…and it’s a great question!
It’s something that needs to be discussed and have some thought put into it as when spending thousands of dollars on an anticipated, exciting Cruise Vacation the last thing you want is your trip ruined because you didn’t plan your arrival to the ship properly.
Now for those of you who’ve Cruised a few times you’ve probably got this part of cruising down pat but for sure a brand new Cruiser needs to consider some things that they normally wouldn’t have to on a regular vacation.
For example, if someone plans to fly to LA to spend the week site-seeing and they’re scheduled to get in at 11am Sunday morning and their flight gets delayed till 5pm that night… no big deal, they’ve missed a few hours site-seeing but LA is still there.
Not so with Cruise Ships!!
If you plan to get to LA at 11am to catch your ship departing at 5pm to Mexico or Hawaii or the Panama Canal (or wherever it’s going) and your flight is delayed till 5pm… guess what, your ship is gone and now it’s your responsibility to catch up with it at the next port.
That’s going to be an expensive last minute flight no matter where your ship is heading & depending on your itinerary you can miss a lot of your Vacation.
For example, did you know when doing a 14 night LA round-trip Cruise to Hawaii the first 5 days are at sea? That means if you miss your ship in LA the earliest you can get on it is 6 days later in Hawaii… talk about a ruined Vacation!!
So here’s my best advice when taking your next Cruise Vacation…
…NEVER fly or drive to your Cruise port the day the ship is leaving!!
I suggest this for several reasons:
1. As described above, if you’re flying know that flights are more delayed than ever these days… for weather reasons, mechanical reasons, pissed-off union reasons who end up causing intentional delays, etc. For example, 3 months ago I did a group Cruise with 20 friends & family and OVER HALF of the group experienced flight delays either before and/or after the Cruise… that’s pretty bad stats!
Don’t miss your Cruise Vacation due to the airlines… it happens all the time!!
2. Even if you drive to the port, why add all that extra travel time to your 1st day of your Cruise? For example, I live in Vancouver and the port of Seattle is 2.5-3hrs from where I live & I’ve Cruised from there maybe 4 times now. But I still spend the night before my Cruise in a hotel down there. Why? Well, if I want to be at the port by 11am that means I’d have to be out the door by 8am which means I’m up by 6am or so.
If you don’t want to sleep through your 1st dinner onboard that evening or the show or be too tired to have a late-night social beverage, etc. it just makes sense to spend the few extra bucks on a pre-night hotel… and it’s nice to start your Vacation a little early! 🙂
3. ANYTHING can happen to anyone on travel day! As you may know I have booked thousands of people onto Cruises and all kinds of things happen… IDs get forgotten, unexpected traffic delays come up, people get stomach sick which slows them down, a freak lightning storm or an exploding Volcano grounds a plane, etc., etc., etc. And NOBODY who misses their Cruise ever plans it that way, that’s for sure!
All I’m saying is this…
…why risk starting a great Cruise Vacation off on the wrong foot by cutting it too close to get to your ship… it just doesn’t make sense!
Some other thoughts.
It always amazes me how many people fly into these cities & head right to their ship and never see a thing. These cities are part of your trip too so make sure to take advantage when there.
And ALWAYS see the city 1st!
If you’re Cruising to Canada & New England for example and are planning to spend some time in New York to see shows, etc. don’t do it after the Cruise, do it 1st. This way you don’t need to worry about missing your ship and a few days in New York first helps you get over jet-lag so by the time you hop onboard you’re relaxed & are 100% ready to enjoy your fabulous Cruise Vacation!
And this is especially recommended when flying overseas to somewhere like Europe or Asia as jet-lag can be brutal. When I did my “Yangtze River” Cruise & Land Tour in China for example, I was living on a time zone almost exact opposite of mine back home so when I wanted to sleep it was daytime & I could have stayed up all night as it was daytime back home.
Smartly though I flew in 3 days early to get used to all this… you truly don’t want to be out of it when starting off your Cruise Vacation of a lifetime in a unique part of the World!
Now that you know I recommend getting into your port city at least one day early (2-3 early is even better!) let’s quickly address a question I hear lots.
“When should I head to the Cruise Ship the day the ship sails?”
Here’s what I do.
I almost every-time get to the ship around 11am (With that said, for River Cruises I don’t bother till 2pm or so as they rarely offer lunch on day 1 as Ocean Cruises do)… I do that as boarding typically begins between 11:30am-11:45am so by the time I get through security, customs & check-in it’s time to get on and I can immediately enjoy lunch & explore the ship before the crowds show up.
**HOT TIP** If you follow my advice above, don’t bring too much carry-on luggage as typically you can’t get into your room till 1-2pm… small cases with wheels like above will be appreciated during these couple of hours. 🙂
And remember, if your ship leaves at 4pm or 5pm that doesn’t mean you can show up then. In most instances you have to be onboard 90 mins before or you can be denied boarding so the earlier the better… no earlier than 11am though like I do or you’ll be unnecessarily waiting around in the terminal.
One last piece of advice… Travel Insurance… always get it! Travel Insurance covers you for lots of things, one of them including helping you get to your ship if something chaotic happens at the beginning of your Journey. Check out my Travel Insurance Blog Post to see how this can be a real life-saver!
Alright, I hope you enjoyed my thoughts today on when to arrive for your Cruise & if you have some great suggestions for my readers that I left out simply let me know and I’ll add them in! 🙂
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