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How Late Will a Cruise Ship Wait for You? Here’s What a Captain Says.

On a cruise, travelers have the freedom to experience multiple destinations on one trip with port stops where they can exit the ship and explore a new place.

But cruise ships run on a tight schedule, often only allotting passengers around seven or eight hours for a one-day stop, sometimes even less. This leaves many to wonder, what happens if you’re running late getting back to the ship?

Will the captain wait for you?

The answer is maybe.

On a recent cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seasthe largest cruise ship on the world, Insider attended a Q&A with Captain Rob Hempstead, where he answered this very question.

Hampstead, who’s been a Royal Caribbean captain for 17 years, started his career in Alaska’s fishing industry, where he fished for 14 years before becoming a captain. Before Wonder of the Seas, Hampstead served as captain of seven other Royal Caribbean ships, including Oasis of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas

The most stressful parts of a cruise for the crew are getting out of the ports on time, he said, “Because the faster we go, the more fuel we have to burn.”

Some people come late, and as a result, are left behind, he added.

However, this does not mean he will not wait for you, you just need to know what to do.

Two cruise ships docked at CocoCay

Two cruise ships docked at Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas – CocoCay.

Joey Hadden / Insider

When will a cruise ship wait for passengers?

There are two instances in which the ship will wait. The first, is if you’re late returning from a cruise-line organized excursion. Since the excursion is supposed to only take place within the allotted port time, the ship will wait for passengers coming from a cruise line excursion that’s running late.

However, if you’ve spent the day independently on your own, there are certain steps you must take to make sure you’re not left stranded.

If you’re behind schedule, call the ship agent to alert the cruise that you’re running late, he said. On Royal Caribbean cruises, this number can be found at the bottom of Cruise Compass, a daily flyer all passengers receive in their stateroom each day detailing the day’s activities.

The agent may also be referred to as a port agent, according to a copy of Cruise Compass obtained by Insider.

A copy of Royal Caribbean's Cruise Compass on an orange background with a red arrow pointing to the port agent information

A Cruise Compass with port agent information.

Joey Hadden / Insider

Whether or not the ship can wait for you, however, will depend on how late you’ll be, he added.

“If I know you’re 10 minutes away, I can make an educated decision about whether or not we can wait,” Hampstead said. “We will wait if we can.”

Of course, if that’s you, you’ll have to run up the dock to the ship with many passengers watching, wondering what’s holding up the departure, as they quickly realize it was you. Instead, always plan your day with ample time to return to port, or better yet, book your excursions through the cruise line.

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