Years ago, buying cruise and airline tickets together was a common practice. Cruise line negotiated airfares generally represented a good value. Today, low cost carriers, fluctuating oil prices, the availability of frequent flyer award tickets, and diminished airline capacity, cruise line air is often not a great value. Below is some helpful advice that will help when deciding about whether to buy airfare from the cruise line, or, whether to get it from another source.
While the best savings are found if you can drive to a departure port that is close to your home, you may have to fly to your departure port to get the ideal itinerary. While many cruise retail web sites and travel agents will advise you "never buy cruise line air", you should consider all sources, including, booking with the airline, using frequent flyer miles / credit card reward miles, airfare comparison shopping sites and online travel agencies.
Here is some helpful advice about airline tickets bought from cruise lines:
- 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 are sometimes able to negotiate very good airfares to distant cruise departure ports – Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, St. Petersburg, Sydney, etc. For traditional cruise departure ports – Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, San Juan, Galveston (Houston), Port Canaveral (Orlando), Los Angeles, etc. – better airfare deals can be found by buying directly from the airline, redeeming frequent flyer miles or from online travel agencies.
After years of using web sites like Travelocity and Expedia to buy our airline tickets, we stumbled across a hidden gem whose airfare deals regularly amaze us. Bestfares.com's directory of amazing deals is like the Craigslist of travel. These deals will almost never be found on mega-sites like Travelocity, Orbitz or Expedia. Bestfares.com does require a small membership fee as the offers featured almost never pay commission. BestFares.com is run by the "king of cheap airfares", Tom Parsons. Tom may not be a household name outside the travel industry, but, when the media (The Today Show, CNN, Good Morning America, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and The Oprah Winfrey Show – just to name a few) is looking to do a story on airline pricing trends, or, how to find great airfare bargains, they turn to Tom Parsons. Tom is not a young internet prodigy – Tom has over 30 years of experience and airline-industry connections that give him the inside track on killer airfare deals. Bestfares.com is our favorite web site for discounted airline tickets.