Don’t Miss the Boat – Arrive At Your Port City a Day Early

One of the most heartbreaking situations in which cruisers can find themselves is “missing the boat”. Cruisers can almost always avoid this situation by planning to stay in the port city the night before the cruise. If you arrive the day of your cruise you are depending on your airline, other transportation company or traffic conditions with little or no margin for error.

Remember, arriving for a cruise isn’t like arriving for a visit with family or a trip to fixed resort. When you fly to those locations, they are not going anywhere. If you miss your cruise departure time, your ship will be gone when you arrive, and due to immigration issues you may not be able to try to catch up and join the cruise.

For our recent Alaska cruise there were several families who were missing party members due to miscues that included delayed flights across the country, bus delays from Seattle to Vancouver, and even one passenger on a wrong bus. If you fly in the day of the cruise, you leave yourself no margin for error should problems like these arise.

Cruise Air

Many passenger believe that if they use cruise air through the cruise line, the ship will wait for their arrival. However, this idea is only partially true. If your flight or bus transfer is only delayed by a few hours and many cruise passengers are affected by this short delay, the ship will delay its departure in hopes of allowing time for these passengers to meet the ship. During both of my cruises to Alaska from Vancouver, the ships Holland America’s Rotterdam, and Celebrity’s Mercury, delayed their departure by a few hours in order to accommodate late arriving passengers. We later learned in conversations with other passengers that even with this delay, other passengers still missed the sailing.

In one case, the passenger had made arrangements through Celebrity to fly into Seattle and then take a bus transfer to Vancouver. However, the passenger mistakenly got on the wrong bus. He was never able to rejoin his family for the cruise. In cases of transatlantic flights I have heard of flight delays, and missed connections causing a full day delay in getting to the European departure port. In some cases, the cruisers were able to catch up to the ship and eventually join the cruise, in other cases, they missed the cruise completely.

Air Deviations and Independent Air

If you want to fly in a day or two early for your cruise, be sure to check with cruise company or travel agent about the specifics of your cruise lines air program. Some cruise lines will allow you to fly in early using cruise air only if you book your hotel arrangements through the cruise. Some will charge a small fee for the “deviation” and allow you to customize your air and choose your own hotel. Often you can cancel the cruise air portion of your reservation at any time before your final payment is due.

If you find a better deal on the flights, your savings may pay for your extra days in departure port city. Also some lines waive the deviations charges to members of their past passenger clubs. Past passengers could utilize cruise air, arrive a day or so early, choose a hotel that fits their own budget and incur no additional fees. The only down side of booking your own air is that if the cruise is canceled for some reason by the cruise line, you may be out the cost of your airline tickets.

No Vacation Time for Early Arrival

If you can’t afford an extra day in your vacation time, the following suggestions may help you in avoiding a missed cruise. First, choose a cruise departure port that is close to where you live. You may be able to drive to your departure. Just be sure to pad your driving time in case there might be any crazy traffic delays. You might also choose a cruise port with multiple direct flights per day from your local airport. With multiple direct flights, you could book the earliest in the day. If your flight is canceled or delayed you have many other options for getting the departure city. We chose this option for our first cruise out of San Diego. We had no delays or problems, but with our early fight, we felt that we could have even driven to San Diego should our flights be completely grounded.

If your cruise departure port is a long distance haul, requiring multiple connections, I strongly recommend coming in a day early, but if this is not in any way an option, then I recommend taking the earliest possible flights, and making sure that there are multiple options to get you into the departure port should your flight be canceled or delayed. Also a red eye flight, though tiring, could be a last resort in order to make sure you don’t miss your cruise.

We have a new poll regarding missing the ship’s departure on our home page. Stop by and give us your input. Happy Cruising, and I hope none of our readers “miss the boat!”