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If you're late getting back to your cruise ship, expect to be jeered and cheered


Cruise ships operate on a tight schedule and have strict all-aboard times for guests. If you delay your return, you may have to sprint down the pier in a desperate attempt to catch your ship before it sets sail. Known as "pier runners," the frantic dash serves as a reminder of the consequences of spending too long in port; however, it's also a spectacle for those onboard. 

Many passengers will flock to the lido deck hoping to see a pier runner in action. As they approach the ship, spectators will cheer for them. It's a harmless practice and brings a sense of camaraderie among those onboard, as they collectively root for the straggling guests to return on time. 

Some passengers, however, aren't fans of cheering for pier runners. "It is always fascinating when people get upset with the Ship and then with me because they were late back and were applauded and cheered as they entered the Pier Runners Society," wrote John Heald, Carnival Cruise Line's Brand Ambassador on Facebook.


"It must feel awful, but when you’re late back to the ship, because you 'lost track of time' it really is not feasible for us to tell the thousands of other [guests] please don’t applaud. Please don’t cheer."

Since sharing his thoughts on Facebook, the post has received over 3,000 comments, many of which support applauding pier runners. 

"I yell out to them 'Last one on buys a round for the whole ship!' If Carnival adopted this as official policy, everyone would be on board half an hour before sailing," said Tom Ketchum


Christine Cruz wrote, "Making fun of pier runners is the main reason I get a balcony. Hubby and I grab a pizza, a beer, and get our cameras and best jeers ready."

"It's a tradition to cheer and yell at the pier runners. It's all meant in [If] you don't like it don't be late," wrote Deborah Lembcke

"I am on the lido deck with a great seat and my drink enjoying the show and cheering them on lol. They should be more considerate if they don’t want to be part of the show," Celia Harper explained. 


One day later, Heald made another post joking about pier runners, stating effective immediately, all stragglers would board the ship to the main theme of Chariots of Fire playing on the PA system. 

"Awesome!!!!!" commented Chris O'Rourke, "That'll be a great queue for us to make our way to the side of the ship to jeer them on."

Ruthann Hall Janssens added, "It was also be great if when pulling away they played something - like "So Long, Farewell" from Sound of Music!"

Pier runners may go as far as turning their return into a performance


TikTok user @babydaishaaa shared a video documenting two cruise passengers faking being left behind by the ship. Since being posted in April, the 48-second video has gone viral, having been seen over 20 million times and receiving 3.2 million likes, 2,800 comments, and 66,000 shares. 

"Two guys act like [they're] getting left and [didn't] make it on the carnival cruise," @babydaishaaa captioned the TikTok, "someone help me find these two guys they were sooooo funny." 

The video begins with two individuals sprinting towards the end of the pier, both throwing their hands in the air as if they were in disbelief. 


11 seconds in, she pans over to the first runner, who had dropped to their knees and was pounding the pier. The second runner laid flat on his stomach, acting like a child pitching a temper tantrum. 

Eventually, the pair turned around and began walking in the opposite direction, indicating they weren't trying to catch the departing ship. 

While she didn't reveal what ship she was sailing on, another video shared to her profile indicates that Emerli's Bistro 717 was onboard, which is exclusively on Carnival Jubilee, the newest ship in Carnival's fleet. 

What happens if you miss your cruise ship?


Returning to the ship on time is one of the cardinal rules of cruising. Ships adhere to strict schedules to ensure smooth operations. All-aboard times are clearly communicated to guests, starting with embarkation day. 

If you're flying on the day of departure, you risk missing the ship if your flight is delayed or canceled. You will be responsible for all the associated costs of catching the vessel in the next port, if allowed. Some itineraries don't permit late joiners, meaning that if you miss the ship's departure on embarkation day, you forfeit the entire cruise vacation, as the line won't issue a refund. 

Last year, a TikTok revealed a distraught passenger in Long Beach terminal's parking lot watching their ship sail away. User @alexisb639 was planning on embarking on a 5-night cruise onboard Discovery Princess; however, she claimed the Flagstaff airport messed up her flight, and she missed the ship's departure. Because of the airline error and her travel insurance policy, she was able to get a full refund, but that's not always the case. 

Read more: What happens if you miss your cruise ship 

delta flight

For those onboard, adhering to the all-aboard times during port visits is important. If you're worried about watching the ship sail away while stranded on the pier, consider booking an excursion directly through the cruise line. Those going off on their own should set alarms and keep up with the ship's time. Aim to be back onboard at least 45 minutes before the final call, giving yourself some wiggle room for unexpected delays. 

In March, Jill and Jay Cambell, a couple from Garden City, South Carolina, embarked on a Norwegian cruise around Africa; however, they were stranded after their independent excursion ran late in São Tomé and Príncipe. 

When they realized the tour was running longer than expected, they voiced their concerns to the tour operator, who assured them they'd contact the ship. Upon returning, the Captain refused to let them on board.

Read more: Should you book excursions through a cruise ship or separately?


As the Campbells were the only passengers in the group with a working credit card, they spent over $5,000 on food, accommodation, and toiletries for everyone. 

Since they didn't book the tour through Norwegian, they weren't obligated to wait for the late passengers. In fact, Norwegian issued the following statement placing the blame on stranded guests: “While this is a very unfortunate situation, guests are responsible for ensuring they return to the ship at the published time, which is communicated broadly over the ship’s intercom, in the daily communication and posted just before exiting the vessel."

The Campbells, along with four other Americans and two Australians, raced through seven countries in 48 hours to reboard their ship in Senegal. While they had hoped to re-board in Gambia, the ship was unable to dock due to low tides. 

Norwegian Dawn at sunset

In the end, a spokesperson for NCL confirmed the passengers would be reimbursed for the costs incurred while traveling from Gambia to Senegal: “Despite the series of unfortunate events outside of our control, we will be reimbursing these eight guests for their travel costs from [Banjul], Gambia to Dakar, Senegal,” as reported by the New York Post

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