.Have you booked a cruise and wondered what to do regarding your flights before and after your cruise? Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of living on a busy cruise port. For those who don’t leave near a cruise port, you will have to book a flight to catch the cruise ship.
Here are some tips to simplify the flight booking process before and after your cruise.
Book Flights Through Cruise Line or Independently?
Almost every cruise line offers the opportunity to book a flight before and after your cruise. And believe it or not, booking through the cruise line is usually the same or less expensive than booking independently.
Advantages of booking the flights through the cruise lines
- First, convenience. It is convenient to be able to book every portion of your trip with one provider. Since the cruise line already knows the details of your journey, it can tailor your flight around the cruise itinerary.
- Second, peace of mind. If you book the flight with the cruise line, they are responsible for getting you on the ship. Even if your flight is canceled or delayed, they will make new travel arrangements to get you on board.
- Lastly price. Because cruise lines book thousands of flights a day, they can negotiate better prices and conditions with Airlines.
Advantages of booking the flights independently
- First, choices: Cruise lines might not give you all available options of airlines and itineraries available.
- Secondly, points: If you want to use your points to book the flight, you can not do it with the cruise line.
- Lastly, location: If you are traveling to another country before catching your cruise, the cruise line might not allow you to book the flight from there.
Open Jaw Flights are Better For Cruising
In the travel industry lingo, an “Open Jaw” flight is an itinerary with an inbound flight arriving in one place, and the outbound from a different one. For example, let’s say you take a Panama Canal Cruise from Los Angeles to Miami. In this case, your inbound flight will be to Los Angles while the outbound is from Miami.
Because Cruise lines book these types of flights all the time, they can negotiate much better fares than an independent traveler. For this reason, if your cruise leaves from one port and arrives in a different port, you should use the cruise line to book your air.
Similarly, if you book a one-way flight
If you only need a one-way flight because you’re taking a repositioning cruise, for example, cruise lines might have much better airfare than booking yourself.
Cardinal Rule: Never Fly on Embarkation Day
Just imagine you wake up in the morning, ready to start your vacation. You will catch your flight, and in 2 hours, you’ll board your ship! Fantastic. You open your window, and it is snowing.
Case scenarios like the one below happen all the time. There might be a strike, a storm, an engine failure, etc. If your flight is on the same day as your cruise, and there’s a delay, the chances are high that you’ll miss embarkation. For this reason, I always book my flight at least one day before boarding. By doing so, it will give me peace of mind that if there is a delay, I’ll be able to make it to my cruise. On top of that, this will allow me to start my vacation one day sooner!
Booking flights with the cruise line offers some peace of mind, but…
Earlier, I mentioned that if you book your flight with the cruise line, they are responsible for getting you to your ship. In this case, if the flight is delayed or canceled, the cruise line will reroute you to the next port of call. Fantastic right? Consider this example: You’re taking a 15 days Hawaii cruise from Los Angels. And then, you miss your flight, but the cruise line has to take you to your next port in Honolulu! Well, the ship has five sea days before arriving there. The cruise line is responsible for finding you a flight there. However, most of the time is not responsible for your accommodation! For this reason, even if I book the flight with the cruise line, I always book at least one day before boarding!
Never Book Your Return Flight Too Early in the Morning!
In case you booked your flight and transfer through the cruise line, they will be responsible for getting you to the airport in time to catch your flight. On top of that, they won’t book you a flight that is too early anyway. Problems happen when you book your flight independently. Even if your ship arrives at the destination early in the morning, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to catch an early flight.
When you book the return portion of your flight, keep in mind these few details
- First, disembarkation process. Disembarkation might take a long time. Especially if you’re on a massive ship, it might take one or 2 hours before you are off and you can collect your bag.
- Second, customs. If you need to go through customs & immigration, after disembarkation, this might take a very long time.
- Third, finding ground transportation. If you did not book your transfer in advance, you need to find a taxi or a bus to the airport. In some port, this might take up to an hour. Make sure you keep this in mind.
- Fourth, travel time. Some ports are very far from the airport. For example, if you arrive at the Port of San Pedro, LA, the airport is about 32km (20 miles) away, and traffic can be brutal. If you’re in Whittier Alaska, the distance to Anchorage Airport is 97km (60 miles).
- Bonus. On top of that, sometimes ships might dock late due to weather conditions. While rare, it might happen.
As a general rule, if the ship is supposed to dock at 7 am, I like to book my flight in the early afternoon (around 2:00 pm) to be safe. Furthermore, if it is a port that I’ve never visited before, I might consider spending one or two nights after my cruise to explore.
Don’t leave your flight till the last minute!
I see people booking a cruise one or two years in advance but waiting to the last possible minute to book the flight! In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. Doing it this way, every saving you might have had on the cruise fare is nullified by the higher airfare. Often, cruise lines allow you to book flights without having to pay for it until the cruise final payment is due. In this case, it’s advisable to book a flight with the cruise line. Then, you can look for other options independently until the final payment is due. This way, if nothing cheaper comes around, you still have a decent choice with the cruise line.
I hope you find these few tips useful, leave your comments below.