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Cruising: Expect The Unexpected

A free extra night at sea may not sound too bad, but when you expect to reach a port on a certain date – and have booked shore excursions or even flights based on that plan – those extra 24 hours could be a lot less welcome.

That’s what happened to passengers on board the MSC Musica on 24 January 2019 when unusually strong winds prevented the cruise ship from entering Cape Town’s port.

The 2,550-passenger ship remained at sea overnight, finally berthing the following morning once conditions were calmer.

Fortunately, in this case most passengers were sailing on to Durban, but anyone set to disembark and catch connecting flights on the 24th would have had a lot of cancellations and rescheduling to deal with. Even with a short stop in Cape Town, many passengers missed out on shore excursions, visits with friends and family, and various other plans.


What would you have done?

Your cruise insurance policy should cover unexpected delays due to inclement weather, but always check your policy wording and ensure that your potential requirements would be covered.


A few things to consider:

·         If you have booked flights and accommodation after your cruise, would your policy cover the costs of new flights and the unused accommodation?

·         Would you have any additional on-board expenses if you were to be delayed overnight?

·         Would you have enough medication with you for an extra few days? This is yet another reason to pack extra medication when you travel!


Is this a big risk?

While longer delays to entering a port are relatively infrequent, weather-related berthing delays can happen almost anywhere, lasting anything from a few hours up to a few days.

In 2015, a Carnival cruise liner spent an extra 2 days at sea with 40-foot waves, unable to enter Sydney harbour. A more common delay, such as the 90-120 minute delay of a Viking cruise ship berthing in New Zealand earlier in January 2019, can still disrupt plans significantly.

At the end of the day, it’s always worth being prepared and financially protected.


Anything is possible

Just in case you were in any doubt as to Mother Nature’s ability to cause unexpected chaos, those Cape winds caused a very different danger and disruption just a few days after the MSC Musica docked. On 28 January, a fire on a mountainside close to the city centre quickly spread to engulf much of popular Lions Head mountain in just a few hours, fanned by those strong winds.

The fire was contained overnight, but some residents and visitors evacuated (on the advice of a private security company) and a number of roads were closed during and after the fire for safety.

It’s wonderful to know that in many cases there are plans and safety measures in place to prevent injuries. Even if we aren’t directly affected our plans can easily be derailed – but that’s something we can easily be prepared for.