I'm a big believer in booking your own air rather than going through the cruise lines for a couple reasons.
First, YOU get to pick the flights and times that are convenient for YOU. When the airlines pick the flights you've probably also bought transfers to the port from them andtheir goal is to have as many passengers arrive at the final destination at the same time as possible so they can herd them all into the same bus in a reasonable amount of time. They don't want somebody getting into the airport at 6:00AM only to wait for hours till enough other passengers come in to fill the bus. Plus if you're smart you will be flying in a day early to the port city, allowing time to recover from "travel day" and wake the next day refreshed and ready for Embarkation, what will be a long but exciting day. To get the cruise line to bring you in a day early you have to pay an extra fee, called a "deviation" fee (because you are a deviate!- sounds icky huh?) of probably $50.
Second, I have yet to see a case where you will not save a substantial amount of money, usually more than enough to cover the cost of a pre-cruise hotel room and even a night on the town in the sailaway port. You see, the cruise lines buy these flights in bulk, months in advance, then fill the empty seats with passengers that buy their airfare through them.....or so they say. I've been comparing the airfare prices from the cruiselines to what I can buy on my own for years and they have never, ever been even close to the price I can find with just a few clicks online. Danicka asks a good question that helps illustrate what I think about air reservations:
Chris can you check out some flights for my guests flying from Ohio. It would be about 12 people. From Cleveland, Ohio to Miami, Florida. They want to fly in either on May 9th or the morning of May 10th. Can they add it to the cruise packet? Let me know.....Thanks
We can add it to the cruise packet by buying it directly from the cruise line. The good news is that it makes it possible to pay for it at final payment along with the cruise and it includes the price of transfers from the airport to the ship and back. If they book a pre-cruise hotel stay through the cruise line it covers transfers to the hotel as well. The bad news is that the price is not very good. Their standard price from Cleveland (CLE) to Miami (MIA) is $477.02 per person. If your guests want to deviate from what the cruise line has set up (like come I a day early or request specific or non-stop flights) they have to pay a $50 deviation fee on top of that.
I looked online at www.CheapTickets.com and found flights for $294 per person without even trying. Often, prices are lower flying into Fort Lauderdale like you did on the last cruise even considering the extra cost of transportation to the Miami pier. You see, the Miami airport is like 45 minutes away from the Miami port, unlike Fort Lauderdale airport which as you know is almost right across the street from Port Everglades. Right now that’s not the case and flying into Miami is the way to go, but that’s something to watch for sure.
Regardless of who you buy your air from, transportation is going to be a concern but does not have to cost all that much. First, cab fares are a standard fee of $24 per cab plus tip. If you can fit, say, three people and their luggage in a cab, that’s not all that bad. You can save some money too if there are a bunch of people arriving together on the same flight. The SuperShuttle service operates out of Miami airport and you can rent a whole van for a bit less.
My advice would be to watch fares and buy when they can afford it AND the price is $300 per person or less. One to really watch is Southwest. Group members can sign up on their website for email notification of price discounts which can often add up to big savings. Rule of thumb on flights from CLE to MIA is anything less than $250 per person right now is a steal. One other good part of booking the cruise line air is that , so far at least, they have NOT tacked on a fuel surcharge to air like airlines do so that $477.02 price should be one we can count on.
Personally I don’t like the cruise line air because I think it costs too much and they dictate to you when you will go and what airline you will use unless you pay them $50 extra. Yes it includes the price of transfer to the ship but that is really not all that much. One popular misconception that people have which drives them to buying cruise line air is that they think if the flight is delayed that the will hold the ship and wait for them. They might if there are a whole lot of people on one flight that might make them a few minutes late but most likely they will leave you behind and they may or may not help you get to the first port to join the cruise in progress.
That’s one of the most dangerous parts in my opinion. I always like to book the flight as early in the day as possible, the day before the cruise. That way you have a double insurance policy: You’re coming in a day before which puts a lot of other flights between you and sailing if yours is delayed AND coming in to town early the day before gives you time to enjoy being there. The cruise lines often have you coming in just a few hours before sailing which makes me really nervous. We did that one time and said never again. We did the cruise line transfers one time too and said never again. What a mess. They put you on a big bus which is not bad if you are the last person on the bus but God help you if you are the first. We were and waited for almost 2 hours for the bus to fill up before they would go to the ship. I don’t know about you but I don’t go on vacation to sit on a bus.
