You’ve decided that you want to do a cruise for your next vacation. Whether you go through a travel agent or book online you always have the option of choosing “Cruise Air” with your cruise. It may seem like the most convenient way to get to and from your cruise port, but in many situations passengers are better off booking on their own.
Booking Your Own Air
My first piece of advice is that if you book on your own, plan to arrive a day early to your port city. The extra peace of mind of not having to worry about making it to the ship in time due to delays is well worth the hotel price in the port city. If you have traveler bonuses with a particular hotel chain, this can be a great time to use your free stay.
Second if you think that the “Cruise Air” price sounds pretty good when booking , but think you might be able to get a better price, you can always cancel the cruise air before final payment if you find a better deal.
Finally familiarize your self with online travel booking websites. Learn how they work and what their policies are. This will making searching for flights easier when you are searching for that better fare.
When Cruise Air Might be the Best Deal
Cruise air might be the best deal if you are taking a one way cruise like Vancouver to Seward, or a Trans -Atlantic. Then the cruise ship air might be a better deal than booking on your own. Also, if the cruise line changes your departure port, then the cruise air would be a better deal. If your cruise was originally out of Seattle, then moved to Vancouver and you book cruise air for the price of flying into Seattle, then if the cruise line moves the departure port you are already locked in at the lower price.
It is also important to note that passengers have no choices in which flights they end up on arriving or departing from the port city. I the passengers live far away from the cruise port, then they could end up on a Red-Eye over night flight arriving the morning of the cruise. If the early flights fill up when leaving the port city, then the passengers might be put on a Red-Eye heading home. For many this would not be the most enjoyable way to end an otherwise fabulous vacation
When You Can Find a Better Deal
Actually, according to a few frequent cruisers I’ve talked to, you can almost always find a better fare any time round trip is involved. Sometimes the difference is more than enough to cover your hotel and a night on the town the night before the cruise. Also, when you live fairly close to a port that is served by a discount air line. We live near Tucson, and the only airline that flies directly to San Diego from Tucson is South West. They don’t work with the cruise lines, so if we flew from Tucson to San Diego on cruise air we would have to fly to Phoenix to make a connection. We could probably drive there quicker than it would take us to fly to Phoenix.
Our Recent Experience with Cruise Air
We are taking a Celebrity cruise to Alaska in June and we found the cruise air options worked for two of the people in our party, but not very well for the other six of us. Because of my “cruise expertise”, the family has appointed me our cruise travel coordinator. I have been working with our travel agent, keeping the family informed on changes, and providing them with excursion information.
We all agreed that we wanted to fly into Vancouver the day before the cruise. We just didn’t want to worry about delays and missing the ship or being stuck on a red-eye flight in order to make the ship in time.
Our immediate family of 4 chose not to do cruise air way back when we booked the cruise. We did a combination of frequent flyer miles and purchased tickets, only spending about $1300 total for the 4 of us. Cruise air was over $500 per person when we booked, so we feel like we came out ahead.
Next, my Mother-in-law and her sister booked their cruise at the same time as us and chose the around $500 cruise air. We requested a cruise air “deviation” on their flight to get them in a day early. They are starting at two different points, meeting at the single connection city and arriving the day before around noon. They are flying home around 11:30 after cruise. A winning situation for them as they are traveling from the East Coast and their flights would have cost around $600 if they booked them now. However, their $500 flights were based on traveling in and out of Seattle, and not Vancouver, so they did well be being locked in at the lower price.
Finally, my sister-in-law and her husband wanted to do the same thing. The cruise line could could get them there on the cruise air no problem, but there were no other seats available at the cruise air price for that 11:30 flight. They wanted to put them on the 11:00 pm red-eye or charge them $110 extra. Quite frankly, I was quite upset when I heard this was the case. However, after doing a little research, I was able to find a better deal for them. They booked a standard outside cabin and their cabin price went down since their original booking so the TA made the change to the lower cabin price with a higher cruise air price because it was still $80 less total. Now, instead of the cruise air being $500 of a $1389 fare, it was $709 of a $1309 fare. If they wanted to cancel the cruise air they would save $709 for their airfare, not just the $500 for the original booking. Our problem was then easily solved. I went online and found air that would put them on the same flights as my Mother-in-Law going out to Vancouver, and a return flight home on a different airline with approximately the same departure and arrival schedule. We booked the air for my sister-in-law and her husband for $580 each round trip, saving them $119 each.
I find it interesting that our family exemplified both the pros and cons of cruise air. Don’t hesitate to check out other options, their is a good chance to that you’ll find a better deal and have control of your own flight times and schedules.