Air & Sea:
Solutions for the Landlocked
Getting To Your Cruise Embarkation Port
fifty-one weeks a year, you’re a landlubber. You know you want to
sail away on the cruise of your dreams with peaceful days at sea and
the excitement of far-flung ports. But there’s no ocean in sight
and you wonder how to get there from here.
no fear. For the convenience of one-stop shopping, cruise lines’
Air & Sea programs can’t be beat. An added bonus is that by
bundling all your air, land, and sea transportation together, you
have a cruise vacation that is nearly all-inclusive and worry free.
the other hand, forward-thinking landlocked cruisers who buy
discounted advance purchase tickets can save a bundle—or at least
enough to cover the cost of a pre-cruise overnight hotel. Comparison-shopping
makes sense if you have the time and inclination to do it.
aside, the most-often-complained-about drawbacks to Air & Sea
programs are a result of the obvious—cruise lines can’t control
airline scheduling. In a nutshell, it works like this: cruise lines
buy the number of seats required on flights departing from major
airline gateway cities, but the airlines themselves assign the
flights. Thirty days before
sailing, tickets are issued and
the fun begins. Unless you don’t care about sitting with your
cruising companions, keep in mind that cruise lines can’t confirm seat
assignments. Most cruise travel
specialists are savvy enough to cinch flight numbers thirty days out
and secure seat assignments. Make sure yours does!
about that “fun”… You say your favorite air carrier has direct
service from your gateway airport to Miami, so why are you scheduled
for a pre-dawn departure with two stops and a plane change? Quite
simply, it's because people buying tickets independently snapped up
all the seats on the more popular non-stop flights. Flights assigned
to cruise passengers aren’t always the most desirable since cruise
lines pay low contracted fares. Basically that means you're getting
what the airlines have open when the time comes to assign flights.
If only your choice of airline and flight will do, make a
request for Air Deviation. For a fee, plus any associated airline
charges, the cruise line Air Deviation
department will try to lock in your preference. There’s no
guarantee you'll get what you want, but they’ll try.
in the plus column, don’t let the thought of traveling during peak
holiday seasons put a damper on your cruise plans and your wallet.
When major holidays draw near, an Air & Sea program
may be just the ticket to secure any airline reservation,
let alone an affordable one. Also consider cruises that don’t end
up where they start. Cruising one-way on an Alaska adventure, say
from Vancouver to Anchorage, means paying higher non-round-trip
airfare (essentially two one-way tickets) unless you purchase the
cruise line’s more budget friendly air add-on. Air & Sea
pampers your travel budget if the airfare is truly free or such a
bargain you can’t pass it up.
& Sea programs have perks other than price as well. There’s
comfort in knowing someone is looking
out for you and your luggage as well as providing ground
transportation to the ship. Uniformed
cruise line agents meet incoming passengers and smooth their way
from airport to pier.
caveat: Even with Air & Sea flight arrangements, lengthy airline
delays can result in literally missing the boat.
A common misconception is that when your airline ticket is purchased
through the cruise line that they are responsible for getting you to
your ship. According to a
Royal Caribbean International Customer Service representative, “If
you purchase the air through Royal Caribbean International, under
our contract with the air carriers it is their responsibility to get
you to the next port of call. If a flight is canceled it is their
responsibility to not only get you to the next port of call, but if
they have to they have the ability to put you on another flight even
if it is on another carrier to ensure that you don't miss the
If you must fly to
port the day your ship sails, Lucy
Hirleman, President of Berkshire Travel in Newfoundland, NJ,
advises cruise passengers to "Request the first flight of the
day from your departure city. Delays
in later flights can snowball, creating air-scheduling havoc and
scarce seats as fliers scramble to get on board."
The bright side to Air
& Sea is that if you are delayed for any reason, the cruise line
will try to help you get to your destination on time.
Call the telephone number in your cruise documents in case of
delay. Cruise line personnel
are on hand to assist you and can sometimes find alternative flights
on other airlines to speed you on your way.
If that’s not possible, they can help you schedule flights
to the first port of call and smooth your way to meet the ship.
Unless you get lucky and a great many passengers are delayed, the
ship won't necessarily wait for you at the embarkation port. Cruise
line personnel can also assist with hotel arrangements and transfers (often the
airline will pay for these if they are at fault).
Insurance, including “trip delay” coverage pays for
itself if you encounter any of these problems.
The possibility of
flight delays and cancellations are the best reason to extend your
vacation with a pre-cruise day of relaxation. Arrive early and
de-stress—an especially wise move if your home is in the Snowbelt
and your cruise is in January!
The extra expense is well worth the peace of mind.
IS & Is NOT Included In Your Cruise Fare
Saving Tips before & during your cruise
Pirate's Cache (how to get freebies on board)
Savvy Cruise Travel: The services offered by major cruise
Your Cruise Vacation
You Should Know About Travel Insurance
Limitations for Cruisers