Sunday, February 22, 2009

Will that be With or Without Air

Will that be With or Without Air? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. You do want to make an informed decision, however.

When clients call me to plan a cruise, one of the first questions I ask them is if this is cruise-only or cruise-with-air. More often than not, they aren't sure which way to go.

There are several factors that come into play when deciding whether to do cruise-only or purchase airfare in addition to the cruise. Let's take a closer look at this.

Where does the cruise depart from?
It is possible to sail from 23 U.S. ports. Depending on where you live, it might be easier and less expensive to drive to the homeport instead of flying there.

Is this a round-trip cruise?
If the cruise departs and retuns to the same port, and you can drive to that port easily, that still might be your first choice. Flying is also an option if the port isn't in driving distance. Since this is a round-trip cruise, you'll be able to make round-trip air accomodations either through the cruise line or on your own.

Is this a repositioning cruise?
If the cruise is a repositioning cruise (often also known as a Transatlantic depending on destination) that may complicate things a bit. If the embarkation port is your homeport, it still might make sense to drive to the port. You'll just have to make arrangements to pick up your car upon return from the port of disembarkation.

If the embarkation port is not your homeport, you'll have to fly to that destination. Depending on the final destination port of the cruise, you may or may not have to fly home from there. Either way, you are now no longer talking about round-trip airfare.

Is there a cruise line incentive?
Especially in this ecomony, the cruise line may offer an incentive for booking select cruises. European cruises are good examples of when you might see some incentive. The incentive could be reduced air, free air, or upgraded accomodations with air purchase. You'll want to compute the complete cost of your cruise with or without applying the incentive.

Which air is cheaper?
Let's face it, you want the best value for your money, but you may also want convenience. So the question about which air is cheaper (cruise line or independent arrangements) may not be so clear cut after all. One thing you need to keep in mind is that the cruise line is arranging flights as a convenience to you and bears no responsibility if the air carrier doesn't deliver on its implied promise to get you to your destination on time. You'll want to check the cruise contract carefully and understand your rights and coverages. Travel insurance is your best bet if you want peace of mind.

Another thing to keep in mind is that cruise lines typically purchase bulk seating as one-way tickets so that they can use them as needed. That will often impact the price of the ticket and make independent booking the cheaper price.

Do you want full control of your arrangements?
This may come as a shock to you, but you can still have control of airline and departure times even when booking your flights through the cruise line. Custom air is available from most cruise lines and may be subject to additional fees, but may be the best of both worlds for you.

If you have premier frequent flier status with an airline, you might want to factor that into your decision process. Depending on the length of your cruise, and whether there are formal nights, you might be bringing extra baggage which could have cost implications. You'll want to take advantage of any extra baggage allowances your status allows you.

Are transfers from airport to pier included?
A hidden cost that you may overlook is the price to get to/from the airport/pier. Often the cruise line air will include transfers. You also need to determine the cost of transfers if you make alternative arrangements. In some destinations, like Europe, transfers can be rather expensive if you need to arrange them on your own.

Are you confused - what to do?
As you can see, there are many factors that come into play when deciding the best transportation for your cruise. I've listed the majority of the considerations here but there may be others depending on the cruise and ports involved. It is best to seek advice when making this decision. Your cruise specialist will be familiar with the transportation options for your cruise vacation and offer advice. The decision will still be up to you.

One approach that you might consider is to book the cruise-with-air initially and then do your homework to see if alternate arrangements are better for you. Don't wait until the last minute to book your flights or your ship may sail without you.

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