June 13, 2021

Missing your cruise ship in the Mediterranean

One way you don’t want to get back to your ship – by pilot boat.


One of the most discussed issues for cruise passengers is whether to take a ship-organized shore excursion at the ports of call or strike out on your own. This is not a simple issue, because each port is different and everyone has their own idea what they want to see and do while in port. My usual choice for visiting a city located some distance from the cruise port is to take a ship’s shuttle if available. This way I can explore the sights on my own without any worry about getting back to the ship. Cruise ships are very punctual about departing on time and will delay their departure only if one of their excursions hasn’t returned. Everyone else is responsible for returning to the ship on time.
I learned this lesson the hard way in Egypt, where my husband Bill and I spent the day touring Cairo independently, then nearly missed our ship docked in Alexandria. We arrived back at the port as the ship, having pulled away from the dock, was steaming out of the harbour. Amid frantic shouting and arm waving, we paid the crew of the pilot boat to take us out to our ship. As we pulled alongside the moving ship, a maintenance door several decks above us opened and a jacob’s ladder came tumbling down. I grabbed the ladder first and climbed up the side of the hull. Two crewmen at the top of the ladder eagerly helped me aboard where a waiting ship’s officer greeted me with the words, “I’ll need to see your cruise card.”

I was still a bit shaken by this near-miss when we decided to take the train from the port of Civitavecchia into Rome. We spent a full morning and early afternoon visiting famous sites and walking the streets of Rome before returning to Termini station to catch the train back to port. All seemed well until the train ground to a halt just outside the Vatican. As the minutes ticked by we waited nervously for the train to start moving again. Finally, after a 30-minute delay, Bill and I figured we had to do something. Some fellow cruise passengers were on the train and it was decided that we would all wait another ten minutes before getting off the train and hiring enough taxis to get us all back to the ship. Fortunately the train started moving a few minutes later and we arrived at the port with just minutes to spare.

About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.