check off, as you pack.

Getting Seasick

Your first cruise is a terrible time to learn that you get seasick. However, for medical purposes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention groups seasickness in with general motion sickness, so if you feel nauseous on trains or airplanes, in cars, or while on amusement park rides, chances are good that you’re going to get seasick, too.

However, there’s good news: You can still enjoy cruising even if you’re someone who gets motion sick. In a Reddit thread, frequent cruisers offered a bevy of tips on how they personally cruise and deal with motion sickness.

Seasick Cruise Passenger
Seasick Cruise Passenger (Photo Credit: Lima_84)

Multiple people mentioned that they take the medication Bonine, also sometimes called meclizine and that it’s a “life saver.” Take a tablet a day starting two days before your cruise and throughout it, and you’ll supposedly have no problems. Dramamine is also a favorite, as are motion sickness bracelets and patches.

Others also mention that location matters — both the cruise’s location and your cabin’s location on the cruise ship. One cruiser said they only get seasick when cruising on the Pacific, due to the rougher waters, while the consensus seems to be that seasickness is less of an issue in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, it’s pretty common knowledge that if you get a cabin lower down, mid-ship, you’ll experience less rocking.

Also, the bigger the cruise ship, the less rocking.

So Many Cabin Problems

You arrive at your cabin and it’s nothing like what the cruise line promised you, on its website. Maybe it’s cramped or outdated (those online photos could be quite old, after all). There’s water leaking in, or your balcony has no view at all. Maybe there’s nothing really wrong with the cabin itself, but there’s just so much noise!

To avoid all of the above, you have to go a few steps further, when booking your cabin, beyond just looking at the generic photos on the cruise line’s website.

Carnival Cruise Ship Flood
Carnival Cruise Ship Flood (Credit: @dawn7877)

Cruise lines publish deck plans that are easily available on their websites, with a little searching. Pull up this deck plan and find the cabin you’re expecting to book. Is it close to any public areas? There’s going to be noise. The deck plan will also clue you in to whether or not there will be an obstructed view.

Avid cruisers are a helpful bunch, though, and many go a step further to assist their fellow travelers; many upload photos of their exact cabins to forums and similar sites, so you can see real photos from real people (not the cruise line’s marketing folks) and know what to expect. There are even entire websites dedicated to providing these types of photos.

Allure of the Seas Cabin
Allure of the Seas Cabin

If there are larger issues, like leaks or flooding, though, the ship will either fix the problem quickly, or they’ll move you to a different cabin. If that’s not possible due to a full ship, you may receive some sort of compensation.

That’s what happened to one couple who boarded an Allure of the Seas cruise in 2023 and found their cabin stripped of its carpet and bedding, with furnishings in disarray and a gross smell.

The cabin had been flooded previously, but no one had updated the couple’s booking, to put them in a new cabin. It took multiple hours to sort out the issue and move the couple to a new cabin, and Royal Caribbean gave the couple $300 in onboard credit.

Eaten Too Much

It happens. There’s all that free cruise food, all the drinks, a buffet! It’s hard to know when to stop. However, it’s about three days into your cruise and now you’re feeling a little bit like you don’t really want to move. And trying to squeeze into your swimsuit? Forget about it.

English Breakfast, Common Things to Eat on a Cruise Ship
English Breakfast (Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock)

Don’t let a little overindulgence ruin the rest of your cruise, though. Ease up at the buffet and head to the ship’s fitness center, or take advantage of the onboard walking track, on one of the upper decks. You’ll get to enjoy the views and sunshine, and get in some much-needed steps, which will relieve some of that bloat and discomfort.

Then, when it’s time to go into port, try to get in some extra steps there as well. Opt for a walking tour, for example, rather than just lying on the beach all day.

Getting Lost

There are two places where this can be an issue: both on the ship itself and when you’re ashore. And if you think there’s no way you could get lost on a cruise ship, think again. Icon of the Seas is practically a floating city, with eight neighborhoods, 40-plus bars and restaurants, seven pools, six waterslides, 22 elevators and nearly 3,000 cabins. It’s easy to get lost.

