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Even Cruise Lines Changing Itineraries

It is not just the airlines making changes with flights.

I am cruising from Southampton to Lisbon mid October and received this email from Norwegian yesterday. (less than a month away)

"We always strive to deliver remarkable experiences for our guests, both onboard our ships and through our curated journeys to bucket-list destinations worldwide. While we truly do our best to maintain original itineraries as much as possible, unfortunately, at times modifications are made to accommodate certain circumstances. As such, due to port congestion, the itinerary has been revised as follows:"

There was time shaved off of three separate ports.

None of my excursions were affected but persons who chose to go to Paris from Le Havre may have to cancel their excursion. Equally true for those who have an excursion to Normandy.

Posted by
6492 posts

You wonder if the "congestion" is actually a shortage of port pilots and they are giving priority to time sensitive freight traffic. There is a huge freight port at Le Havre which stretches for miles.

That is one thing out of control of the cruise line.

Posted by
888 posts

None of my excursions were affected but persons who chose to go to Paris from Le Havre may have to cancel their excursion

Have to ask, who does this? I mean, what a nutty "excursion" to add on to a cruise...

Posted by
3205 posts

It’s only 2-3 hours from Le Havre to Paris, plus the loading and unloading from the ship.
It may be some people’s only chance to see even a little bit of Paris.
A long day, to be sure.

Posted by
888 posts

It may be some people’s only chance to see even a little bit of Paris.

That has to be a very small number of people who have never been to, or have never added on a longer stay, in Paris, if not on this. trip, on a previous trip. That would also suggest the scenario is someone who has booked a cruise as their first trip to Europe, or something like that. My gut tells me that would be highly unusual, a cruise as a first trip to Europe.

Those shore excursions get screwed up with traffic issues, bus breakdowns, and shortened port times due to a range of issues including ship mechanical problems, high winds in the port, and of course weather delays at sea...and those kinds of issues are common and regularly screw up shore excursions, particularly one with 5+ hours of ground transport needed.

Posted by
10308 posts

Happens all the time, always has and always will. We've had ports cancelled due to weather, we've had substitute ports, we've had sea days added onto our transatlantics, we've had emergency stops to offload critically injured passenger. Nothing new, but maybe it is for you if you have only cruised calm waters.

Posted by
6492 posts

Whether people on this forum agree or not is immaterial, but most lines advertise Le Havre as being Le Havre for Paris, just as they advertise Warnemunde/Rostock for Berlin, or Civitavecchia for Rome.

Lots of people go to Paris on such cruise excursions. it is a very lucrative business for the cruise lines.

If I was doing Paris for the day from Le Havre I would personally do it by train, but then I know exactly what I am doing in Paris and on SNCF. For those who don't then I don't knock them. Perhaps they have been to Paris before but on a tour, so are not confident on public transport.
Or, maybe for health reasons, they can't manage independent travel.
In reality there are a number of other things I can do by bus and/or train from Le Havre with ease (so I would see no need for Paris), but not everyone is that confident.
My standby from Le Havre would be Rouen- for the St Sever Cemetery, rather than the City Centre. The light rail in Rouen makes it a very easy city to get around. But for most people central Rouen is a great and easy alternative.

The same is true of Rostock for Berlin.

This is an example of why, if I am being independent at a port, I would never book anything ahead. Too much can and does change, as Bets says. My best example was the first time I was meant to go through the Kiel Canal- cancelled a few weeks beforehand because the line realised the ship was too tall for the bridges!! So we diverted round the top of Denmark instead.

Posted by
8538 posts

@Jojo rabbit. There are a large number of travelers on any cruise who only take cruises and rarely do land only travel. Your assumptions are incorrect. I’ve been a bit surprised by it myself. For these travelers, an 8 hour day trip to Paris from the ship is their “chance” to see a bit of Paris and it is a trip they look forward to. I would say that there is a large number of people who use a cruise as their first trip to Europe as well.

It may seem strange, but it meets the travel needs of a significant population.

Posted by
3303 posts

BP - If you're taking the British Airways flight from AUS to LHR, there's a good chance the flight will be delayed due to "gate congestion". On the day we left, the flight from LHR had to wait over an hour for the gate to open up - so our 2 hour layover at Heathrow became a much more stressful 1 hour connection.

The same thing happened to our return flight. One of the flight attendants told me that these delays happen all the time - there are too many flights and not enough gates.

