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A storm approaches Holland America's Rotterdam off Half Moon Cay (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

8 Cruise Ship Ports of Call That Get Canceled Often

A storm approaches Holland America's Rotterdam off Half Moon Cay (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Senior Editor, News and Features
Aaron Saunders

Last updated
Jan 31, 2024

Read time
6 min read

When it comes to cruise ship ports of call, some have a funny way of being canceled or removed from itineraries more often than others.

Usually, these cancellations are the result of a combination of bad weather and unprotected harbors that either don’t offer adequate shelter and docking facilities, or which require passengers to be tendered ashore while cruise ships remain anchored further out.

Here are eight cruise ship ports of call that seem to get canceled more often than others – and why that happens in the first place.

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Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

An albatross colony in the Falkland Islands on an Antarctica cruise with Lindblad Expeditions (Photo/Ming Tappin)

If you actually get to Port Stanley, buy a lottery ticket, because your luck is already headed in the right direction.

A popular port of call on many longer cruises to Antarctica, the capital of the Falkland Islands is often the cancellation casualty of poor weather – either in the region or on the nearby Drake Passage, itself notorious for its miserable weather conditions.

That’s not to say that no ship ever makes it here; far from it. But on cruises where Antarctica is the prized destination, ships encountering bad weather will almost always scrub Port Stanley from the itinerary in order to maximize time in the Southern Continent.

Dutch Harbor, Alaska

The town of Dutch Harbor, Alaska (Photo: City of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor)

The homebase for the popular reality television series, The Deadliest Catch, Dutch Harbor is the base for the Bering Sea crab fishing fleet in Alaska – and transpacific crossings between Asia and North America routinely include a stop in this interesting port of call that’s remote even by Alaskan standards.

The problem: high winds and inclement weather often beset Dutch Harbor right at the time most ships are making their calls, in spring and fall. To keep things on track and arrive on either end of the Pacific Ocean on time, Dutch Harbor is often wiped off the itinerary due to its challenging navigation and remote location.

Those who do make it here, however, will be rewarded with a town that is rugged and almost hostile in appearance, as most of Unalaska’s Aleutian Islands are.

Santorini, Greece

Crystal Symphony and Norwegian Jade at anchor off Santorini, Greece (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

The mere word “Santorini” conjures up images of dark-blue seas, white-washed houses and towering cliffsides. The very definition of a summer paradise, those still photos belie another truth about Santorini: the exposed volcanic islands in the middle of the Aegean Sea are almost always beset by strong winds.

Even on deck on a sunny summer day, you can nearly be bowled over by the heavy winds that scream around the islands and bounce off the cliff faces of Santorini. And because there’s nowhere for ships to dock – much less shelter – tendering here can be a challenging process at the best of times.

The good news: the Island boasts its own tenders that are larger and more capable in the high seas and strong winds than the average cruise ship tender. But even these large vessels have their limits; one of our cruises to the island in 2018 had swells so high that just rejoining the ship took nearly two hours of heavy bobbing around in the bay.

So when the winds and seas really kick up, most ships eschew Santorini for the open Aegean or the more sheltered harbors nearby.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman (Photo:Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock)

One of the most popular ports of call on the Western Caribbean run, Grand Cayman is situated smack in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. But the port of Georgetown has a couple of things working against it when it comes to the weather.

First, its unprotected nature can result in high swells and high winds, even when storms or rough weather aren’t directly impacting the Cayman Islands.

Second, Georgetown has no cruise pier: ships must anchor out in the ocean and tender passengers ashore.

When conditions cooperate, a visit to Grand Cayman is a calm affair with a picturesque tender ride across azure seas to the main settlement of Georgetown. But when winds and swells pick up, most cruise lines elect to weigh anchor. In fact, ships will sometimes pre-emptively cancel stops in Grand Cayman rather than risk having passengers stranded ashore by predicted inclement weather later in the day.

Isafjordur, Iceland

Viking Sky in Isafjodur, Iceland. (Photo: Fran Golden)

Frequent high winds and a relatively small dock conspire to cause problems in the picturesque Icelandic village of Isafjordur, particularly for larger ships that have to rely on tendering passengers ashore. A thread on Cruise Critic’s message boards shows numerous issues with larger ships sending passengers ashore in 2023, though smaller vessels seemed to arrive successfully – provided they could use the existing dock.

Dock renovations are rumoured to be in the works for Isafjordur that would allow larger ships to dock, rather than tender. Until those are sorted out, expect any call on Isafjordur to have a bit of an asterisk next to it.

Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Torshavn, Faroe Islands (Photo: Shutterstock)

We’ve personally seen Torshavn twice now – always from the stern of our ship as it slips away into the distance.

That’s because the capital of the Faroe Islands is in a prime location for Atlantic storms to sweep over it as they swing on a north-easterly track, particularly in the late-summer months of August and September.

And because Torshavn tends to be a port of call included on Northern Atlantic crossings in August and September or closed-loop cruises departing from the UK or Iceland, cruise lines are inclined to give it a miss in order to outrun anticipated bad weather, maintain the overall cruise schedule, or both.

Lerwick, Scotland

Lerwick (Photo:Zdenka Mlynarikova/Shutterstock)

Bless little Lerwick. The only major settlement in the Shetland Islands is as picturesque and friendly as Scotland’s legendary stereotypes suggest. It even has a proper cruise pier that can accommodate most midsized vessels, and the town itself is immensely walkable and charming.

But the Shetland Islands have been shaped over centuries of rugged weather and harsh storms, and Lerwick is certainly not immune to either. Winter storms in 2023 ripped the roof off a hotel, and photographs of a 2016 storm rolling ashore in the Shetlands show waves and mist of almost mythical proportions.

Our own visit was on an unusually warm, calm, September day. It was quiet and peaceful. Locals, in truth, seemed a bit bored with the balmy conditions. After all: what might cancel a cruise ship visit makes for excellent storm watching.

The Bahamas: Cruise Line Private Islands

Perfect Day at CocoCay (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Nearly every cruise line has a private island in the Bahamas. From Perfect Day at CocoCay to Half Moon Cay to Castaway Cay, these islands promise untold tropical idyll and fun in the sun.

But cruise line private islands aren’t immune to storms, either: many islands still require cruise ships to anchor offshore and tender passengers in for the day, and their unprotected nature (the Bahamas has far more in common with the Atlantic Ocean than it does with the Caribbean Sea to the south) makes them susceptible to swells and high winds brought on by nearby storms and hurricanes.

Even cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line that have private islands with actual concrete piers aren’t immune to problems: high winds can make docking in these otherwise totally exposed areas downright dangerous. For that reason, winds – not just swells – can cause cruise lines to bypass their own private island in favor of a nearby port like Nassau or Freeport – or, quite possibly, just a day out at sea.

Even if your itinerary includes one of these ports of call, roll the dice: at best, you get exactly what you paid for and at worst, there’s always a compelling reason to return.

Publish date January 23, 2024
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