Last checked: 29/10/2021

Ship passenger rights

Travel and coronavirus

Rights in the event of delays and cancellations

EU rules on ship passenger rights usually apply when you travel on most ferries and cruise ships by sea or on inland waterways (rivers, lakes or canals) and if you:

These rules do not apply to:

Throughout your journey, the operator has to provide clear and correct information about the service and your passenger rights, including access conditions for people with disabilities or reduced mobility. This information should also be available in a format accessible for people with disabilities.

Rights in the event of incidents at sea

EU rules also cover you, your luggage, your vehicle and if relevant, your mobility equipment in the event of an incident at sea. These rules also set out the carriers liabilities in this respect. These rules may apply to domestic sea journeys as well as all international journeys where:

Before you travel the carrier must provide you with clear and appropriate information on your rights if you buy your ticket in an EU country or at the latest on departure if you leave from a non-EU country.

What went wrong?

How to claim your rights?

Your ship's crossing was cancelled

If the ferry or cruise you are booked on is delayed or cancelled, the carrier or the body managing the terminal has to inform you of the new estimated departure and arrival times within 30 minutes of the originally scheduled departure time. They must also provide information on your passenger rights.

If the service is cancelled, the carrier must offer you a choice between:

or

If you miss a connecting transport service because of a cancellation, the carrier must make every effort to inform you of alternative connections.

You are also entitled to assistance in the form of:

You are not entitled to accommodation if the cancellation was caused by severe weather conditions.

Your ship's crossing was delayed at departure

If the ferry or cruise you are booked on is delayed or cancelled, the carrier or the body managing the terminal has to inform you of the new estimated departure and arrival times within 30 minutes of the originally scheduled departure time. They must also provide information on your passenger rights.

If the service is delayed for more than 90 minutes, you will be offered a choice between:

or

You are also entitled to assistance in the form of:

You are not entitled to accommodation if the cancellation was caused by severe weather conditions.

Your ship arrived with a delay

If your arrival at your destination is delayed by more than 1 hour, you are entitled to compensation. The amount you receive depends on the length of the delay - the minimum level of compensation is 25% up to a maximum of 50% of the ticket price.

Warning

You are not entitled to compensation if the delay was caused by severe weather conditions or by extraordinary circumstances, such as natural disasters (fires or earthquakes) or security threats.

Your luggage was lost, delayed or damaged in an incident at sea

If your luggage and or vehicle is lost, delayed or damaged due to a shipping incident, you have the right to compensation from the carrier of up to approximately €2,700 for cabin luggage and €15,500 for your vehicle – this covers any luggage in the vehicle. You are not entitled to compensation if the carrier can prove they were not at fault. For the loss or damage to other valuables (for example monies, jewellery, works of art, etc.) you are entitled to compensation of approximately €4,100 on the condition that you deposited them with the carrier for safe-keeping.

If your wheelchair or other mobility aid is damaged or lost, you are entitled to compensation to cover the cost of replacing or repairing it.

Warning

Special rules apply to the loss of, or damage to monies, negotiable securities, gold, silverware, jewellery, ornaments, works of art, or other valuables.

You were injured in an incident at sea

If you are injured in an incident at sea, you are entitled to compensation of approximately €300,000 from the carrier or its insurer. In cases where the loss or damage exceeds this amount, the compensation may be increased to a maximum limit of approximately €490,000. You also have the right to an advance payment, in proportion to the damages suffered, to cover any immediate needs if your injury was caused by shipwreck, capsizing, collision, stranding of the ship, an explosion or fire on the ship, or a defect in the ship.

Warning

You are not entitled to compensation if the carrier can prove that the incident was caused by extraordinary circumstances, such as natural disasters or security threats, beyond their control.

You are a dependant of a victim of a fatal incident at sea

If you are a dependant of a victim of a fatal incident at sea, you have the right to compensation of approximately €300,000 from the carrier or its insurer. In some cases, the compensation may be increased to a maximum limit of approximately €490,000. You also have the right to an advance payment of not less than €21,000 to cover any immediate needs if the victim's death was caused by shipwreck, capsizing, collision, stranding of the ship, an explosion or fire on the ship, or a defect in the ship.

Warning

You are not entitled to compensation if the carrier can prove that the incident was caused by extraordinary circumstances, such as natural disasters or security threats, beyond their control.

Claims related to delays and cancellations

If you think your rights have not been respected, you should make a complaint to the carrier within 2 months of the scheduled service during which the problem occurred. The carrier must react within 1 month and give you a final reply no more than 2 months after receiving your complaint. If you are not satisfied with the reply, you can lodge a complaint with the relevant national authoritiesPDF document in your country. The national authority should provide you with a non-binding legal opinion on how to proceed with your claim.

You can also try to resolve your dispute by using out-of-court procedures of an Alternative Dispute Resolution entity (ADR).  If you bought your ticket online, you can submit your complaint via the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform. ADR and ODR are only available to EU residents.

You may wish to resort to formal legal action and submit a claim for compensation under EU rules using the European Small Claims procedure.  You may also bring the matter before the courts in the country where the carrier is registered.  The time limits for bringing an action against a carrier in a national court are defined in accordance with national rules on the limitation of actions in each EU country.

You can also consult your local European Consumer Centre for help and advice on problems related to ship passenger rights.

Claims related to incidents at sea

Loss or damage to luggage and vehicles

If your cabin luggage and or vehicle is lost or damaged due to a shipping incident, you must inform the carrier or its agent in writing. Ideally, you should do this before you leave the ship, or when your luggage is eventually delivered. At the very latest, you must inform the carrier within 15 days of disembarking the ship or delivery of your luggage, otherwise you lose your right to compensation.

You must bring your claim to the courts within 2 years from the date of disembarkation or 2 years from the date when disembarkation should have taken place - whichever date is later.

You can submit a claim for compensation for any loss or damage caused by an incident at sea to a court in the country:

  • where the carrier has its main place of business or permanent residence, or
  • of your place of departure or destination is, or
  • where you permanently live – if the carrier has a place of business there and is subject to that country's jurisdiction, or
  • where the travel contract was concluded – if the carrier has a place of business there and is subject to that country's jurisdiction

See also

FAQs

EU legislation

Need more information on rules in a specific country?

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