Posted by
1955 posts

Jojo Rabbit

I chose NOT to sign up for the Paris Excursion. It is an extremely long day but for some people, thst was their choice.

It is like 2 1/2 hours each way by bus and then you get several hours in Paris going on a bus or a river boat or maybe free time. When I found out that it was almost 3 hours by bus each way, I gave up.

Plus there were not convenient bathroom stops or places to pick up some food. You can not take food or drinks off the cruise ship but they do sell you very expensive bottled water once you get off the ship.

I am doing Rouen.

For some people just seeing a little bit of Paris was vey important.

That's who does it.

isn31c mentioned Warnemunde/Rostock for Berlin. Well when I did.a Baltic Cruise, Berlin was offered as an excursion but that was from Warnemunde/Rostock and it took about 2 hours or so each way. But it was by train. There were bathrooms on the train and snacks but in some cases, there was no air conditioning and it got really hot and miserable. I chose another excursion. The people who went to Berlin LOVED it but they came back exhausted. Still none of them regretted going.

Posted by
1955 posts

isn31c

I am in a NCL chat room. One of the members is in the travel industry and he says this is now the new normal for NCL.

He said that every one of his cruises has had port changes and he feels there will be more before we sail oir even while we are sailing.

He said something about this happening because the ship did not sell out and NCL is trying to cut back on port fees and taxes

Posted by
6492 posts

That may well be the case, as some ports do charge by time. Strictly you should get a part refund on your port fees if that is the case, but you won't.

In the case of Le Havre I'm not so sure- there the fee seems to be charged by volumetric capacity. This is deeply boring reading and will send you to sleep very fast- but this is the port charges book for the port of Paris (of which Le Havre is a constituent part)- https://www.haropaport.com/sites/default/files/media/downloads/Brochure%20tarifaire%20droits%20de%20port%20du%20GPFMAS%202022_version%20GB_1.pdf

It is unusual to be able to get a hold of such detail.

Posted by
14580 posts

The comparison with Warnemünde/Rostock to Berlin as part of a cruise is apt. A friend of mine and his wife did exactly just that recently or just before Corona. They had no idea how to reach Berlin, had never been there, did not know what was involved time-wise, the practical logistics, etc. but were interested...good enough.

Bottom line...they did see Berlin during the limited time they had as part of this cruise. They got there by bus from Warnemünde. I saw their pictures taken in the Unter den Linden area, the Humboldt University, Brandenburg Gate, Pariser Platz, etc. This was most likely the best for them as they are seniors in their early 70s,

On the people taking the 4 hour r/t train ride to see Berlin, I would have done that too, did as much this time on some of the days trips from Paris, such as that to Bar-le-Duc.

Posted by
14580 posts

Admittedly, Rostock Hbf is not one of the easier train stations to get around quickly in my view, especially with luggage in tow. This was 10 years ago. Never did the Rostock to Berlin connection by train, only Rostock to Hamburg.

Posted by
1955 posts

If you look at the Norwegian itineraries, it says Berlin but then it has (Warnemünde/Rostock) in parenthesis. I was confused at first only to find out that we port in Warnemünde and then there is an excursion to Berlin which takes 2 or 3 hours each way. It is not like Berlin is 30 minutes away.

My memory is that there was a luxury train of some kind which was not used . The more basic train was used. If the luxury train was used, i might have reconsidered taking the excursion to Berlin. Instead I went to Schwerin Castle. I am glad that i went but I would have loved to go to Berlin

Even London / Southampton. Norwegian's itineraries read London (Southampton) . I am not sailing from London. I m sailing from Southampton which is around two hours away by bus or train.

And the one that I am now going on reads Paris (Le Havre). If you do not know better, you think that you are sailing from Paris or very close to Paris

Norwegian posts the incredible cities first followed by the ports in parentheses not telling you how far away the port is from the incredible city.

And as you or someone else pointed out the same goes with Rome (Civi)

Posted by
6492 posts

In Scotland Norwegian and other international lines call at Inverness (Invergordon), and Glasgow (Greenock).

The uninitiated would think Inverness, great. But big ships can't berth there, so they have to berth at Invergordon- a small town which is a one hour bus ride away.

One of the international lines (can't remember which) then shows next stop as Portree, with a straight line on the brochure map straight through Loch Ness/the Great Glen.

Clearly the ships have to route round the North of Scotland.

