How NOT to be a pier runner (and miss the cruise ship)

How NOT to be a pier runner (and miss the cruise ship)

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Don’t miss the ship – How NOT to be a Pier Runner

Is it just me, or do there seem to be more Pier Runners, and even people are actually missing the cruise ship these days?

It seems every week when I’m scrolling through Facebook or watching YouTube, I am seeing stories of couples and even families missing their cruise ship.

Now, we all might laugh a little at cruise ship pier runners (it can be really funny), and even wonder, “how in the heck did they not know the time to be back?”. But none of us wants that kind of YouTube fame ;-).

In reality, missing a cruise ship is a very rare occurrence – but we still we don’t want this happening to you or me, right? In this post, we’ll go through 5 things that you can do to make sure you don’t miss your cruise ship and practical precautions you can take.

Don't miss the ship

5 Actual things to do so you don’t miss the cruise ship!

1. Be aware of your ship’s “all aboard” time and what time your cruise ship is leaving the cruise port

The most important information you need to know before you go off for the day, is “What time do I need to be back?”.

You can do this is by checking your daily planner, which is often delivered to your cabin the previous evening. Check your cruise planner in the morning before you leave the ship.

Secondly, look for the sign on the gangway as you depart the ship.

Often cruise ships will post a placard or sign that shows the all aboard time as you are leaving the ship. Look for that and confirm your info.

Caution: Don’t rely on original cruise itineraries as there may have been a time change that occurred (it happened to at least one pier runner that did miss the ship due to this!).

2. Know what the “Ship Time” is

Sometimes your cruise ship may have all passengers change the time back or forward an hour to match an upcoming cruise port. They will notify you in the daily planner or leave a little printed note in your cabin. The Cruise Director may mention this in a daily announcement as well.

However, there are times when the ship’s time will be different from the island time. For example. your cruise ship’s time may be 10 am, but the time is Jamaica may be 9 am. Some Caribbean islands have Daylight Savings Time and some don’t. So, the time can be an hour later during some months.

This can get confusing while you’re at a cruise port and can result in people getting a bit mixed up and unwittingly missing their cruise ship, due to being an hour or more off!

So, what can you do?

A good cruise tip that many seasoned cruisers use is to bring along an inexpensive simple watch, that is kept on ship’s time. If you’re planning for your cruise and keeping an Amazon cruise shopping list, perhaps add this on.

Otherwise, just make sure that you are aware – keep in mind that your iphone may adjust to local time when you take it off airplane mode. Watch out for this.

how not to be a pier runner
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3. Book a cruise line excursion

This one’s a pretty easy solution, and that’s the idea. Booking a cruise ship excursion does cost a little more, but they have a guarantee that the ship will wait for you if your excursion is late.

This is something to seriously consider if you’re doing a long outing or if you have to take ferries and buses to get back to the ship. If an attraction is very far from the ship, it does make it harder to return if there’s traffic or a bus breaks down.

We’ve had an occasion where we were at least 45 minutes late on a ship excursion, and in any other circumstance I would have been freaking out! If you’d like to hear about what happened and how this is dealt with by the cruise line, I talk about it in the YouTube video below.

4. Exercise caution when planning your own excursion

Not everyone takes the ship excursion, and the reality is you don’t always need to.

Sometimes there are beaches close by to the cruise port and you can take a cab or shuttle inexpensively. Other times there may be a tour you really want to do in a smaller group, and the idea of riding on a coach bus with 50 other people isn’t your ideal way of traveling.

So what can you do? Here are some practical tips that can help.

Firstly, do a little research to find out the best and most recommended things to do in your destinations. I like to start with the cruise line offerings, as they give a broad idea of the most popular things to do in a cruise port.

Once you’ve established what you most want to do, if it’s close by or if it can be done in a half day, do your excursion in the morning.

What we like to do is plan our day so that we leave in the morning, and then come back to the ship for a late lunch. This way we are back by 1 or 2 pm, and can spend the afternoon on the ship, or go back into the cruise port and do some shopping right near the ship.

5. Plan to be back 2 hours before the ship sets sail

If you’re not with on cruise line excursion, plan your day so that you are back about 2 hours before your ship departs or all aboard time.

By leaving yourself ample time, you won’t be in a panic if there’s some traffic or if your taxi is a bit late picking you up.

A few years ago, we went on our own to Magen’s Bay in St. Thomas. We actually chose to do it on our own as the ship beach excursion seemed a bit limited on time spent at the beach. Since we had been before,we knew it was only about 20 minutes from the cruise ship and there were many taxis and shuttles available.

Well, on our way back to the ship, there was so much traffic on that one main road returning to the port. Our driver took some “short-cuts” into the town streets and up some hills. To say this was a relaxing sight-seeing drive would be untrue, lol.

What should have taken about 20 minutes, took well over an hour. However, we had more than 2 hours to spare before we needed to be back on the ship. Thank goodness, as otherwise we would have really cut it close!

Giving yourself extra time is a wise decision if you don’t want to see yourself in one of the infamous Pier Runner YouTube videos! If you’re like me, missing the ship is your worst nightmare!

Pier-runners – Couple Misses their Cruise Ship YouTube video

What precautions should you take when getting off the ship at a cruise port, in case things don’t go as planned?

No one plans for something to happen, so taking a few precautions in case you run into a problem or have an emergency is smart.

1. Have your cruise ship port information with you

Often the cruise ship will provide you with a very simple map and guide for the destination. On that paper usually the cruise ship port and telephone number is listed. Keep this paper with you in case you do run into a problem and need to get in touch with the ship or port authority.

2. Take a photo of your passport

In some cases you may bring a government issued ID with you, and you may leave your passports in the cabin safe.

As a tip, take a photo of everyone’s passport and email them to someone, even to yourself. If you run into a problem and need to access your passport information (and have lost your phone), you’ll be able to.

3. Have a credit card with you

Even if you don’t plan to use it, have a credit card with you in case you need to access money. Emergencies can happen, so better safe than sorry.

4. Have some extra cash with you

Even if you’ve booked a ship excursion and don’t think you’ll need money, have some cash with you just in case.

You never know when you’ve arranged for a taxi or tour company to pick you up at a certain hour, and they don’t show up. Things can happen and having a few dollars with you can save the day!

5 tips to make you don't miss your cruise ship
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Recap: How not to be a Pier Runner – don’t miss the cruise ship

The best way to avoid being a pier-runner is really just to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. In this post we’ve gone over how to plan your days in your ports of call, to minimize any risk of coming back late and missing your cruise ship.

I hope that this has been helpful as you plan your cruise and days in port. Check out these posts for cruise destination planning if you’re heading to these ports. They are filled with extra cruise tips! Things to do in Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bermuda, and Boston.

How do you plan your days when in a cruise destination? Do you prefer to book a ship excursion or visit on your own? 

Happy Cruising!


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