Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are at the cruise port, but your ship is not there?

Well, I have and I must tell you it is not fun at all. In fact, it is scary and very, very, very stressful.

This happened to me a few years ago. I booked a cruise around Japan and was very much looking forward to it. I love Asia. I am fascinated by the architecture and culture as it is so different from the Western World.

When I booked the cruise, the itinerary stated as departure port Tokyo (Yokohama). These are two different cities and both have a cruise port. Yokohama is about one hour away from Central Tokyo by train. Thus, it is not around the corner.

Royal Caribbean

Many cruise itineraries have these ambiguous itinerary port descriptions. There is Berlin (Warnemuende) or Bangkok (Laemchabang). These can be confusing and misleading sometimes. You would think that the cruise goes to Berlin or Bangkok. However, this is not the case as the cruise will actually stop in Warnemuende or Laemchabang and from there you can get to these famous cities that are often a few hours away from the cruise port by coach.

So, I was thinking that the ship would sail from Yokohama. I decided to visit Yokohama for a few days before the cruise and booked a hotel close to the cruise port.

When I received my cruise documents, the embarkation port description changed. All of a sudden it said Yokohama (Tokyo). I was slightly confused and decided to call the cruise line to clarify if the cruise was leaving now from Tokyo. I was reassured that the ship would depart from Yokohama.

I went to Yokohama and had a lovely time. I went to bed the night before my cruise, looking forward to the time on board, the new ship and all the ports I was about to explore.


The pier in Yokohama has a webcam and people can see and watch the ships from the comfort of their home, or in my case hotel room. On the day of the cruise my partner and I decided to check out the ship from the webcam.

But, there was no ship. We could not believe it.

It was 10 am and there was no ship in the port. The ship should have arrived 8 am in the morning, but nope, no ship.

What do you do in this situation?

Well, first have a small meltdown for a few minutes and then pull yourself together. That is what I did. It was early in the morning and we had plenty of time to figure out what to do and how to get to the ship.

The most logical explanation was that the ship was really docked in Tokyo. We had internet in the hotel room and looked up how to get to the main cruise terminal in the city. We packed our bag and took the next train back to Tokyo.


After a long train journey and a good hour of wandering around trying to find the cruise port, we experienced our second shock of the day.

The ship was not there either!

This was when I really started to freak out as we had no internet on the go and frankly we were out of ideas and started to run out of time. Where was the ship if it was not in neither of the cruise ports?

I went inside the cruise terminal hoping to find anyone who could help us. As there were no ships scheduled for the day, the terminal was empty. I wandered around for about 10 minutes before I managed to find someone.

I came across a really lovely lady, who did not speak a single word of English. I wanted to cry at that point. However, I had my cruise itinerary printed out with me, which I was able to show her. In the end, I managed to somehow make her understand with good old sign language what my problem was. She took me by the hand, took me outside and made a phone call.

She called a cab, actually she called a few cabs, because it turned out we were not the only once who had the incorrect information about the cruise port.

I had no idea really if she knew what she was doing, but time was ticking. We only had 1,5 hours left before the cruise was supposed to leave and we had no clue where the ship was anyways. We just had to put our faith into this woman and trust that she knew what she was doing.

It turned out, she was an angel send from heaven. We made it in time for our cruise.

Ship in Container Port in Tokyo

It turned out the ship was docked in the container port in Tokyo, but lots of guests were not informed properly about this. We were supposed to sail off 4 pm, but were still boarding guests around 5.30 pm.

It was one of the most stressful experiences I had during a holiday, but in the end it turned out alright.

Lessons I learned:

  • Make sure you have plenty of time to get to the port – arrive a few hours before the ship departs to be on the safe side
  • If you can, contact the cruise line and tell them about your situation and seek advice
  • If you have no phone and no internet, speak to people around you such as hotel receptionist, people at the information desk in airports, or in my case the lady in the cruise terminal and see if anyone can help you
  • Have a copy and/or print out of your documents with you
  • Most importantly – stay calm. This is not the end of the world and there is most of the time a solution

Have you ever experienced anything similar?

How did you handle the situation and cope with it?

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