What to do if a travel delay causes you to miss your cruise

Traveling to your cruise might require you to fly to the embarkation port, unless you’re lucky enough to live close to your cruise port and you can drive.

This summer, travel delays seem to be increasing more common with horror stories of travelers getting stranded in the airport for hours with cancelations and delays.

Most of this is due to the 2022 summer travel chaos with unprecedented demand for travel, but these kinds of delays can happen at any time when you are flying.

Best Practices


The best way to handle a travel delay is to avoid it entirely by allocating plenty of time to get to your cruise. It’s best practice to fly into your cruise port at least one day before your cruise leaves.

In fact, these days, you might want to consider flying even two days beforehand. This gives you buffer time for any delays or cancellations you might encounter at the airport, especially if you are flying a long distance or internationally to get to your cruise.

Additionally, we recommend taking direct flights when possible (even if it’s more expensive) and choosing the earliest flight of the day to give even more buffer time. The first flight of the day is less likely to get canceled or delayed while direct flights eliminate the chance of missing a connection.

It’s also a great idea to have travel insurance that covers trip delays or cancellations, which can reimburse unexpected trip costs. We always recommend travel insurance, but this couldn’t be more true these days with the travel chaos.

You should also know that there isn’t any wiggle room for when your cruise ship departs, as cruise lines keep ships on strict itineraries. When thousands of other passengers have plans for their cruise itinerary, even an hour delay can cause headaches for everyone onboard.

It only takes one painful experience of missing your cruise to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Even still, you can do everything right when it comes to travel planning and you can still find yourself in the worst case scenario – missing your cruise departure.

Take Immediate Action

The minute you realize that you won’t be able to make your cruise, take action as soon as possible. The more time you have on your side, the more likely you can make lemonade from lemons and salvage your cruise vacation.

Suppose your flight is now delayed and you won’t make it on time. If you are able to get on a different flight, you could consider flying into an alternative airport to still make your cruise.

airport phone

Check alternative airlines that might have flights to the same destination. For example, Melbourne and Daytona Beach are close to Port Canaveral while Fort Lauderdale is close to Miami. Other airports include Tampa and Jacksonville in Florida to consider as well.

You could consider renting a car and driving to the port, or a nearby airport, to make it to your cruise in time. Be sure to exhaust any option you can think of.

Regardless, the quicker you take action, the more time you give yourself to figure something out. If weather is causing cancellations and delays, lamentable you might not have as many options.

Plane delay

You’ll probably find long lines when a flight is delayed or canceled. Get on the phone or chat with your airline or travel agent ASAP while you wait in line to see what your options are.

Call the Cruise Line

When you encounter travel delays, be sure to give your cruise line a call to tell them about your situation. While they might not be able to move mountains, the cruise line has resources to help you figure out next steps when you find yourself in a delayed travel situation.

For example, Royal Caribbean has an Emergency Travel Team (ETT) to discuss options in these worst case travel scenarios. Passengers can call the emergency travel line when faced with unfortunate travel delays or cancellations. Norwegian Cruise Line also has an emergency specialist team that can help you strategize next steps in the case of travel delay.

royal caribbean aerial

Those who booked flights with the cruise line might also have additional protection and benefits, especially with carrier-caused delays. When you book airfare through the cruise line, they often provide free protection because they are invested in your cruise purchase. Some cruise lines even guarantee you will make the cruise ship’s departure and if not, will provide accommodations and transportation to bring you to the ship’s location.

Booking through the cruise line can also include benefits that reimburse costs incurred from unexpected delays and “catch-up” accommodations. In this case, contacting the cruise line should be one of the first steps you take when experiencing a trip delay.

Fly to the First Port

While certainly not an ideal scenario, you might be able to fly to the cruise ship’s first port of call. You’ll miss the first or second day of the cruise in this case, but it’s better than missing your cruise vacation entirely.


With proper documentation, the cruise line might allow guests to have the option of meeting the cruise ship at its first port of call. Be sure to keep as much documentation as possible. Because of US maritime laws regarding passenger transport and foreign port requirements, not everyone will be allowed to meet up with the cruise ship.

However, if you can contact the cruise line and confirm you are able to fly to the first port, it might be worthwhile. Depending on the total cost of your cruise, spending the money to meet up with the cruise ship can outweigh the cost of missing your cruise vacation entirely.

File Insurance Claims

So, you’ve exhausted all of your options and you aren’t able to make it to your cruise. It’s okay to have a small pity party because we know how frustrating travel issues can be, especially when you’ve spent money on your cruise vacation and it turns out to be a flop.

If you have any sort of travel insurance, start the process of filing a claim with the insurance company. While some policies are more limiting than others, you should be able to get your money back for the cruise when you experience a travel delay or interruption.

insurance claims

Also, if you have a high end travel credit card (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum), you have built-in coverage if you purchased the flight using your premium credit card. This could provide some reimbursement for the loss of your trip because of a flight delay or cancellation.

As we mentioned, travel insurance is always a good idea to protect your investment and provide some financial relief when worst comes to worst.

Know Your Airline Rights

If you find yourself stuck at the airport because the airlines delayed or canceled your flight, make sure you know what your rights as an airline passenger.

Under the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, passengers who have a canceled flight are entitled to a refund, regardless of whether the passenger takes the flight or not. The airline will likely try to book you on a later flight or even on a different airline, which aligns with their obligation.

Compensation is also required when a passenger is bumped from one flight to another.

You can always ask the airline for additional compensation if you need to stay in a hotel or rent a car. Depending on the airline, most will provide reimbursement of the burden for needing to stay in a hotel or rent a car if the delay is non-weather related.

For the inconveniences caused by the airline, some will provide discounts or loyalty miles to disgruntled passengers. Passengers

Finally, airlines will always try to give you a flight voucher instead of refunding your money. If you are eligible for a full refund and that’s what you prefer, be prepared to take a stance and demand the refund from the airline in the original form on payment.