Glasgow is about 45 minutes from Greenock. From Greenock to Glasgow the River Clyde is tidal.

The luxury train from Warnemunde was probably the daily ICE train. I'm not sure if that still runs. Whereas there is the S bahn to Rostock, which is every 7 1/2 minutes in the peaks, then an hourly or thereabouts IC service from Rostock to Berlin.

Even Edinburgh can be Edinburgh (Rosyth), Edinburgh (North Queensferry), Edinburgh (Newhaven) or Edinburgh (Leith). The first is the wrong side of the Forth bridge, the 2nd and 3rd are tender ports a bus/tram (respectively) ride away. Only Leith is really Edinburgh but only small ships can get in there. At Rosyth you can't even walk out of the port.

Posted by
5048 posts

Norwegian posts the incredible cities first followed by the ports in
parentheses not telling you how far away the port is from the
incredible city.

As has been amply noted in previous ports, this is neither new, nor an uncommon practice nor limited to NCL. It happens in ports all over the world. Large ships simply can't enter some closer ports, or the cities are further away from the nearest port. But the actual ports ARE listed. If a passenger hasn't done their homework in advance of booking, and then objects to distances involved; well that's on them. In my experience, there are always alternate places to visit than the "incredible city".

As for itinerary changes- again this is nothing new; it happens quite regularly, and for a myriad of reasons. This is something experienced cruisers are aware can happen, and given the logistics of port planning, is not something the cruise lines would do on a whim.

Posted by
1955 posts

Hi C Jean

If you are new tp cruising, sometimes you do not realize that the incredible city is listed followed by the ports in parenthesis which are not always close to the incredible city. You will soon find out that this occurs. By the time that you book the excursion, you know about the time it takes you from port to incredible city.

When I did the Baltic, I went to Schwerin rather than Berlin. I was sorry to miss Berlin but did not feel that I could go the two or three hours each way so that I could get on a bus to spend several hours in Berlin.

Equally on this one coming up, I am choosing Rouen rather than Paris. I can not spend about 2 1/2 hours each way on a bus to and from Paris.

Thanks for the info. I have only sailed NCL so i can not compare different cruise lines. I only know what NCL does.

Posted by
2467 posts

@jugo rabbit. Nothing unusual with someone making their first visit to Europe a cruise. Two ( separate ) friends did so just last month

Posted by
1955 posts

Fred

I bet your friends loved Berlin but were they completely exhausted after the travels to and from.

Posted by
1955 posts

isn31c

I think that when I went to Stockholm, we ported about an hour away. But I think we took a ferry to where the Vasa Museum was from the port and I did take a bus back to the port after my tour of the Old City.

That was acceptable and ok.

Posted by
14580 posts

@ bostonphil7....True, they did find Berlin fascinating and so on. I did not mention anything about they felt exhaustion-wise, didn't ask about that and they did not mention anything regarding that either. Simply, I don't know.

They were excited in showing me their pictures on the phone as I was curious in seeing which sites they had taken pictures of. One of them was Bebelplaz, the site of the Nazi book burning, (the original Prussian name for that site having been changed after WW1).

Doing two hour each way aller-retour as a day trip to a place as a day trip is normal for me when I am desperate enough to see that town or a particular site which is not too difficult to access.

I rely on public transport, walking , or, as last resort, would get a taxi arranged through the Tourist Office to get me out to the place. Of course, one hour each way would be better. This trip seeing certain towns in France (Maubeuge, Soissions, Rouen, Orleans, etc) like that were done.

Posted by
480 posts

Cruising for us has been a great way to see “more” of Europe! We have done strictly land based travel also. And…We have returned to destinations after a cruise that we want to spend more time exploring. My opinion only….for all travel it’s helpful to do some homework. I love looking at maps and doing my own research. Many people obviously aren’t interested in doing that. I have so often found people who are honestly clueless and only see what is listed on an itinerary…not realizing what’s involved in the distance, time or various travel options or needs for excursions. I have observed frustration by those lacking that understanding of what’s involved.
But…I try extra hard to not be critical and need to remember how different we all are. I tell myself I am just glad they are along for the ride and willing to travel at all. So often people say to me they have no interest what so ever to travel to Europe…“To each his own”….as my mother at 93 still says.

Posted by
8210 posts

I was looking at March and April cruises out of Italy. There are plenty of MSC, Costa and ultra expensive cruise lines sailing out of there. But the fares were very expensive except on some MSC cruises.

