Is it better to book your flight or leave it to the cruise line?
Planning any trip or vacation can be stressful, which is ironic since the point of a vacation is to relieve stress and get the relaxation you have been waiting all year for. If you’re planning a cruise vacation, you often have to fly to the port of departure so you can embark on the cruise vacation of your dreams. To save time, you may be tempted to just have the cruise line book your flight for you by purchasing a travel package that include airfare. It’s easy enough to understand why this would seem like a time saver, you don’t have to do your own research, and you feel safe in the assumption that the cruise line will do its best to get a great deal for you. Unfortunately, that is not the reality.
First, having the cruise line take care of the flight arrangements for you is actually more expensive. They are under no obligation to look for the best airfare for you, and will generally use the flight arrangements as an excuse to increase their profit margin. While it can be safely assumed that cruise companies and airline companies have a good relationship, it’s naïve to assume that this relationship would be to your benefit. Keep in mind that they are here to make money, not get you the best discount possible. And if they can see that you won’t be doing any research on your own, how would you ever know that they are charging you too much money?
Perhaps you think that money is not an issue, but time is. However, letting the cruise line handle the flight arrangements can cause more hassles and waste more time than it saves. It is standard industry practice for the cruise to notify you of your flight and seats 30 to 60 days before departure. In addition, the flight they book you on will usually include stopovers and connection flights that may have departure times that are less than optimal, leaving you rushing to get to the next flight. If you are not happy with the flight the cruise line booked for you, and would like to pick a departure time or routing that’s more to your comfort, then you may be charged an Air Deviation fee, which is between $15 to $100 more.
However, there is an advantage to booking your airfare through the cruise line. If the flight or cruise is delayed for any reason, the cruise line will usually (though not always) do what they can to provide alternate arrangements. If you book your own flight and there is a delay, the cruise line will usually chalk it up as something that is beyond their control and leave it up to you to figure things out on your own. Still, buying a sea/air package through your cruise line is not a guarantee that you will be helped if travel issues arise. Your best bet during this type of situation is to be calm and courteous to the customer representative, who is in the best position to help you.
It’s true that nothing is ever 100% guaranteed, and things often happens that are beyond anyone’s control. If you are looking to save money on airfare and retain maximum control over your preferred departure times and routing, you are better off booking the flight on your own and purchasing comprehensive travel insurance. Still, this is not to say that you should never purchase air/sea packages from the cruise line. If you choose to do so, don’t just book online without speaking to a customer representative first. Regardless of what booking option you choose, it’s always best to speak to a representative so you can fully understand what they can and can’t do—that way, you can be properly prepared to adjust your travel plans if need be.