Your rights if your sailing is cancelled or delayed

The following rights apply to passengers travelling on cruises or ferries departing from the UK. They also apply to passengers travelling on cruises departing any other EU Member State, and on ferries which operate, to, from or within EU countries.

Information

Where a ferry or cruise operator expects a departure to be cancelled or delayed, the operator should inform the passenger as soon as possible. If this is on the day of travel, passengers should be informed no later than 30 minutes after the scheduled time of departure.

Meals and refreshments

Where a ferry or cruise is expected to be cancelled or delayed for more than 90 minutes beyond its scheduled departure time, passengers should be provided with free snacks, meals and refreshments in relation to the waiting time.

The Department for Transport suggests that reasonable refreshments would be water or tea initially, with a snack or light meal if the delay goes over four hours and a hot meal if it goes over eight hours.

Refreshments should be provided even if the reason for the cancellation or delay is bad weather. However, they need only be provided if they are available or can reasonably be supplied. This will be affected by a number of factors such as the facilities in the port terminal or on board the ship, the time of day and the proximity of the terminal to local amenities.

Re-routing or reimbursement

Where a ferry or cruise operator cancels a service, they will offer the choice of an alternative or a refund of the monies paid.

For ferry passengers (not cruise passengers) if the ferry service is cancelled or delayed in departure from a port terminal for more than 90 minutes, the passenger should be offered the choice between:

  • An alternative sailing at the earliest opportunity and at no additional cost
  • Re-imbursement of the ticket price within seven days.

For cruise passengers subject to a delay, they would have the right to an alternative cruise or a refund if the delay causes a significant change to their original booking. In practice this means that the delay would have to be quite long. As a rule of thumb, on a 14 night trip, the delay would need to be longer than 12 hours, and longer for longer cruises.

Accommodation

Where a sailing is cancelled or delayed and an overnight stay becomes necessary, the ferry or cruise operator should offer the passenger free of charge accommodation, where this is possible.

This can be on board the ship, or ashore. The carrier is also free to look at other options, such as inviting passengers who wish to do so to go home, or to make their own arrangements and offer to reimburse expenses they incur. The carrier may limit accommodation costs to €80 (approximately £66) per night per passenger for a maximum of three nights.

However, no overnight accommodation has to be offered, or costs reimbursed, where the delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship.

Compensation

Ferry passengers (not cruise passengers) are entitled to compensation of 25% of the ticket price, for that part of the affected journey, if their service is delayed for at least:

  • One hour for a journey of duration four hours
  • Two hours for a journey of duration between four and eight hours
  • Three hours for a journey of duration between eight and 24 hours
  • Six hours for a journey of duration of over 24 hours.

If the delay exceeds double the time set out, the compensation shall be 50% of the ticket price. The ferry operator must pay compensation within 1 month of the submission of a substantiated claim for compensation. However, this compensation isn’t payable where the delay was caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship or by extraordinary and unavoidable circumstances that hindered the sailing.

Cruise passengers don’t have an entitlement to fixed amounts of compensation. Their rights to compensation come under the Package Travel Regulations. Compensation wouldn’t be due where the operator can’t provide the services due to exceptional circumstances or an unforeseen event.

Right of redress

If you believe that the ferry company has not acted in accordance with the obligations detailed above, in the first instance you should write to the company detailing your concerns within two months from the date on which the service was performed or should have been performed. 

The ferry operator should respond within one month of receipt of the complaint detailing whether your complaint has been substantiated, rejected or still being considered. The ferry operator should provide you with a final reply within two months of receipt of the complaint.

If the ferry company does not respond or you are not able to resolve your complaint with the ferry operator you should email us at ferry@abta.co.uk, as we are the Complaint Handling Body (CHB), who have been appointed by the Department for Transport to investigate such issues and assist in resolving the complaint. Please note that we can only deal with issues in respect of delays and cancellation to scheduled ferry crossings in England and Wales. We cannot deal with any other complaints such as quality of service or staffing issues.