Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Can this cruise be saved? Get Me To The Ship On Time

A recent email from a new-to-cruising reader asked what Cruise Diva thought of his flight reservations. Could he make a connecting flight with a one-hour layover and would there be any problem with his plane arriving in Miami at 2:15 pm?

Without a crystal ball, that first one is a tough question to answer. For instance, while I've changed planes at Hartsfield-Jackson Intl Airport in Atlanta more than a hundred times and can get from gate-to-gate in under 12 minutes, I'm really familiar with the airport and its shortcuts. However, I'm still uncomfortable with anything less than a two-hour layover there, or at any other airport for that matter. With even a short delay in arrival, one-hour connections can be tight. These days, delays are all too common, which is what I told my reader. That answer is a squishy "maybe."

The second part of his question brought up an even bigger problem. His flight was scheduled to land in Miami at 2:15 pm, but his ship was departing Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades at 4:30! While they are only about 30 miles apart, the driving time on I-95 from Miami to Fort Lauderdale is about 40 minutes without traffic, with traffic it can take an hour or more. Of course that would be after my reader retrieves luggage at the airport and gets a cab or shuttle, which also takes time.

His party might make it to the port before his ship sails, but that might not be good enough if they haven't completed their check in online prior to arrival at the port. U.S. government security regulations require cruise lines to submit certain passenger information to law enforcement authorities at least 60 minutes prior to departure. To meet this requirement, they must have the necessary information in their records at least 90 minutes before departure. If the cruise line does not have their information by that deadline, my reader's party may be unable to sail. Passengers who wait to check in at the terminal risk being denied boarding even if they arrive at the terminal before the ship leaves.

The answer to the second part of his question is another "maybe you'll make it okay," but it's iffy.

My advice? Even if flights to Miami are cheaper, it's not worth the hassle and worry, not to mention the expense of ground transportation to Fort Lauderdale, just to save on airfare. A better option is to book earlier flights to Fort Lauderdale on the day of embarkation, or if that isn't possible, fly in the day prior to relax before boarding.

Got a question about flying to port? You'll find answers in Cruise Diva's Air and Sea: Solutions for the Landlocked.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regardless of the savings, real or imagined, in doing it yourself, I don't understand not placing the company on the hook for making sure you are topside looking ashore when the ship sails. The days of waiting for hours in hopes a wayward passenger shows up are gone. Same for tours. I know I can book a better tour with less hassle and far less money myself but that doesn't guarantee I will make sailing if things change. Every cruise has that one apoplectic passenger, usually at my table, who insists on doing it himself. It appears from his rantings that he believes the world is against him. Just might be.