So, to prepare for the possibility, familiarize yourself with the ship’s online deck plans ahead of time. Get a feel for where your cabin will be located, and what will be around you. While it can be frustrating getting lost on a cruise ship, do keep in mind that, while big, the ship is only so big. Walk far enough and you’ll just reach the other side. You can’t go on indefinitely.

Best Restaurants in Cozumel
Photo Credit: PQK / Shutterstock

Not even sure which direction you’re walking? Remember the odd-even cabin numbers rule. Even-numbered cabins are always on the port side of the ship, and odd-numbered cabins are always on the starboard side of the ship. Port is left and starboard is right, when looking toward the ship’s bow.

Of course, you can also always check one of the deck plan maps that are scattered throughout the ship (look for them near the elevators) or just ask a crew member for help!

Getting lost ashore is a bit trickier. In general, stay in the port area and don’t wander off away from where the majority of your fellow cruisers will be congregating. That doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a group tour or purchase one of the cruise line’s excursions in order to be safe, but it does mean that you should be aware of your surroundings, and you should stay in the tourist areas.

If you can, get a feel for the port destination before you arrive. Look at a map and, if you won’t have international cell service during your trip, download a map to your phone before your trip.

Onboard Reservations are Sold Out

Cruise ships take reservations for their specialty restaurants and shows, often both during the cruise and ahead of time, via the cruise line’s app or website. So, what do you do if you’re either planning your cruise activities ahead of time, or you’ve made it onto the ship, and you realize that a lot of the things you wanted to do, are actually booked up?

While we do recommend reserving your space for any specialty activities or experiences ahead of time, if you do run into onboard reservations being sold out, it might not be quite as hopeless as you think.

Cruise Reservations
Cruise Reservations (Photo Credit: MacroEcon)

It’s important to keep in mind that (a) a lot of the reservations are never used, freeing up space for other cruisers (b) extra reservations are often released on cruise lines’ apps over time, leading up to the cruise, (c) cruise lines only allow a certain number of pre-bookings, so reservations are likely still available and (d) most shows have a standby line, where you can show up and claim any unused, extra seats.

So, the point? Don’t lose hope and keep checking for available reservations, and try your luck at getting into the shows and restaurants you want to see, once you’re onboard.

Bad Weather While in Port

Research your ports’ predicted weather ahead of your arrival and pack your clothes accordingly — and even if the weather forecast only shows sunny skies, still pack poor weather-appropriate clothes, just in case. You don’t want to be stuck on the ship, just because you forgot to bring a rain jacket and umbrella (and you definitely don’t want to buy overpriced rain gear from one of the ship’s shops).

Rain During Port Visit
Rain During Port Visit (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

If the bad weather absolutely means you can’t go out during one of your port days, make the most of it and explore all the ship’s great indoor fun. Cruise ships constantly have something going on, so there’s no excuse to be bored.

Itinerary Changes

Occasionally, a cruise line will change the itinerary. This might happen for a number of reasons, including weather, maintenance issues, and simple bad timing. You can attempt to avoid this issue by not booking a cruise during hurricane season, but, at the end of the day, the decision is out of your hands. If the cruise line wants to make a change, they will.

Docked Cruise Ships in the Caribbean
Docked Cruise Ships in the Caribbean (Photo Credit: Todamo)

The best thing to do is simply make the most of the experience and, chances are likely that the cruise ship will only adjust the itinerary slightly — so you’ll still get to see some new destinations in the region.

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Keeping that in mind, as you prepare for your trip, think about the other ports in the region that you might visit if an itinerary change did occur, and then research those ports accordingly.

Delayed Arrival to Homeport

The very last thing that could go wrong during your cruise? At the very last moment, your ship could be delayed, leading to a delayed arrival at your homeport.

Cruise Ships in Miami
Photo Credit: richard pross / Shutterstock

For this reason, just like we suggested you plan to stay the night in your homeport before the cruise starts, we’re also suggesting you plan to stay the night in your homeport after the cruise ends. That will give you a little buffer time, so you don’t miss your flights home.

Even if the cruise arrives back at the homeport on schedule, still keep in mind that it can take hours for everyone on the cruise ship to make it through immigration. If you have only a small window of time between the cruise ship arriving back home, and your flight, you could very likely miss your flight.

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