Should you leave the night before your cruise leaves? This is a question we frequently get. Here's the scenario: your cruise leaves from Florida at 5 pm on a Wednesday and embarkation starts at 1 pm. You have concerns about missing your cruise due to travel issues. What if you don't make it in time? Here's some considerations:
If you are in the middle of winter, leaving from a storm prone city, there's a fair probability that your flights might be affected. Or even that your drive to the airport could be impacted by a storm. In this case, it's wise to leave the night before. The extra hotel night will give you peace of mind
Waiting for your next plane
Sometimes no matter how much you try, you have a tight connection. Maybe the best flights you can get leave only 45 minute connection time in Atlanta. In the summer (thunderstorm time). There's a fair chance you'll miss your connection. If you do, should have a back up plan. Is there a later flight that could get you in on time? Are seats available? If not, consider leaving the night before.
Even if you have plenty of connection time, your flights may not arrive till later in the day. What if your flight lands at 3:00 pm and the ship leaves at 5 pm. You map it and if everything goes perfect, you will make the cruise. Well, things never go just right. Bags can get delayed, your flight could be delayed, there could be an accident on the road between the airport and the cruise port, etc. So this is another case when leaving early makes sense.
Are you a nervous Nellie?
Some people are just nervous about the whole airport experience. If you're someone that arrives at the airport 3 hours before a domestic flight because you don't want to rush, then you definitely are a candidate to go the night before.
Insurance can give you piece of mind
That sense of loss
If you've purchased trip insurance maybe you don't care if you miss your cruise. Or maybe you don't mind the risk of losing time and money if things don't work out well. In this case, maybe it doesn't make sense to go the night before. But my observation is that:
- People are more risk averse than they think. That is, losing will feel much worse than they anticipate
- Insurance has lots of stipulations and collecting may not be as easy as you think. For example, if you miss your your cruise embarkation, you may need to get yourself to the next port of call and insurance will only cover specific out of pocket costs. Meanwhile you lose a day or two of the cruise experience.
There are options that can mitigate many of these situations. Lots of times you can stay at an airport hotel at your departing airport the night before so you can catch an early flight. And a good travel agent can get you a rate that's no higher than the cost of parking your car for the week anyway.
Another option is to fly out the night before at a comfortable time, enjoy a nice dinner in your arrival port and maybe tour or see nearby friends or colleagues. It's amazing how much you can see in an extra half day.
Insurance is always a good option, even if you do leave early and fly out the night before since it typically covers lots of other issues. See our posts on this here.
But won't leaving early cost me a boatload of money? Leaving the night before might cost you more money since you need to purchase an extra hotel room and food. But it might NOT cost you, Why? Sometimes the cost of air flights are less if you leave a day or so earlier. Optimizing airline costs is a great way to save money - even if it means spending a little more on a hotel.
And there's lots of ways to minimize the cost of the extra hotel night. You don't have to stay in a fancy hotel. You can also use points at your favorite hotel chain. Many times we will stay in a Fairfield Inn (Marriott) using points. And since breakfast and internet is included, you can minimize your meal costs.
Answer: Be happy!
So should you fly out the day before the cruise starts? Generally our answer is yes. But you have to consider where you're leaving from, when your flights are scheduled to arrive, and your own risk tolerance. And of course you have to have the ability to take the extra day. My experience is that travel is fraught with unexpected events and the more you mitigate them the happier you will be. Arriving at your destination the day before is one of the easiest ways to mitigate a whole host of potential issues. So be happy, leave early.
A view of both infinity pools at the Intercontinental Hotel Moorea