That’s probably way more than you wanted to know about this but you asked a good question and the answer that will get the best deal for you is not an easy one.
Thanks to Misty from ComAir for this update:
Hey Chris....I have seen postings from you on the CC board and I love your website. I work for Comair Airlines which is a Delta Connection Carrier. I just thought that I could offer some additional tips for air travel.
The biggest tip that I can offer is that Delta has a baggage cutoff time of 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time of a flight. This baggage cutoff time is to allow ample time for screening procedures to take placeand for the passenger to have time to get through the security checkpoint. I
would hope that people traveling from large airports would arrive much more than 30 minutes before flight time. But in a small airport such as the one I work at, people often arrive at the last minute even with checked luggage. Our computer systems are programmed to stop printing bag tags once we hit
the 30 minutes cutoff time. There is no way to override this option.Passengers who miss baggage cutoff must travel on a later available flight as luggage cannot be checked on a plane on which the passenger is not traveling. I feel this is important to mention as sometimes people do like to arrive at the last minute. Also other airlines may not have a mandated baggage checkin time, but late checked baggage may not be guarenteed to make it to it's aircraft. And late check luggage will probably not be delivered to the passenger by the air carrier. The passenger will likely have to make arrangements to pick up the luggage.
X-Ray machines will not damage film that is under 800 speed. Anything over 800 speed should be taken out of carryons and given to the screeners to be hand screened. Most airlines will not cover damage to straps, wheels, handles, locks, zippers, foot stands, etc. Items that protrude off tht outside of a bag are not covered. In order to protect bag against this type of damage, place all removeable straps and handles and such inside the bag for travel purposes. These items are easily caught on belt loaders, bag belts etc. Also overstuffing of bags will result in broken seams and zippers. It's best to take two medium bags with the appropriate weights rather than trying to stuff everything into one bag.
These are all just things that I encounter on a daily basis and wanted to mentioned. A better understanding of policies and procedures can made air travel easier for everyone involved.
Here's a fun site to poke around and see what's being served (or not) on airlines. You may find that your discounted air carrier serves nothing but pretzels and would like to have something more.
Some airlines are beginning to offer box meals, mostly cold but tasty sandwiches, for sale onboard. This is just beginning to be rolled out but early reviews of the food offered have been good. Another option is to bring your own. If you live far from your destination it may take the good part of a day or more to arrive. That pack of pretzels probably just won't do.
On return (inbound) flights, after the cruise, we have taken food ordered from room service, packed in ziploc bags in a collapsable cooler and that works just fine. But getting there is another matter.
On the flights going from home to your destination (outbound flights) preparation is the key. Consider when you leave home and when you will be where you are going. Will you be hungry? Often packing a light snack or even a full meal is a good option and almost always more economical than buying food on the go as you pass through the airport system.
Air Tran Airlines
If you are able to fly this airline, do it! They are, to me, the leader of a new breed of airline that has figured it all out. They know how to give a good product for a decent price. As a result they'll be adding 100 brand new jets to their fleet soon!
Our first AirTran flights will be for our upcoming cruise. I was already excited about them because we were able to book the front row in business class for a few bucks more than any of our usual American flights and so far the pre-flight arrangements have been great. I'm looking forward to the flights in the bigger, more roomy seats without having to pay through the nose, use up AA frequent flyer miles to upgrade or con somebody at the gate into showing us mercy since we "have had problems with our children having anxiety attacks when separated from us causing them to exhibit irrational behavior" (Hey it works sometimes)
Plus, we already joined their frequent flyer program and got 4 coupons each for a free drink on board. Seeing as DW and the kids (2) don't drink (ok well maybe the college kid does) that means I can have 16 drinks (or 8 each way), IF I want to use those coupons. I understand that business class passengers already get two drinks per flight. When you consider that we fly from KC to Atlanta (8 drinks) and then Atlanta to MIA (8 more) that's 16 each way! And that's without using any coupons. How cool is that? Do they make Miami Vices there? I bet they have cool blenders too.
