Your rights when you travel on a ferry or cruise

What are my rights when travelling by ferry or cruise?

You have passenger rights when you travel on most ferries and cruise ships in the EU.

These are sometimes called maritime passenger rights and cover delays, cancellations, lost luggage and injury.

Travel operators must:

  • Give you information about your rights and what assistance you are entitled to
  • Make sure you and other passengers are treated fairly and equally
  • Resolve issues caused by delays or cancellations

Travel operators include transport companies (which run ferries and cruise ships) and companies that run terminals such as ferry ports.

Travel services covered

Companies operating ships must follow EU rules that protect passengers. These rules apply to most ferries and cruise ships on the sea and on inland waterways (rivers, lakes and canals). They cover you if you:

  • Sail from an EU port
  • Sail to an EU port from outside the EU on a service run by an EU transport company
  • Sail from an EU port on a pleasure or recreational cruise if accommodation of 2 or more nights is offered, together with other facilities

The rules do not cover you for travel on:

  • Ships that carry up to 12 passengers
  • Ships with a crew of 3 or less
  • Excursion and sightseeing tours (except for cruises)
  • Journeys of up to 500 metres one way
  • Non-mechanical propelled ships
  • Historical passenger ships that carry up to 36 passengers

Cruise holidays booked under a package holiday are not covered by these rules, unless the package is cancelled or delayed because of issues with the cruise itself.

Cancellations and delays

If your departure is delayed or cancelled, you are entitled to:

  • Information
  • Re-routing or refund
  • Care and assistance
  • Compensation (see 'Making a claim for compensation' below)


The transport or terminal company must tell you about the situation within 30 minutes of the time the ship was due to leave. As soon as they know, they must also tell you:

  • What time the ship is now due to leave and arrive
  • Alternative connections you can get if you miss a connecting transport service because of the delay or cancellation

Re-routing or refund

If your journey is cancelled or delayed by 90 minutes or more, you must be offered either re-routing to your destination at no extra cost or a refund (within 7 days).

Care and assistance

If your journey is cancelled or delayed by 90 minutes or more, you must be offered the following:

  • Free snacks, meals or refreshments in line with the length of the delay
  • Accommodation if your sailing involves an overnight stay, for up to 3 nights (max €80 a night)

Exceptions when you will not be entitled to claim

You will not be entitled to assistance or compensation for cancellations or delays where:

  • It was caused by weather that would make it unsafe to sail, or by extraordinary circumstances (for example, a natural disaster)
  • You are travelling on an open ticket that does not state the time of departure
  • You were told about the delay or cancellation before you bought the ticket, or your own actions caused the delay or cancellation

Supports for passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility

If you have a disability or reduced mobility, you have specific rights when you travel by sea.

You have the right to:

  • Be treated fairly and equally
  • Be given information about your rights and the accessibility of the service
  • Get help if you need it

You also have the following extra rights:

Your right to access and a ticket

You have the right to get a ticket, book a seat and use transport services in the same way as other passengers. You should not be discriminated against or charged extra.

You can only be refused travel if the service cannot be provided safely. For example, due to the layout of the ferry, the boarding points, or the type of seats or luggage racks.

In most cases, if the travel company refuses you a ticket or a reservation, or requires you to bring a helper, they must immediately tell you why. If you ask for written confirmation, they must send it to you within 5 working days.

Your right to assistance

Assistance means extra help because you are disabled or have reduced mobility. You must give the travel company notice of the help you will need. The travel company should then give the assistance free of charge.

The following conditions apply:

  • You must give at least 48 hours’ notice before you travel
  • You must be at the port when they tell you
  • They can't tell you to be there more than 1 hour before your scheduled embarkation (loading of passengers)
  • If they do not give you an embarkation time, you must arrive at least 1 hour before the departure time
  • If you need someone to come with you to help you, they must be allowed to travel for free
  • Before you travel, tell the travel company about any specific needs

You can get a refund or re-routing if you have a ticket or a reservation and:

  • You told the travel company about your specific needs
  • You are not allowed to travel because of your disability or reduced mobility

Your mobility equipment is lost or damaged

If your medical or mobility equipment is lost or damaged during your journey (and the travel operator is at fault), they must pay for repairs or a replacement.

