Short answer: You may be on your own to get to the next port
This is when I am going to plug travel insurance. In a situation like this, travel insurance would save you time, money, and much grief. Check the credit card you put your cruise on, as they may provide some sort of travel insurance. You can then by supplemental to fill in gaps.
Missing a US port to another US port
If you miss your ship out of a US port and your next stop is another US port, you will not be able to board there. This may become a problem if you are sailing from Miami to Key West. While it is only a few hour drive to the next port, the cruise ship will not be allowed to let you on if you missed Miami.
Missing while in port
Another common concern is missing the ship while in port. I highly recommend being at least an hour early returning to the ship from any self-planned excursions to allow for traffic or any other issues.
Any reputable excursion company will make sure you are back in time or should provide services to get to the next port. Word of mouth is gold in this industry and the last thing they want is to be known as an excursion that misses the boat. No one would ever use them again!
If you use a cruise line approved excursion, the ship will wait as long as it can for you to return. If there is an incident where they are not able to wait, the cruise line will get you to the next port of call. While not the norm, this happened while the Carnival Horizon was in Europe. There was a horrible accident that held up a few excursions. The ship did not have permission to stay in port, so had to move to the next. Carnival was in contact with all passengers and they met up with the ship the next day.
Just be smart
All in all, missing the ship is uncommon. Take common sense precaution, such as:
- Check your daily guide for time you need to be back on the ship.
- Ask a crew member to double check the time you need to be back on.
- Take an excursion that gives you a good buffer to get back on the ship.
- Do not change your watch or cell phone. Sometimes cell phones update automatically, be aware of this.
- Save shopping in port until you return, that way if you don’t have time to shop you will not miss much.