I was really expecting more American based ships, but I assume they move over there for the Summer cruise season. Or, maybe they're changing their itineraries somewhat.

We've taken three Eastern Med cruises and taken a couple of repositioning cruises there from the U.S.

Posted by
4173 posts

A cruise may be someone's 1st introduction to Europe. Cruises may also be the only way some people ever go to Europe. Every single time I've mentioned going to Europe in the past 13 years the response has been, "Oh, are you going on a cruise?" When I say no and tell them a little bit about my plans, the response to that is silence.

But next year, I may be able answer yes to that question. I used to joke that I wasn't old enough to go on a cruise. 😉 I'll turn 78 in January, so I'm thinking next year may be the time for my 1st one.

River cruises to places where I haven't been are the only kind I was considering, but I was put off by the possibility of rivers being either too high or too low, making part of the trip be done by bus -- similar to the snafus mentioned in this thread and not exactly my vision of a river cruise.

Recent help from Forum participants has guided my research and I've definitely learned a lot in the past few months. As a result I've started to consider larger ship options, and so far the non-river places I might like to go are fortunately served by ships with only about 700 of my closest friends instead of thousands. 🥴

The other impediment to cruising for me was the fact that I'm a solo traveler and didn't want to pay double. It's amazing how many cruise lines with good itineraries have no options for solo travelers. But, Forum participants came to the rescue again with many great suggestions for solo cruisers. 👏

So thanks bostonphil7 for starting this discussion and to all others who have commented or will comment on the topic.

Posted by
1955 posts

Good Morning David from Alabama

I have always sailed Norwegian (ncl.com) because I sail solo and their large ships offer a lot of studio cabins for the solo traveler.

So I am most familiar with the Norwegian web site.

I went to the Norwegian web site and it seems that a few of their ships are leaving from Italy for April and May 2024. I did not check for 2025. There may be more. I did not see any for April 2024 but Norwegian and the other cruise lines are just bouncing back from COVID and cruises are planned one or two years in advance.

I also went to cruisecritic and there seem to be a lot of the more reasonably priced American lines offering cruises from Italy March and April 2024. Again I did not check for 2025 and there may be more.

PlumCruises has been suggested to me by members of this forum and there is also Vacations to Go.

I know what you mean by the more upscale and luxury cruise lines but sometimes you get so much more with these cruises that it makes the additional money worth it. If you call the more upscale and more expensive cruise lines and talk to a cruise consultant, you might find you get so much, it is more doable than you would expect just from reading the descriptions.

I would love to take a Virgin or Viking cruise but I can not afford one.

Posted by
1955 posts

Good Morning Lo from Tuscon

I was in the process of sending you a nice long reply but it has disappeared.

So let's try again.

I am 78 and getting ready to go on my eighth trip with Norwegian (NCL.com)

I love solitude and enjoy traveling alone. One of the reasons that I always sailed with Norwegian is that they offer studio cabins for the solo passenger. They were extremely revolutionary when they built the Epic with a lot of studio cabins for one person. And it worked.

Until then you had to pay double if you chose to or had to travel alone.

We solos are discriminated against in many ways and not just on cruise ships.

Norwegian has an activity director for the solos. They offer a solo lounge. Dinners and other fun things are planned for solos.

I can not tell you anything about the studio lounge or the solo activities. I never go. I should try it sometime but I am perfectly comfortable being alone. I meet so many wonderful people just walking around the ship and eating at the Garden Cafe (the buffet) and going on NCL excursions.

But I think you are going to make a lot of friends traveling by yourself.

I am excited because my next cruise is on. a small ship. Except for Pride of America, I have only been on the large ships but I got a reasonable deal on this one.

I suggest calling several cruise lines. They will love to talk to you.

I know that Royal Caribbean has cabins or deals for the solo passenger. Holland American might but you have to call. It is not always easy to find out what cruise lines offer the solo passenger because most cabins are based on double occupancy

Posted by
6492 posts

@ Lo- are the American river cruises more reliable than European ones for water levels?

