Is it better to buy airline tickets from the cruise line, or, can I find a better deal elsewhere?
The best savings are usually found if you can drive to a cruise departure port rather than fly. However, driving to your cruise is not always a practical alternative from a time standpoint.
Buying your airfare from the cruise line is not always the way to get the best price, or, the ideal flight to and from the cruise port. Low cost carriers, the availability of frequent flyer award tickets, diminished airline capacity (the mergers between Northwest and Delta, and, Continental and United) are amongst the many factors that make it a good idea to shop-around to get the right air arrangements for you.
Booking directly on the airline's web site, using your frequent flyer miles or credit card reward miles, or, even checking out airfare comparison shopping sites (like Kayak, FareCompare.com or Bing Travel) and online travel agencies like Travelocity, Priceline, Expedia and Orbitz are often a better value that buying the airfare as part of your cruise package.
Keep the following in mind when buying your airline tickets as part of a cruise package:
- The price of cruise line air might be higher than what you could get when buying from the airline, or an online travel agency,
- The category of ticket you are being sold may not be eligible for upgrades (i.e.- from Coach to First Class) or frequent flyer program credit,
- Cruise lines do not contract with every airline – they may not offer your preferred choice of airline,
- Cruise lines generally do not offer flights on "low cost carriers" (Southwest, Airtran, Allegiant, JetBlue, Virgin America, etc.),
- Flight departure times and routing (non-stop vs one-stop) will be assigned to you – selecting your own flight time and routing will often incur an additional fee,
- If you are travelling as part of a group, there is no assurance that everyone in the group will be on the same flight,
- The flights typically assigned are at the less desirable times of the day.
When Does it Make Sense To Buy Cruise Line Air?
Cruise lines sometimes offer very good airfares to distant cruise departure ports – Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, St. Petersburg, Sydney, etc. Occasionally, cruise lines will even subsidize the cost of the air bought from them on these far-away departure ports. The subsidies come in the form of 2nd person 50% off airfare, or, greatly reduced pricing on business or first class airfare.
Photo Credit: Celebrity Cruises