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Mistakes To Avoid So You Don’t Miss Your Cruise

Girl missed her cruise ship

Your documents are your most valuable “accessory” when taking a cruise so don’t worry about the camera batteries, sunscreen, and phone chargers. None of these are useful if your documents are not in order and you are denied boarding. Double-check and triple-check your travel documents and keep them together in a safe place. Here is a list of mistakes to avoid so you don’t miss your cruise. 

If you’re a first-time cruiser, checking into and departing a cruise is much different than taking an all-inclusive vacation. Get educated on what to do before your cruise to make the process go smoothly.

No Documents For Children

Children like parents do need a passport today. It’s also imperative to note the rules of a child traveling with just one parent or with someone other than their parents. Most countries now require a Child Travel Consent Letter. This letter notifies authorities that the parent or legal guardian has given consent for the child to travel without them. This rule was brought about to prevent child abduction.

The travel consent letter must contain the dates of travel, who the child is traveling with, and where they are going to. Each incident of travel requires a new document. If your documents are not in order, you will miss your cruise.

No Passport Or Expired One

Almost every cruise you take requires a passport. Only the US closed-loop cruises do not necessarily need one, but you will need proof of citizenship. Make sure your passport is valid long before you sail.


Citizens of some countries traveling to the United States will require an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). If you have not done this before arriving at the cruise terminal, come early, so you have plenty of time to complete this.

The ESTA was introduced in 2010, yet some people are unaware it exists. I remember arriving at the cruise terminal soon after its implication and didn’t know about the ESTA. I was ushered to a computer terminal to complete my online form. The line-up of people needing to complete an ESTA was long. With only one working computer (the others were broken),  it took 1-1/2 hours to have my turn. Fortunately, I arrived early and did not miss my cruise.

Additionally, residents of Canada who travel with a permanent residency card can only enter the United States if their card has more than 6 months left before renewing.

Same Day Flight

Don’t take a same day flight

If you are sailing from a port overseas or far from home, is it worth the stress of flying in hours before your cruise to save on a night in a hotel? If you are flying quite a distance or changing flights, my advice would be to arrive at least a day earlier. With multiple flights, there are the risks of delays which lead to missed connections. Saving one night in a hotel could cost you your whole vacation.

If you miss your cruise, you have the added headache of then flying to its next stop to get on board. In the end, the money-saving decision costs more, much more. Even if you arrive at the terminal late and your ship is there, you may still be denied boarding. Ships are required to provide a passenger manifest to the port authority by a particular time. After submission, no one else can board the boat.

If you booked your airline ticket with your cruise line, there is no need to worry. The cruise line will guarantee you get on board. Your cruise line will fly you to the next port, all expenses paid should the worst happen.

Forgotten Medication

Remember your medication

If you require medication daily, make sure to bring it with you in your carry-on. Packing it in your suitcase is a foolish mistake. Lost medication packed in luggage cannot be replaced before departure.

While there is a doctor on board your ship, that doctor is only qualified to perform minor procedures and cannot write prescriptions. Furthermore, there is no pharmacy on board either.

You Are Sick

Cruise lines are always on the lookout for the Norovirus or Covid-19 which are highly contagious. All passengers must fill out a health questionnaire before booking their cruise ship. Be aware that if you say yes to having diarrhea or vomiting within the last 48 hours, you WILL be denied entry. If you are sick due to food poisoning or something you ate, keep it to yourself. Being honest will not serve you well in this situation.

Medical check
Don’t be sick

I suffer from Celiac disease and IBS and frequently arrive at the cruise ship terminal with an upset stomach due to anxiety and worry that I may have forgotten something. If I were honest in filling out those health questionnaires, my days of cruising would be long gone.

Should you show any signs of fever or test positive for Covid-19, you will be denied boarding on embarkation day. Adults are required to have CDC emergency use Covid-19 vaccines and not showing proof, may result in a missed cruise.

Same Name

Make sure the name on your travel documents matches that of your passport. Newlywed and booking a honeymoon cruise? Be sure your cruise booking is in your maiden name if you haven’t changed your passport yet. Traveling with a marriage certificate will sometimes be accepted as proof of name change, but it’s not a guarantee. Be wise, so you aren’t denied.

Don’t shorten your name when booking. If your legal name is Michael, don’t book as Mike. Your travel documents must match your passport, word for word.

Book in the name of your documents

Not Owning A Passport

Close loop cruises are cruises that start and end in a US port. While it’s not required to have a passport on a closed-loop cruise, it’s smart to have one anyway. Imagine missing your ship on a port day and being stuck in a foreign country WITHOUT a passport. The logistics of getting home would be a nightmare.


Some destinations or ports you stop at will require visas from passengers coming from certain countries. It’s your responsibility to check whether you need such a document. Even if you don’t plan to go ashore in that port, you are still required to get a visa. Cruise lines can deny you the right to board without a visa. There are a few countries that allow you to stay on board without a visa, but those are few and far between.

Age Requirement

If you do not meet the age requirement, you will be denied boarding. Carnival Cruise has a rule that anyone under the age of 21 must be accompanied by someone over the age of 25.


Pregnant woman
Cruise until your 24th week of pregnancy

Many cruisers have a policy that denies women who are pregnant. These rules vary from cruise line to cruise line. With Carnival Cruises, you can cruise up until your 24th week of pregnancy. Check with your travel agent and cruise company about their policies before booking your cruise.

Believe it or not, passengers are denied boarding more than you can imagine. Many arrive unprepared and often don’t know what documents are required. DON’T be one of them! While cruise ships will work very hard with you to get you onboard, ultimately, it’s up to you to provide what the authorities need. A missed opportunity can result in a missed vacation. 

Happy travels ~ Karen

Taking a cruise? Don't be denied boarding. Mistakes to avoid so you don't miss your cruise ship helps you know what you need, know the rules and have the right documents.

Renuka Walter

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

Very useful article. I didn't know many of the things that one should be careful about before going on a cruise.

Forever Karen

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

I'm glad you found my article useful. It's amazing how many people miss their cruise because they don't have the right documents, etc. Happy travels ~ Karen