Maybe I will distribute the extra coupons to our fellow passengers and start the party right there, mid-air. My how popular I would be.
Now as far as that luggage allowance goes, hey what a deal! Big stumbling block coming home from last cruise was distributing the Martinique mineral water 1.5 ltr bottles I bought for a song (6 for $3) so we could make American's puny weight grade. Now I can buy cases of the stuff and let the kids tote it to the plane.
Well heck after all those drinks I sure won't be carrying anything.
Finally, one of the really cool things is getting to pick out your seats online when you book on line then moving them around from time to time depending on your mood. It's better than Cruise Ship Tycoon by a long shot. DD's room was a mess the other day so I stuck her back in coach, way back by the aft restroom. I then imagined her having one of those anxiety attacks, opened the escape hatch, and blew the surrounding passengers into outer space.
Airtran? Oh yes, count me in!
| Important Air Information |
Airport Security Information
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is charged with keeping us safe in a changing world. On the TSA website you will find everything you need to know about new airport security measures. Â You will discover a list of timesaving tips, information on assistance for special needs, the latest list of prohibited and permitted items, and other information that will help guide you smoothly through the security process. I'd check this during your planning process then again closer to your flight as things do change.
When looking for cheap airfare, check the Web sites of major charter tour operators like Apple Vacations, TNT Vacations, Maupintour and SunTrips. Sometimes they will sell air only packages in addition to their air/land/hotel packages and tours.
| Use Your Cell Phone On Your Flight? |
American Airlines Cell Phone and Data Port Policy
American takes the lead in technology once again. From the people who stuck telephones in the back of the seat in front of you first comes these new relaxed policies on the use of electronic devices on board.
Airport Security personnel suggest taping a business card or some other form of ID to the top of your laptop computer before going through security. It seems many get left behind!
| Where Should I Buy My Airline Tickets? |
The way I see it you have two choices, book it through your travel professional or do it on your own.
We booked air through the cruise line on our very first cruise and that was the very last time. Every time since we've been able to beat the cruise line price for air by a lot. Just as important though is the flexibility we get with booking our own air. The cruise line will charge you a deviation fee for changing your air. We paid it but it was still like pulling teeth to get the flights we wanted to have.
Personally, the only time I would book air through the cruise line is if it was to some really foreign place that I knew absolutely nothing about and I wanted to spend up to twice as much as I would spend when doing it on my own.
My thought on that first cruise was "Well heck, the cruise line should sure know what they're doing" and I was right, they did. They got us there in time for the ship to sail and stand in line with a huge herd of people to get on the ship. It made me really nervous to come in the day of the show so I've always come in early since then.
I think your husband has the right idea and I don't think you should have to pay through the nose for it.
I'd consider all the options then do what's best for YOU.
You can start by looking online at every airline you can think of that flies to Miami from your home airport. We recently started using Southwest airlines mainly because we can change flights and they don't charge a fee to do so.
But you might run into some cancellation fees with your online travel professional. Still, it might be worth a $50 cancellation fee to save hundreds on air and get in town when you want to. Do your research on flight reservations, it will pay off really fast in most cases
If you're using the cruise line air I suspect that you might be using the cruise line ground transportation to the port. I know we did. You can beat the value of that experience too on your own. There are a bunch of ground transportation options at your disposal which will NOT require you waiting for up to several hours for a giant bus to fill up with cruise passengers going to the port.
As far as your pre-cruise hotel goes, many of us use one of the online bidding services to secure a good downtown Miami hotel that's perfect for your pre-cruise needs. Making your own Hotel Reservations is a really big saver over the cruise line price.
| Online Air Reservation Sources |
This is my first stop. This site, owned by some major airlines, gives another perspective on the prices that are available. I need to recommend this site as we have used them before and their work was flawless. In fact, we booked way in advance as is our practice. In the time between booking and the actual flight the airline cancelled the flight and moved us to another flight. Orbitz customer service handled it well even going back to the airline and demanding another, more convenient , flight when we got booked on one that just did not work with our schedule.
