Notoriously known as just a bad idea all around, booking airfare through the cruise line has has taken a bit of a turn for the better on some cruise lines.
In the past, travelers paid super high prices, were at the whim of the cruise line as to which airline they would fly or when the flights would be. Want to choose a favorite airline, flying time or even a window or isle seat? Forget it, not an option without a fee on top of high fares.
Today, Florida’s Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises along with Princess Cruises have updated and reworked their air programs to present a competitive option that can make for a seamless vacation package.
Princess Cruises, for example, gives guests the choice of two options with their eZAir program.
A Flexible Air Option gives guests the benefit of a fully refundable air ticket that can be changed or cancelled without charges up to 45 days before the first flight and tickets are not payable until the final cruise payment is due. Special requests like picking a seat can also be accommodated. This is the more expensive option but might be worth it if you want to lock in a rate and don’t want to pay for the airfare until later. A good strategy would be to use this option and take a good hard look at what else might be available online before reaching that 45-day cutoff for cancellation.
A Restricted Air Option lets passengers choose a typically lower-priced restricted option that gives access to competitive fares. These tickets are typically not refundable, subject to change and cancellation fees and are paid for at the time of booking. If cancelled, a Future Air Credit memo is issued that can be used on the same carrier within 365 days. Buy Princess travel insurance, though, and cancellation fees are covered too. This one is very similar to online air buying at, say, Travelocity.com or Cheapoair.com.
One of the biggest benefits to either option is the Next Port Protection. If passengers miss or will miss their original port of embarkation due to airline delay or an airline service disruption, Princes will work with the airlines to find a reasonable alternative at no additional air cost to the passenger. This is a huge benefit incorrectly believed to be part of the deal with all cruise line airfare. Not so. Most cruise lines simply sell the airfare leaving passengers on their own if a flight delay occurs.
The Royal Caribbean and Celebrity program details are a bit different but right along the same lines; competitive with other forms of booking airfare online.
Take another look at cruise line airfare, you might be in for a pleasant surprise.