A Qantas A380 flying over the Overseas Passenger Terminal and Sydney Harbour one sunny day
Take the time to study the value associated with free flights to join your cruise.

If you live outside a capital or major city, chances are you will have to fly to join your ship. Many people choose not to pad out their holiday by flying in or out of their departure city one day or more prior to boarding their ship, and while this is all well and good if you’ve left a good half-day between the two, there are a few things to consider before you push the button on that next hot flight deal to get you to your cruise.

Expect a schedule change or two on your flights.

Airlines regularly adjust their schedules for a variety of reasons, and these changes can occur right up until a few days prior to departure. Especially if you’ve booked your flights well in advance, check your booking regularly on your airline’s website. Or, if you have booked with a travel agent, ask them to double check your schedule every now and then – some airlines are good about proactively letting you know there is a time change while others lack what you would think should be a basic customer service.

If a schedule change occurs, double check all the details – some airlines will actually move you to an entirely different day before or after your original flight and not make it obvious.

Stress can occur if your flight schedules change prior to a cruise.
Flight schedules can change often and significantly, so keep an eye on it every now and then to make sure it doesn’t cause a stressful start to your holiday.

Cruise Advice knows of one family who saw their United Airlines flight rescheduled a whole 24 hours and 5 minutes after their original one, about 6 months out from departure. The stressed out mother wasn’t pay close enough attention and accepted the changes – not realising until they were almost on their way to the airport a day early!

If this happens, stress to your airline you’re joining a cruise and therefore need to find an alternative arrangement that works to that schedule.

Most full service airlines like Qantas, Singapore Airlines & Emirates will book you on their partner airlines if they don’t have a new flight to suit, so politely asking for your airline to also look at other carriers may help you get back closer to your original schedule. However, budget airlines like Jetstar, Scoot & AirAsia X are steadfast in keeping you on their aircraft as it saves them money, so in these instances you may want to look at what options other airlines can provide you before asking your original airline for a full refund.

Travel arrangements can be impacted if your cruise gets cancelled.
Cruises don’t get cancelled often but when they do, it can impact your other travel arrangements.

The cheapest fare isn’t always the best fare.

Great deals on airfares are always popping up, but keep in mind that most of these fares have very restrictive terms and conditions. So if something happens and your cruise is cancelled or you want to change your plans, most of these airfares are non-refundable and can’t be changed.

This particular issue reared its ugly head recently for guests booked aboard Ovation of the Seas’ cancelled Sydney to Singapore voyage next summer – many guests had booked deeply discounted airfares and were initially not told if Royal Caribbean would cover them for the cost of their airfares, while travel insurance also fails to cover these situations.

Additionally these fares have dramatic restrictions on luggage allowances – in some cases not including a luggage allowance at all! So if you plan on buying lots of souvenirs, keep in mind the cost of adding luggage might just make that great deal not-so-great. You will also be more likely to have some flexibility from premium airlines like Cathay Pacific or Etihad Airways if you are a kilo or two over on your international flight to your cruise.

Fog engulfs Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour is engulfed by a pea-soup fog, which can wreak havoc with airline schedules.

Factor in the potential for lots of delays.

If you are flying to your dream Caribbean cruise on a ship like Oasis of the Seas or Disney Dream you almost certainly will be flying through the Northern Hemisphere’s winter season. Whilst destinations like Miami and Los Angeles aren’t subjected to snow closures, you may be passing through one of the big hub airports like Chicago or Denver, which are.

Cities like these can sometimes go from sunny and clear to snowy & closed in mere minutes. You should therefore ask your travel agent to avoid flights that stopover in snowy cities en route to your destination. Paying the extra for the non-stop flight will almost guarantee you arrive in time for your cruise.

Holland America ship docked in Sydney under storm clouds.
Mother Nature might have something to say if you’re flying home straight after your cruise.

Closer to home, if you’re flying to or from Sydney for a cruise – in winter, the city can be susceptible to fog early in the morning, so make sure you book to fly at least a day before your cruise if the only option from your city or town is an early morning arrival. At the other end of the year, if you are flying home directly after your cruise, also consider the afternoon summer storms that are quite common in Sydney as these can cause quite a few delays.

Check what airfares your cruise line can offer.

The cruise lines book a lot of flights for their passengers too, and with that comes some decent bulk discounts which they are often happy to pass on to you! This is particularly handy for sailings where you are cruising one way and having to fly another e.g. cruises from Sydney to Vancouver or vice versa, where you would generally be slugged with one way surcharges that the cruise lines don’t have to pay!

You will also generally find things cheaper if you are booking a Trans-Atlantic cruise where you need to fly to one continent and out of another as the airlines have special deals built solely for these types of voyages.

Look at all airport options when shopping for the best deal.

This could be the tip that saves you hundreds or even thousands of dollars and hours of your holiday –when flying to a cruise abroad, make sure you look at all the different airports that serve the city you need to fly to. In places such as Miami, you have two airports at your disposal in the main Miami Dade International Airport and nearby Fort Lauderdale, the latter often being a few hundred dollars cheaper to fly into and in many cases closer to which port your ship is sailing from!

New York City, one of America’s most popular northern cruise hubs has no less than three different major airports in its near vicinity. Shopping around to determine whether it is cheaper to fly into JFK, LaGuardia or Newark can save you some serious money.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Haneda airport will save you close to two hours of your life instead of the inconveniently located Narita on the city’s northern edge.

Four different airports serve New York City.
New York is another city popular for cruising, but has four different airports in its near vicinity.

Look at flight & hotel packages to save some money.

More and more online travel agents such as Expedia and Zuji offer the ability to package up a flight and hotel deal if you feel like a few days exploring your departure city before boarding your cruise. Selecting these type of offers can offer some deeply discounted rates on a range of hotels, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars over booking each component separately. Cruise Advice looked at example dates in Singapore where we were saving over $200 per person by booking a flight and hotel package instead of each item on its own.

Book the airport transfers through the cruise line.

There are advantages and disadvantages to booking your airport transfers through your cruise line. They can often work out more expensive than a simple taxi, however they come with one hidden perk. A representative of your cruise line will be waiting in the arrivals hall at the airport for you to arrive, ensuring that you and all your luggage is there and in one piece before making your way to the ship.

Should anything go wrong, whether your luggage gets lost or your flight suffers a lengthy delay, this representative will inform the ship and they will start the process to help with arrangements to get on the ship at the next port. They will also have detailed information for the airline in regards to reuniting you with any lost items at subsequent ports of call.

What are your tips when you fly and cruise? Tell us n the comments below!