Ferries - Customer service

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You should know
  • Before your trip, ensure you have adequate travel insurance that includes cancellation and curtailment cover in case of an issue.
  • Monitor weather reports before your crossing and check to ensure there are no cancellations or delays to service.
  • You are entitled to compensation if your ferry is delayed unless it is caused by poor weather or other unforeseen circumstances
  • If you cannot resolve your issue with a ferry company then you can take your case to ABTA for independent assessment

Ferry cancelled

When a sailing is cancelled because of adverse weather conditions, tidal conditions, unforeseen operational or technical reasons or other circumstances (basically where 'force majeure' applies), then the operator is not required to give you a refund if you choose to find other travel arrangements.

Been made aware

You must be informed of any delay 30 minutes prior to your booked departure time and given the estimated departure and arrival time as soon as possible.

Industrial action

If there is a strike action or blockade of ports or other similar issues, your ferry operator may not be required to refund the ferry fare.

Ferry delays

Under Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010 the rights of ferry passengers are legally protected for ferries operating to, from or within the European Union. If your sailing is delayed or cancelled, you are entitled to assistance and in certain cases compensation.


  • Ships certified to carry fewer than 12 passengers
  • A ship with fewer than three crew members
  • If the service distance is less than 500 metres, one way
  • Excursion and sightseeing tours

Food and drinks to be provided

If your ferry is delayed for more than 90 minutes from its departure, the ferry operator has to provide you with refreshments.

  • 90 minutes and then every 90 minutes: light refreshments
  • 4 hours or more: a light meal
  • 8 hours or more: a hot meal

Alternative sailing

You should also be provided with the choice between taking the earliest available sailing or a full refund, payable within seven days.


If your ferry is delayed over night or cancelled and you have no alternative but an overnight stay, the ferry company must provide accommodation for free. This can be on the ferry or ashore. If it’s on shore, then transport to and from the ferry must also be provided.

Accommodation is limited to a maximum cost of €80 per night for a maximum of three nights.


If the issue is caused by weather conditions that would endanger the lives of those on board or the safety of the ship, then the ferry company is not obliged to provide compensation or accommodation.

Compensation offered 

You are entitled to a refund of 25% of the ticket price if the delay is as follows:

  • 1 hour for journey scheduled to last 4 hours;
  • 2 hours for journeys scheduled to last between 4 and 8 hours
  • 3 hours for journeys scheduled to last between 8 and 24 hours
  • 6 hours for journeys scheduled to last over 24 hours

If the delay is more than double this delay then you are entitled to a refund of 50% of the ticket price.

If you have a return ticket, any compensation will be calculated based on the cost of the leg you are on that is disrupted. If the price of the ticket is not broken down for the outbound and return legs, the compensation will be calculated based on half of the total ticket price.

Timescale for payment

The ferry company must pay the compensation within one month of your application for compensation. The compensation must be paid in money if you request this, otherwise the compensation may be paid in vouchers for future travel provided the conditions are flexible regarding the period of validity and the destination.

If the amount of compensation due is less than €6, the ferry company is not required to pay the compensation.

Missed on-going travel plans

If you miss a connecting transport service due to a delay or cancellation your ferry operator they must make all "reasonable efforts to inform the passengers of alternative connections".

The ferry company does not have to pay you any compensation for any missed connections.

Disabled passengers

Disabled people or those with reduced mobility cannot be refused a reservation and must be charged the same price as any other passenger.


Ensure before you travel that you have travel insurance. This will cover you in case of a delay or cancellation of your travel.

If you make a claim under your travel insurance and if the issue is not resolved after eight weeks, you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service who will look at your case from the perspective of what is fair and reasonable and provide for free a decision that is binding on the company.


The majority of cruise companies will include a clause in their terms allowing them to change the schedule.

Changes prior to departure

If the changes to your cruise are significant, you have the right to request a refund, or to request an alternative package. If the package is of a lower cost, you can request a refund of the difference.

Post-departure changes

If there is a change you can complain, however, the cruise company will have a clause to allow for changes to the itinerary, as there can be a number of reasons for the change in the itinerary.

If there is a significant change then you can make a claim. The cruise company is required to make alternative arrangements or to compensate you.

Complaints process

All ferry companies must have a complaints process and ensure consumers are made aware this.

Unresolved complaints

If you are unsatisfied with the response you receive contact ABTA. ABTA is the voluntary complaint-handling body for ferry passengers arriving or departing by ferry from England and Wales.

Cruise complaints

CLIA UK and Ireland is the complaint-handling body for cruise passengers in England and Wales.

If booked in France

If you made your holiday booking through a French travel agency, and if you should remain unsatisfied with the response you receive from the ferry company and the French travel agency, you could then contact the French equivalent of ABTA. This body is called ‘SNAV’.

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