Embarking on a cruise vacation is exciting, but there is also a dose of practicality.
And one of the more stressful factors in the planning process is booking flights. You must get to the port where your cruise adventure starts in time. And then home again from where it ends.
Do you book flights using the cruise line air services or go rogue and handle your own flights?
And if you book your flights, do you book the flights first and then the cruise? The other way around?
You have several different options, and there is no right or wrong.
Let’s look at your options and remember you’re in the driver’s seat.
What kind of vacation planner are you?
You are most likely one of two cruise travel booking personalities:
- Standard: You prefer the cruise line to match your cruise plan with its own flight arrangements, making one seamless booking of both cruise and flight together.
- Custom: You prefer to research your options at your own pace and book flights directly with the airline or through a third party.
Using cruise line air services is always the safer option. You can sit back and know that the airline is responsible for getting you to your cruise on time.
Booking flights directly can save you money but also gives you the flexibility to spend time at a destination before or after the cruise.
You will have to balance cost vs. flexibility.
But did you know that cruise lines offer flexible flight options?
So could you have your cake and eat it?
In this article, we look at air services offered by cruise lines, all aimed at helping you discover what works for you.
Air services that complement your cruise
Cruise lines are all about making your travel smoother, including getting you to your cruise ship without a hitch.
Here’s a glimpse at the air services they typically offer:
- Air Packages: Cruise lines often bundle airfare with your cruise fare, streamlining the booking process. You may even find great deals, especially for European or luxury cruises. But don’t set sail just yet – compare prices before committing.
- Customized Air Itineraries: Flexibility is the name of the game here. Some cruise lines, like Norwegian Cruise Line, let you tailor your air itinerary to your heart’s content. Change dates, snag nonstop flights, pick specific airlines – it’s your call.
- Competitive Airfares: Cruise lines boast about airfare deals, sometimes even promising to top off the difference in onboard credit if you find a cheaper flight. They’ve got connections that can score you fares unavailable to regular travelers.
- Travel Assistance: Opting for cruise line flights comes with perks. Think flight monitoring, assistance during delays, and smooth transfers to and from the ship. Navigating air travel gets a lot easier with this backup.
So, as you plan your course towards your dream cruise, remember that cruise line air services are there to lend a helping hand. Take your time, weigh your options, and choose the air services that match your wishlist.
Air2Sea from Royal Caribbean
We think one cruise line stands out, Royal Caribbean’s Air2Sea. This program is your ticket to smooth sailing when booking flights and cruise getaways. Here’s why Air2Sea is a smart choice:
- Negotiated Special Rates: Air2Sea pulls strings with major airlines to bag your seats at wallet-friendly prices, saving you money and securing the best flight deals.
- Customized Flight Options: Air2Sea’s platform lets you tinker with travel dates and craft an air schedule that suits you.
- 24/7 Air Travel Support: Booking your flight is a 24/7 gig. Hop online for reservations or ring them for personal service. anytime, every day of the week.
- Airport Transfers: Nix the stress. Prepurchase your airport-to-ship (and vice versa) ride, and travel from terminal to cruise terminal hassle-free.
Cruise line and airline partnerships
In addition to Royal Caribbean’s Air2Sea, many other cruise lines offer airfare packages as part of their services to make your travel planning more convenient. For example, Oceania Cruises includes economy airfare with its OLife Choice promotion tiers, while Regent Seven Seas Cruises provides free business-class flights to Europe.
When choosing a cruise line-airline partnership, it’s crucial to consider the pros and cons. One advantage is the convenience of handling your airfare and cruise arrangements through a single entity, saving you time and effort. However, it’s essential to be aware of any limitations regarding flight selection, as you may have less control over your travel itinerary.
Some cruise lines, like Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America Line, offer specific air programs that provide additional benefits like late-arrival protection, access to flight inventory from numerous airlines, and convenient booking options.
These programs can offer peace of mind for your vacation plans. However, they may cost more so we do urge you to compare prices of flights offered by the airlines to those you find yourself.
Before finalizing your travel plans, carefully examine all the options and consider your preferences to choose the best fit for your dream cruise vacation.
Baggage and check-in procedures
When it comes to luggage, cruise lines generally follow standard practices, though some variations exist depending on the company. While certain cruise lines might handle your luggage for you, others may require you to handle it yourself. To know the specifics, you can always find detailed information about a cruise line’s policy on its website.
Expect the baggage handling process to be similar to that of airlines. To avoid inconvenience or additional fees, it’s crucial to check the weight allowance and luggage dimensions the cruise line allows. Also, be aware that certain items, such as flammable liquids, sharp objects, and certain weapons, are not permitted on board.
