GUEST POST: Emily
There’s always much debate about how you get to your cruise, or more specifically, how early you get there. If you’ve read any horror stories about people missing their ship on the departure date, you may know what I’m talking about. When traveling to your cruise departure port, I firmly believe that it is important to arrive there at least one day in advance of your cruise. Travel is never set in stone, and you have to be flexible. Some have learned that the hard way, and if you’re cruising for the first time, consider some of these tips when planning your pre-cruise travel.
Thousands of people fly to their cruise port. As a northerner, I primarily cruise during the winter to escape the snow and cold for some Caribbean warmth. Escaping the snow can either work out well or be extremely nerve-wracking. The snow and ice can be unpredictable at times and as much as we want to be optimistic, flights can be seriously affected by them.
I think we’ve all heard about the bomb cyclone that passed through the Northeastern United States in January 2018. That phenomenon was occurring right before my flight to Florida for my cruise on Eurodam. Fortunately, my city wasn’t affected as badly as cities like New York, Boston, and Baltimore. However, we didn’t want to risk our airline cancelling our flight if the flight before ours was originating from one of the affected cities and we reserved not one, but two, rental cars as backup in the event that we couldn’t make our flight.
Other mechanical issues
And it’s not just weather that can cripple the aircraft – mechanical issues, planes arriving later than expected, security delays, connecting passengers and baggage, and issues with flight crew scheduling can all affect whether or not your flight leaves on time or not at all. So, it’s very important to leave enough time to make up for such circumstances should they happen. Better to be safe than sorry.
Explore the port of departure
Cruises leave out of a variety of ports in different countries all over the world. If you have to travel far to get to your cruise departure port – and let’s say you have never been there before – wouldn’t it be awesome to have some extra time to explore the city? Imagine being able to see Rome before a cruise from Civitavecchia, walking the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan before a Caribbean cruise, or even spending a night on the Queen Mary before a cruise from Long Beach or Los Angeles. You have the greatest opportunity to try the local cuisine, maybe do some shopping, and hit some historical sites before you even set sail. Take advantage of that!
Time to shop!
I feel like it’s common for cruisers to leave certain things at home rather than wasting precious suitcase space on bulky items. Arriving early to your cruise port means you have some extra time to buy the few extra things that you need for your cruise but was not worth packing in your bags. Perhaps you want a bottle of wine, liquid hand soap, or some extra special snacks you just can’t live without. Or in rare but unfortunate circumstances, you have to buy a new wardrobe because the airline lost your luggage. While we never want the latter to happen to us, I have heard of it happening once in a blue moon and that extra time before your cruise can save you from a serious panic (but probably won’t save you money) ((and you’ll probably panic a little anyway)).
Adjust to the time change
If you cruise far away from home, chances are there will be a change in the time. Whether it’s a couple of hours or a full 24 hours, arriving in advance to your cruise port can allow some time for you to adjust to the time change. For example, if you leave the Eastern United States to head down under to Australia, you’re going to need that time to reset your internal clock.
Recover from jet lag
If you’re anything like me, sitting on a flight (even on my awful horrible terribly long three-hour flights from New York to Florida) can DRAIN your energy. I love nothing more than taking a long nap in a hotel after flying into my cruise port. I can get headaches from the landing and the change in air pressure as well, so hopping off an airplane and heading right over to the cruise ship is not something that seems enjoyable. When you get on the ship for the first time, you want to enjoy it. It’s your first day onboard! Who wants to be stuck inside the cabin recovering from the flight?! A pre-cruise hotel would however add to your vacation expenses, but it’s seriously worth it.
Save money (or spend more)
For those flying to their port of departure, flying there in advance can actually save you money on the flight. Depending on the day of the week that you fly, days that are traditionally less busy might cost less to fly than days that see high demand. Of course, ticket prices are always changing, so do your research before you book by pricing out flights on different days of the week in different months to see if there is a pricing trend to follow.
If you drive to your cruise port, you will have to pay to park your car. There are parking options at your actual cruise port, or if you stay in a hotel before, you might book a park and cruise package if the hotel offers one. The hotel parking rate is usually valid for up to two weeks of time to park your car. That fee is added on to your hotel rate and could potentially be comparable to the amount you’d spend at a cruise port parking lot.
Even though you’ve prepped well for your pre-cruise travel, arriving early and booking a hotel, transportation, buying any meals and drinks, and any extra tips will raise your total expenses. I recommend doing plenty of research before to find the best accommodations for your budget. You should try to find a property that’s close to any attractions you might visit when you arrive or a market for extra cruise supplies if you need them. Walking distance = money saved on taxis and Ubers!!
A few extra days of vacation
Alright, this last one is really a no-brainer. It’s your vacation – take an extra day or so to acclimate yourself and be a tourist in your departure port. Take some time to go to a public beach if there is one nearby. See the markets in Charleston, Seattle, and San Francisco. Go to the Sydney Opera House. Head over to Disney World. Visit an art museum, go to a stereotypical souvenir shop. Whatever you do, just have fun and enjoy your pre-vacation vacation.
Emma says: I couldn’t agree more! All brilliant points. We missed a flight to the US last year which meant that we had a 24 hour stopover in Amsterdam, luckily we didn’t have a cruise ship to catch but I can’t imagine how stressed I’d be if we did!
I love all of these photos too. It’s currently snowing in the UK so the idea of a Caribbean cruise is very tempting.
Emily Knab is a college student (for one more semester!!), hotel desk agent, and full-time cruise enthusiast from New York State. She loves to plan cruises for her friends and family and herself. She has cruised with Disney, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Holland America Line. You can find Emily on Twitter here and Instagram here.