London - Do not assume you will necessarily visit all the ports of call advertised on a cruise’s itinerary.
Earlier this year, Jane and Antony Miller sailed from Bristol on a seven-night Scottish Islands and Emerald Isle trip with Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
It was scheduled to call in at Stornoway on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, and Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, using the ship’s tenders to ferry passengers ashore. However, due to poor weather, the cruise didn’t make these stops.
“The cruise missed out 40 percent of the ports. Although it was called Scottish Islands and Emerald Isle, it failed to reach any Scottish island,” says Jane.
Given that visiting the islands was the whole point of their going on the trip, the Millers sought compensation from Cruise & Maritime Voyages - but they got nowhere.
The operator said its small print made it clear all timings and berthings were subject to change, and that it was not liable to pay any compensation for factors beyond its control, such as bad weather.
That is pretty much the stance of any cruise line.
In the booking conditions, you’ll find something to the effect that there is no guarantee the ship will call at every port on the itinerary, and the captain may change or skip ports of call if this is deemed necessary.
If one port is swopped for another or replaced with a day at sea - whether to avoid a nasty storm or outbreak of civil unrest, for example, or even because of a logistical issue such as a problem with the ship’s engine - don’t expect any compensation from the cruise line.
That said, there’s no harm in asking for it. If nothing else, you may be offered a credit for a future cruise.
If you come down with a stomach bug, with vomiting or diarrhoea, the cruise company can insist you remain in your cabin until you are symptom-free to reduce the risk of the bug spreading.
If lots of other passengers have similar symptoms and are quarantined, it may be worth seeking compensation. Lawyers would need to prove the cruise line was negligent in its health and hygiene practices, and there have been successful, high-profile group actions.
However, if you alone fell ill, you probably won’t get anywhere with a claim.
Cruise lines wait for you if you book an excursion through the cruise company and it runs late. If your excursion has not been booked through the company and your ship sails off without you, you will need to foot the bill of getting to the next port.
Paying for a fly-and-cruise holiday as a package can make sense. If your flight is delayed and you miss the ship’s departure, you won’t have to pay the bill of getting to the vessel’s next stop.
Most of the main cruise lines automatically add a daily service charge for each person at the time of booking or to your bill on board. Despite this, in most cases the service charge is optional. Costa Cruises is the only line I know of where it is mandatory.
If you’d prefer to leave tips for individual staff, you should be able to opt out. Most crew members are paid low basic wages, so it is poor form not to tip in some way.
Some travel insurance policies have sections that provide extra cover for cruises. The provisions vary, but probably include cover for ports being skipped because of bad weather and cabin confinement due to illness.
You may also get cover for the transport and accommodation expenses incurred in rejoining your cruise if you’ve needed medical treatment on land or been delayed on a booked excursion.
The industry has a passenger bill of rights that largely covers circumstances arising from a ship’s mechanical failure. The bill should be displayed on websites.
Mail On Sunday