PIER-RUNNERS: every cruiser’s favourite spectator sport

1:59 pm — 5 Comments

Call me a she-devil but I really enjoy watching people almost miss ships or planes. And I’m not the only one.
Pier running has become a daily event on a cruise, and passengers will sit on the top deck or their balcony to catch the free show!

Around 15 minutes before departure from a port, we all go out there to see who’s late and sprinting down the wharf. Without fail, at least one couple (but often 10 or more people) will be legging it, stressed out of their minds, or jumping out of taxis. Some stragglers just make it back with a minute to spare. The looks on their burning red faces, when it turns to relief, is priceless.

Truth is, I was once a pier-runner. It was HORRIBLE. I not only ran along the pier but also a bridge and several busy streets in Budapest. Then I ran up to the wrong ship – nope, next one!

It wasn’t my fault (never is). I was delayed by a ticket inspector who wasn’t satisfied that my train ticket had not been validated in the out-of-order machine. She detained me and my friend and threatened to call the police if we didn’t cough up a $200 fine. We objected, as it wasn’t our fault the machine was broken, but she wasn’t having it. As we didn’t speak Hungarian, it took a brutal half-hour staring contest to wear her down. By then, the ship was due to leave in 10 minutes, and it was a 20-minute walk.

We made it, but others don’t. Guess what – cruise lines won’t always wait for you. They pay huge hourly fees to dock in cities, and anyway, how do they know that you haven’t decided to stay forever in Noumea? The captain has to get to the next port, as do the 2,000 other punctual passengers, or a storm may be on the way so he can’t waste time. Lots of reasons too boring to list.

My favourite story involves a couple who complained that the ship didn’t wait for them after they had gone to the trouble of leaving a note in their cabin which said they needed an extra couple of hours to do some shopping.

On a recent Northern Europe cruise, I met an Austrian man who mixed up the departure time in Germany. As we set sail on schedule, I received his text: “Missed the ship, hired car, driving home, so depressed.”

That’s no way to end a holiday. And no fun for those of us waiting for some pier-runner entertainment.

How NOT to miss the ship:
1. Triple-check the time you are required back onboard (it is generally 30 minutes BEFORE official departure as they have other things to do – pull up the gangway, release the mooring ropes, get the tug boat going etc).

2. Always take the ship’s daily newsletter when going into port. This contains the contact details for the ship and the local port authority. If you get delayed, you can notify someone and hope they’ll help you.

3. Bring your passport (or at least a scanned copy of it), credit card, cash and phone (and any crucial medications). Just in case you get stranded and have to get yourself home or to the next port. The cruise line won’t pay for it, by the way.

I didn’t have any of those items with me in Budapest. I’m lucky I’m still not there, living on the streets trying to make money blogging to pay for some goulash…

Have you ever missed a ship? Are you a pier-runner or a watcher?

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Louise Goldsbury

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In 2013 I was named Best Travel Writer at the National Travel Industry Awards. And until someone corrects me, I'm claiming to be the youngest cruise editor in the Southern Hemisphere. Editor of Cruise Weekly since 2009, I also contribute to Sydney's Sun Herald newspaper and various travel magazines and websites.

5 responses to PIER-RUNNERS: every cruiser’s favourite spectator sport

  1. Yes, I was a pier runner. One small chapter in a long and chaotic story saw me trying to catch the last ferry from Catalina Island in a golf buggy. My driver, trying to get me there on time but also adhere to the road rules would speed (if that’s the right word for a golf buggy) between stop signs. Then dutifully stop, take double looks left and right and then ‘rocket’ off. I arrived at the pier just in time to see the crew throwing the ropes. I’d missed the ferry. How did I catch the last flight out of LAX to Portland? What happened when I turned up a month early for my hotel booking? Did I catch the ‘Spirit of ’98’ on the Columbia River? I’ll save that for my book.

    • Can’t wait for the book, Rod! Put me on the waiting list…. I have also missed a LAX-PDX flight but that was because I was waiting at the wrong gate for Delta…and I was flying United!

  2. I always find it amusing too – but the one’s I actually get cross with are the arrogant bastards who know they are late but stroll slowly towards the ship.

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