This is my second stop. This is an easy to navigate, fast loading site that can give you a ballpark figure on what level of prices are out there for where you want to go.
In their words:
"For years Bestfares.com has been helping consumers uncover the inside travel secrets they're not supposed to know. In 1982 we first offered a 20-page newsletter that cut through the deal hype of the day and told travelers about the best bargains. Today we put the discount travel world at your fingertips online by posting bargains several times daily--well over a thousand updates each week--365 days a year. While some travel sites have only one staff member scanning for bargains, Bestfares.com has more than 20 full-time researchers working hard to leave no travel discount undiscovered."
My experience was quite different and I thought I should report my inital opinion.
We decided we wanted to pay the extra and fly business class from our home in Kansas City to Miami from now on. With the current airline situation, gone are the days of non-stop flights from here so getting there becomes "travel day"
I called Best Fares as instructed (online booking not available at this time) and talked to one of their agents who first told me business class was not available. This was in July for a December flight. The "best fare" they could come up with for me was more than I would pay booking through any of the online sources. I said no thanks but will try them again in the future (I DID pay $30 to join their club)
Instead, I found regional carrier AirTran. Here's a company that knows how to do business.
I don't know how they do it but I suspect they will be a model for the other, troubled airlines to follow if they want to survive. This company is not only offering me business class, a good schedule that shows some forethought, and a decent price, they just ordered 100 new jets to expand service! If you are able, I highly recommend AirTran, hubbed in Atlanta, for your airline reservations.
We flew AirTran recently and I must say, they really deliver. Not only were the flights on time but boarding was a snap and they even serve coffee while you wait in the terminal in the mornings!
| Ask Chris, he'll find out! |
I'm flying into Ft Lauderdale because the airfare is a better deal but my cruise leaves from Miami. What's the best way to get there?
Well walking is out, you'd miss the cruise for sure. Running would be better but till take a long time. We take a limo which seems to work out good for us from FLL. It's a real pain and not necessary from MIA as it is so close and pickup there is a mess.
Cost wise it doesn't cost all that much more for a limo than a cab due to the distance (20 miles, 30 minutes). Pay more than $70+ tip and you got hosed. I like ABC Limousine best although Holland Limousine is a close second.
They have websites too:
ABC's is: http://www.limoway.com/
(Contact Gloria, she runs the show)
Hollands is: http://hollandlimo.tripod.com/
(Ask for Hans- duh yeah he is from Holland)
Florida law prohibits them from stocking a limo with any alcholic beverages but if you want to do that I know another company that will cheat and have champagne waiting for you. (Which is entirely different from the West coast where a full bar service is standard issue)
Latest numbers I have on getting a cab are about $56 without tip from FLL to the area of the hotel, so why not pay a little more.
You can use one of the services that make regular runs between the airport and the hotels like:
Palm Beach Transportation, Inc.
Tri-County Transportation/Airport Express
For more info on these or other carriers the Airport Ground Transportation Association offers a great resource.
The most popular of the bunch is Tri-county. You can simply gather your luggage and wait at the curb where they will send some kind of transportation to take you where you want to go or, now, you can make a reservation in advance.
I have a flight coming in the day we cruise and don't have much time between when it lands and the ship sails. What can I do to improve my chances of making the ship before it leaves without me?
Consider these actions you can take:
I'd be talking to the airline all the time. Try to change that flight. If you can't, check your seat assignments and try to get them moved as close to the front of the aircraft as possible. You don't need to be standing in the isle of the aircraft while Aunt Bessie struggles with her needlework bag in the overhead compartment. A quick exit from the aircraft is a must. You might even try to sweet-talk the gate attendants when you arrive at the airport. Go early, you might just be able to get on an earlier flight without notice if they have overbooked your flight. That's tricky but it can happen if they want it to, it's called a "reverse bump" and you may have to explain to them what you want to have happen. It's a real longshot but it happens.
