Our new Tuesday column is called “Travel Like a Pro.” You already know Janice Hough, our resident travel agent. Her feature will tell you how to navigate the ins and outs of travel like a professional.
To save money and vacation time, you may be tempted to arrive in a cruise port as late as possible.
On our first cruise, my husband and I took connecting flights from San Francisco to Acapulco, Mexico, arriving in the late afternoon for a sailing that night.
We made it — barely.
In most cases, however, ports are a longer drive or flight away from home. Since most ships don’t sail until late in the day, cruisers may decide to arrive early in the day, sometimes on a redeye.
Here are seven reasons why that’s a really bad idea.
1. Planes can be late and cars can break down. Even if this doesn’t happen often, all it takes is once. And once will ruin your vacation. Especially as many insurance policies don’t cover missing the boat.
2. Even if your plane is on time, your luggage may not be. We once arrived in Venice a day in advance before a 12-day cruise. Whereupon Lufthansa told us at the airport that for some undisclosed reason, half the plane’s luggage was still in Munich.
As it turns out, we got our bags a couple hours before sailing. On that same cruise, weather in Chicago had caused delays and flight changes, several passengers we met didn’t get their bags for days.
3. No time to buy needed sundries. Even when you do carry-on, because of the three-ounce airline liquid rule, you may want time to buy things like sunscreen, lotions — or, if your cruise line allows it, beverages, including non-alcoholic beverages — to bring on board. Without paying shipboard prices.
4. If you forget anything. It might be a mundane something, but by arriving early, there’s usually time to go to a store to get it. And, in my experience, even the most organized people forget things. Being at the port a day in advance also allows for shopping if you’ve completely misjudged the weather, which can happen.
5. You have a day to recover from jet lag. And, pre-travel stress, if there’s no jet lag.
6. A day or two in a hotel, even an inexpensive one, extends your vacation. Although be careful if you unpack anything. My husband once hung his jacket in the hotel room closet to get wrinkles out. The jacket spent the week of our cruise in the closet. (Fortunately, it was a roundtrip cruise so we got it back.)
7. To squeeze in emails. If you need any last inexpensive communication with the outside world, Wi-Fi and cell phone usage is almost always cheaper on land than at sea — even overseas, where Wi-Fi is often available for the price of a coffee.
Many of these may seem like common sense, but little things can make a big difference in a trip. If you’re in the port city you can get up, eat breakfast and head over to board at your leisure. Ship boarding times usually begin about the same time as hotel check-out times.
Besides, being a short taxi ride away from your ship will help you feel more relaxed — and isn’t that the point of going on vacation?