‘I’m a cruise expert and your itinerary could change without much warning’

Choosing a cruise itinerary is exciting. Whether it’s island hopping in the Caribbean, city exploring in the Mediterranean or fjord adventures in Scandinavia, there’s a lot of choice out there for cruise passengers.

But tourists might be shocked to learn their itinerary could change before they leave or when they’re already at sea. Express.co.uk spoke to a cruise expert to find out why that might happen and what tourists can do if it does.

Anne Sutherland, travel expert at South Korea Travel Planning, told Express.co.uk: “As a seasoned traveller who’s been on more cruises than I can count, I’ve seen it all.

“And let me tell you, cruising is an adventure like no other. But, like any journey, it comes with its fair share of surprise.”

One of the main reasons a cruise ship might have to change its path is extreme weather. Hurricanes are particularly common in the Caribbean.

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Anne said: “The safety of passengers and the crew is paramount. Rough seas, hurricanes, or other adverse weather conditions can make it unsafe to dock at a particular port or even sail through certain regions. In such cases, the cruise line might decide to reroute to ensure everyone’s safety.”

If the weather has made sailing conditions unsafe, a ship will usually reroute to another port.

Anne added: “Sometimes, geopolitical situations in a particular region can make it risky for a cruise ship to dock. In the interest of passenger safety, the cruise line might decide to skip that port or replace it with another.”

Recently, many cruise lines have cancelled upcoming cruises with stops in Haifa Port in Israel due to the unrest in the region.

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If a passenger suffers a medical emergency onboard, the ship will usually have to divert to another port. Ships may also be blocked from unloading passengers if there’s a Covid outbreak onboard.

Anne said: “Especially in recent times, health concerns like outbreaks can lead to certain ports being closed off to prevent the spread of diseases.”

But what rights do passengers have if their planned cruise itinerary changes without much warning?

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Anne told Express.co.uk: “In rare cases, some cruise lines might offer compensation in the form of onboard credits, discounts on future cruises, or even partial refunds. Or if a port is skipped, the cruise line might arrange for an alternative port or offer additional onboard activities.

“It’s essential to be aware that many cruise ticket contracts have clauses that allow the cruise line to change itineraries. It’s always a good idea to read the fine print before booking. Investing in travel insurance that covers itinerary changes can offer passengers peace of mind and potential compensation.

“While changes to cruise itineraries can be disappointing, they’re often made with passengers’ safety and best interests in mind. It’s always a good idea to approach cruising with a flexible mindset, ready to embrace the unexpected adventures that come your way.”

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