Posted by
6631 posts

Interesting and wide ranging discussion above. We've done lots of NCL cruises and generally been happy with them, though not without some problems. A few years ago we'd booked Miami-Southampton and then a coastal round trip to Spain and Portugal, but they canceled both cruises a few months ahead. The scuttlebutt on Cruise Critic was that they'd chartered the ship to some group instead of following through on their schedule. That didn't go over well, and we ended up with different cruises on another line. We've also had trips where a port got cancelled or times got adjusted because of mechanical issues affecting ship speed or some other situation. When NCL cancels a port, they provide a credit to your onboard account as a form of compensation (soon to be drunk up or tipped away). When they cancel a cruise of course they refund whatever you've paid them. I'm sure the same happens with other lines.

I agree that those who don't look at a map before spending thousands on a cruise may be surprised to learn that LeHavre isn't Paris and Warnemunde isn't Berlin. My sympathies for them are very limited. We've been to both ports and taken excursions to Rouen and Rostock, which were fine. On a Baltic cruise, we met a couple who took a train from St. Petersburg to Moscow and back in one day, just to get a glimpse of Moscow -- on their own, not a ship-sponsored excursion. They reported having a fine time, but they were Australians -- upbeat risk-takers making the most of their opportunity. ;-)

Posted by
888 posts

River cruises to places where I haven't been are the only kind I was considering, but I was put off by the possibility of rivers being either too high or too low, making part of the trip be done by bus

I have seen cruise boats stranded by high water (Avignon in April, water too high to pass under bridges - days of trip lost, eventually people were ferried via bus to some other place on the itinerary), and by low water levels (Rhine River in August). Never affected me personally as I have never taken a river cruise, but it is a real issue in Europe.

Posted by
70 posts

Solo cruisers, also check out OAT small ship cruises. I've researched but not gone on any yet, but recent land tour travel mates were multiple repeat guests with OAT and highly recommended their experiences. Most of their ships have a few dedicated solo cabins, but they also set aside X single slots per tour, with reasonable supplements if solo staying in double cabin (at least compared with paying 150-200% if cruising with main line company.) Still pricey, but includes small group, in depth tours/excursions, some off the beaten track ports, etc!

Posted by
480 posts

I read today how low the Mississippi River is again. Some barges and ships were struggling to get through. Cruise ships not mentioned…but those river cruise lines might experience problems as in the past.
We have done 3 different river cruises in Europe…all in the fall. Thankful water levels allowed us passage with no problems. It happens and so we knew the risks. Still more I’d love to try!

Posted by
4173 posts

Having never been on a cruise anywhere, I don’t know about reliability issues on US rivers. Many years ago my husband and I considered one on the Columbia River that divides Washington and Oregon. I suspect that the Columbia would be less likely to have water level issues. I don't know how the Snake River would be if a cruise was on part of it.

I was also interested in the inside passage to Alaska. Since then many more US and Canadian itineraries have appeared. It's safe to say that any cruise on the Mississippi River and east of it would be very different than one on the rivers in western US and Canada.

Also since then my prone-to-motion-sickness husband has opted out of any travel that would involve planes or boats unless it's an emergency or the only way to get somewhere. That means he will go on a WA State Ferry, a ferry between WA and Canada (British Columbia) or drive on a floating bridge and that's about it. Somehow those huge ferries that take semis and cars don't bother him.

Posted by
1955 posts

I have never taken a river cruise although I would someday like to. All I know about river cruises are from what I have seen on TV and other advertisements. Did not realize that there was.ever a problem with water levels until I read some of the posts on this discussion.

Posted by
6492 posts

I believe that all the Columbia River cruises include the Snake River. I've not seen any that are just Columbia River. If Lo's husband is OK on WSF I wonder if he'd like the BC ferries Port Hardy to Prince Rupert ferry route. Cross from WA to Vancouver Island (or on one of the BC ferries routes to the Island), then drive up the island to Port Hardy. A kind of 'make your own cruise'.

Posted by
8538 posts

Columbia River/Snake river cruises never have water level issues in regards to cruising because the water level on those rivers is controlled by dams. The cruise will end at Clarkston, Wa. Lewiston, ID, across the river has long been billed as “Idaho’s Seaport” because of the high volume of barge traffic from there to the ocean.

@Lo. If you want to try a small cruise to see how your husband responds to cruise ships, I suggest looking for the typically 2-3 day repositioning cruises they offer in the spring and fall around Puget Sound. For example, next month there is a cruise that leaves Seattle, goes to Victoria and then goes to Vancouver. Cost is $145 a person. A cruise like that would give him a feel of cruising without much risk.