As mentioned, the wait from the time your flight comes in until you have any luggage you checked can be significant, especially on your schedule. Figure out how to NOT check luggage. You'll have to pack light but there are laundry facilities, self serve and professional, on board at your disposal. Go to the roll call area of the CruiseCritic board and hook up with others on your cruise. You may get lucky and find that someone in your area is on the same sailing and could transport some of your luggage on their earlier flight then get it to you onboard. This might cost the extra baggage charge that you'd be obligated to pay but you'll have to weigh getting onboard with all the stuff you want to bring against the cost.
Book a limo with an agressive company that knows the details of your situation, someone you can trust to be there waiting for you and whisk you off to the port. The trip itself can be made in 30 minutes. Leave the high heels at home, you're going to need to move right along
Have all your documentation in order. Preregister online and then have all your documents and identification handy. You'll need them as you approach the port security checkpoint and again for embarkation.
Bypass the porters on the pier. If you were able to carry your luggage on the aircraft you can carry it on the ship. Also, know the layout of the airport in advance- most have websites with maps.
Tell Carnival. They really do want you to make the ship and have a fabulous cruise. Maybe they have some ideas, maybe they don't; it's worth a shot
Cross your fingers. You might just get lucky and it all works out just find
Going the other way, I have a flight that leaves early going home after the cruise. What can I do to increase my chances of making that flight?
Time, we all agree, is what this is all about. Right now see if it's possible to carry on all your stuff and not check luggage going TO your cruise. If you can then maybe you can not check luggage coming FROM your cruise which will save time. After the cruise you will not have to wade through the sea of luggage to find yours. Transporting it from port to airport will be easier. Getting on the plane will be quicker too.
Get early off tags for your luggage. Go see the Purser as soon as possible and get that nailed down- you'll not have it looming in the background clouding your fabulous cruise experience
You don't mention which airline you'll be flying but if it is one that you can print a boarding pass off any computer 24 hours in advance go to the Internet cafe on your ship the day before and do this- big time saver
On the morning of Disembarkation get to the place designated for the early off people early. Grab some danish and coffee and take it with you but be there early and one of the first off the ship
Have your identification and customs form ready and in your hand as you get off the ship and be realistic about declaring stuff that might have gone over the limit. Also, this might not be a good trip to purposely bring home so much stuff that you will need to pay duty on it- check the limits and stay pretty close to them
About your ground transportation: If you've done all the above you are now standing at curbside ready to be whisked off to the airport (as noted above by Linda, memorize the layout of the terminal). All that won't do you much good if your ground transport is not waiting. Get a good limo company and exchange phone numbers- when your ship comes in call to let them know you have docked, call again when you're about to walk off the ship so they will be in position to receive you
Between now and then refine and hone your plans. i.e. Budster (above) indicated an hour an fifteen minutes travel time, search this board or post questions finding out the other variables such as time from curb at airport to waiting inside at gate, all checked in
If you're in the market for a really good and agressive limo driver I suggestLincoln Limousines
They are NOT the least expensive but they are really good. From their site "Before we start, if your shopping for the "Cheapest Price", kindly keep rowing to another site! If you're primary interest is dependable service along with safety for your family and loved ones, at a reasonable price, then keep on reading! "
Before you go research other possible return flights just in case the bottom falls out of your plans and you have to take a later flight. Good information and quick thinking can get you seats in a first-come-first-served situation.
3 Steps to Less Stressful Travel
Be Comfortable: You will probably be spending more time in the terminal. If you travel frequently, this may be the time to consider joining an airline club that offers a comfortable lounge. A sweater and a neck pillow can make a long wait more comfortable. Using a locker (if available) keeps your carry-ons secure while you nap or browse terminal shops. It's hard to relax when you're hungry?you may want to tuck a water bottle and a few healthy snacks into your bag (nutrition bars are a great choice).
Be Prepared: Expect everything to take longer than usual. Bring extra reading material for yourself, and extra toys or games for children (a pack of cards can help the time fly!).
Be Patient: New restrictions, while inconvenient, are there to protect travelers like you. Please don't ask airline employees to be flexible in their enforcement?this situation is difficult for everyone, and our safety's at stake.