Your Europe has more information about rights for travellers with reduced mobility.

You were injured in an incident at sea

If you are injured in an incident at sea, you are entitled to compensation of about €310,000.

Shipping incidents include shipwreck, capsizing, collision, stranding of the ship, explosion or fire in the ship, or a defect in the ship.

If the value of the loss or damage is more than this, the compensation can be increased to a maximum of about €495,000

You also have the right to an upfront payment of up to €21,000 within 15 days. The exact amount depends on the damages suffered.

Your luggage or vehicle was lost or damaged

If the travel company loses or damages your cabin luggage, it must pay compensation of up to about €2,700 for each passenger.

For other lost or damaged luggage, the limit is about €4,100 for each passenger.

If your vehicle is lost or damaged, maximum compensation is about €15,700, including compensation for luggage in the vehicle.

If you put valuable items in the ship's safe and they are lost or damaged, you can claim compensation of about €4,100 for each passenger.

Making a claim for compensation

Making a claim for a delay

You can claim 25% of the ticket price if you get to your final destination at least:

  • 1 hour late, on a journey of up to 4 hours
  • 2 hours late, on a journey of between 4 and 8 hours
  • 3 hours late, on a journey of between 8 and 24 hours
  • 6 hours late, on a journey of more than 24 hours

If the delay is more than double the times listed above, you can claim 50% of the ticket price. The company must pay this compensation within 1 month of getting your claim.

Making a claim for injury

You must make any claim for compensation against the travel company for death or personal injury within 2 years of the incident.

Making a claim for lost or damaged luggage or vehicle

You must give written notice to the travel operator if your luggage is lost or damaged, and you find this out before, or at the time:

  • You left the ship (for cabin luggage)
  • It is delivered to you (for all other luggage)

If you do not find out about the damage or loss until later, you must write to tell the company within 15 days of leaving the ship. If you don't do this you can lose the right to compensation.

If compensation is refused

If the travel company refuses to pay compensation, you can take court action.

If your claim for compensation is €2,000 or less, you can use the small claims court.

For cross-border disputes in the EU, for claims of €5,000 or less, you can use the European small claims procedure.

Making a complaint

If you are not satisfied with how a travel company has handled an issue, you should complain to them directly.

Contact the travel company to find out exactly how to make a complaint to them.

Follow their instructions to make a complaint. For ferries and cruise ships, you must make the complaint within 2 months of the incident. You must receive a reply within 1 month, telling you whether the complaint has been accepted or rejected or is still being considered.

If you are not satisfied with the response, you can take your complaint to the National Transport Authority (NTA).

More information

The law covering maritime passenger rights

The law covering maritime passenger rights is set out in Regulation (EU) No 1177/2010, which was brought into Irish legislation by the European Union (Rights of Passengers when Travelling by Sea and Inland Waterway) Regulations 2012.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) is responsible for enforcing maritime passenger legislation in Ireland. It is the National Enforcement Body (NEB) in Ireland.

The NTA has more information about your Maritime passenger rights.

Your Europe has more information about EU passenger rights.

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has a guide on maritime passenger rights (pdf).

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) also has information about your rights when travelling by ferry.

The European Consumer Centre Ireland has information about travelling by ferry in the EU. They also provide a useful letter template for a cancelled ferry refund.

National Transport Authority

Maritime Passenger Rights

Dún Scéine
Harcourt Lane
Dublin 2

Tel: (01) 879 8300

Courts Service

15-24 Phoenix Street North
Dublin 7
D07 F95Y

Tel: +353 (0)1 888 6000

ECC Ireland

Bloom House,
Railway Street,
Dublin 1
D01 C576

Page edited: 23 April 2024