How Cruise Ships Make Time Zone Changes Easier

Time zone changes can be brutal when you're trying to enjoy a vacation. For some, jet lag is merely a nuisance, while others have a really hard time (pun intended) adjusting mentally and physically. Cruise ships are a bit easier. You're not shocking your system traveling from New York to Singapore in 19 hours.

Easier or not, any time zone change can disrupt eating and sleeping patterns and affect energy levels. However, cruise ships implement a pretty smart practice that considers sailing through various time zones. Cruise ship time refers to the unadjusted time on the ship. Although cruise ship time may often be the same as local time, this isn't always the case. Not only does adhering to cruise ship time keep all passengers and the crew on the same page, but the practice also helps passengers seamlessly adjust to time zone changes as well.

Cruise ship time keeps passengers on time

Cruise ship time is particularly useful when on a Caribbean cruise. While the difference between local time and cruise ship time may not differ much — or at all — the local time at different ports of call may jump forward or back as you sail, depending on your itinerary. This can be pretty problematic when planning onshore excursions.

To keep everyone on the same schedule, ships typically feature clocks in the gangway when you depart at port. Regardless of the time at the port of call, you'll stay on cruise ship time. This helps ensure you'll make your departure on time and prevent you from cutting any onshore experience short due to time misunderstandings. The time you arrive, depart, and participate in any ship-operated shore excursions will follow cruise ship time.

Making matters even more confusing, some countries in the Caribbean don't follow daylight saving time, so the difference between the ship's time and a port of call's time could be two hours. That's definitely enough time to miss your departure, thus cruise ship time.

You're eased into time zone changes

Cruise ships are also good at easing their passengers to clock changes when passing through time zones. On longer itineraries, such as a transatlantic or transpacific cruise, you'll cross over multiple time zones. However, the cruise ship time will typically change to reflect the new time zone at night, which should only be a difference of an hour.

But don't worry. Although you dreamily went forward or backward in time, the cruise will announce any changes to the cruise ship time. The crew may make an announcement over the intercom, on your cabin's TV, and/or in your daily planner. So, although you may not immediately be aware of the time change, you'll be apprised the following day.

Finally, unlike Caribbean cruises, European cruises typically sync the cruise ship time with the port's time. This change is also typically completed at night. Regardless, the time changes on a cruise are never dramatic, so just go with the ship's flow.