Remember the airlines’ luggage policies if you’re booking flights through your cruise line. Airline baggage fees can vary, so researching the latest information on their websites is essential.
During check-in, ensure you have your identification documents, such as your passport and visa. Arriving at the port early will give you ample time to go through the check-in process smoothly, avoiding unnecessary delays and starting your vacation stress-free.
To make your travel experience even more comfortable, some cruise lines offer partnership services with luggage forwarding companies like Bounce. These services allow you to skip the hassle of hauling baggage through the airport, dealing with long check-in lines, and waiting for baggage claims.
Flight disruptions and how to get help
In the event of flight disruptions, cruise lines are there to assist their guests. For instance, if your flight gets delayed due to weather or mechanical problems, many cruise lines provide help with rebooking flights.
Remember, flight changes are often the result of the airline making changes, not the cruise line. When you book your flights through the cruise line’s air program, it is up to the cruise line to support you in case of travel complications. They must act on your behalf to get the best possible alternative flights from the airline. Stand your ground if you do not like the alternative flights you are first offered, and ask to have other options.
Cruise lines offer 24/7 support to their guests through various travel assistance services. Royal Caribbean Cruises, for example, has its Air2Sea program, where specialists can assist you with any concerns during your trip, ensuring you have peace of mind.
Travel assistance services go beyond handling flight disruptions. Companies like Viking Cruises offer Viking Air Plus Benefits, empowering their agents to:
- Personally select your flight times
- Choose your seats
- Customize your connections
- Plan deviations to alternate destination cities or extend stays before or after your cruise.
Make the most of these offered services to ensure a smooth and enjoyable vacation experience from start to finish.
Frequently asked questions
- What types of airfare packages are available on cruises?
Cruise line air services offer various packages to complement your cruise booking. Some options may include discounted airfare, free or discounted airport transfers, and flexible flight arrangements. Remember that specific airfare packages can vary depending on the cruise line and current promotions.
- Are flights included with Royal Caribbean cruise bookings?
Flights are not automatically included with Royal Caribbean cruise bookings. However, Royal Caribbean offers an Air2Sea program allowing you to conveniently book flights as an add-on to your cruise package, ensuring your flights are well-coordinated with your cruise itinerary.
- Are airport transfers offered with cruise line air services?
Yes, many cruise lines offer airport transfers as part of their services. These transfers can be included in your cruise package or for an additional fee. They typically involve shared transportation from the airport to the cruise terminal or nearby hotels.
- What airlines do major cruise lines partner with for airfare?
Most cruise lines partner with major airlines to offer the most convenient and cost-effective airfare options. When booking your cruise and airfare package, you will likely have access to flights from leading airlines such as American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, British Airways, and other international carriers.
- What is the best way to book a combined cruise and flight?
Some travelers prefer to book directly through the cruise line’s flight services which often include transportation and a guarantee of getting you to the ship in good time. Other travelers prefer to trust a travel agent to handle everything for them.
However, booking your airfare individually may be the way to go if you wish to redeem travel points or have more control over your flight options. Ultimately, weighing each method’s pros and cons is essential before deciding which cruise line flight services to choose.
- Does Royal Caribbean offer pre- and post-cruise hotel stays?
Royal Caribbean does offer complete holiday packages, including cruise, flight, hotel, and transfers. Compare the total price of a package to how much it would cost you to book each element individually before you book. It is not difficult to book your own cruise vacation as long as you are willing to take the time to research and book yourself. Weigh up the pros and cons of doing it yourself versus doing it all through the cruise line or your travel agent.
Comparing Cruise Line Air Services to Independent Flight Reservations for Your Cruise Vacation
Using cruise line air services for your cruise vacation can have advantages and disadvantages. One significant benefit of booking through the cruise line is the convenience of having everything arranged for you, including transportation to and from the port. Additionally, some cruise lines offer air credits or guarantee the lowest airfare, providing cost-saving benefits.
However, booking through the cruise line may limit your options for airlines, flight times, and seating preferences. Additionally, if flight issues occur, such as delays or cancellations, you may have less control over rebooking and may have to rely on the cruise line to make alternative arrangements.
If you choose to book through a travel agent, ensure they offer emergency help outside of normal working hours. If you have a problem with your flight booking at 5 am while standing in line at the airport, you need to be able to contact them.
On the other hand, making your own flight reservations allows for more flexibility and control over your travel arrangements, though it requires more effort and research. Consider your preferences and priorities when deciding between cruise line air services and independent flight reservations for a smooth and enjoyable cruise vacation.