Should I fly to the port the day before my cruise? Or can I just arrive in the city the day of my cruise? There are questions that come up often.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about getting to the actual port the day before your ship departs. (See when we recommend getting to the port itself here)
Instead, we mean arriving in your port city the day prior to boarding the ship. People want to know if they should simply come into the port the day of their cruise (whether flying or driving), or if they are better off coming in a day earlier and staying the night in the port city.
The Costs and Benefits of Arriving to the Port City Early
For many people it’s an important question that has some big consequences. Coming in early requires finding a hotel room to stay, figuring out what to do with your extra time, and having to take an extra day off of work.
But the truth is, in many cases coming in a day early is a great idea. And while it might be difficult for everyone to do so, we highly recommend coming into your cruise port at least a day before your cruise departs, if you can manage it.
That said, it’s not a requirement and plenty of people (including us, many times) simply head to the port the day of the cruise.
Advantages of Arriving a Day Early
- More time to get to the port in case you are delayed
- Time to enjoy the port city, which can offer a lot to do
- Ability to relax before your cruise instead of hustling to get to the port
Advantages of Arriving the Day of the Cruise
- Less time taken off work for your vacation
- Save money on cost of a hotel the night before
- More time in the comforts of home before you sail
Flying Into the Port City: Arrive a Day Early
If you are flying into a port city to catch your cruise, then it’s the best idea to arrive a day early.
Why do we feel so strongly?
First, while everyone is excited about cruising to exotic locales, the embarkation port is another port city on your trip that many people seem to ignore. However, these cities typically have a ton to offer.
For example, Galveston, Texas is one of the most historical cities in Texas, with a ton to offer tourists like beaches, the Seawall, and seafood. New Orleans offers tons of culture and nightlife, as do ports in Florida like Miami and Tampa Bay. Seattle is a great place with enough to do to spend 2-3 days before a cruise.
When you fly in early, you have some time to enjoy the sights instead of heading straight from the airport to the cruise port.
But coming in early for your cruise isn’t just to get vacation started a little earlier. It serves practical purposes too.
If you are flying in, that extra day can be invaluable. Should your flight get delayed and you are coming in on the day of your cruise, then there is a definite chance of missing the ship. The results could be even worse if your flight is cancelled.
That extra day gives you more breathing room if something goes wrong instead of stressing whether or not you are going to miss embarkation.
Consider that most cruise ships board between around 12 p.m to 3 p.m. Flying in that morning will usually mean waking up extra early to get to the airport. From there, even the earliest flights will arrive generally after boarding has started. It only takes a short delay to miss the ship.
We also like being able to take our time getting to the port, instead of having to rush and meet a deadline. See a place you want to check out? Want to stop at the store for some last-minute items before getting on the cruise? Simply don’t want to have to wake up at 4 a.m. to get on a plane to the port for cruise day?
Put simply, flying in the day before gives you the extra time you need should something come up instead of having to constantly check your watch when you’re supposed to be on vacation.
Driving Into the Port City: It’s Ok to Arrive on Cruise Day
While we strongly suggest arriving the day before your cruise if flying, it’s different for driving. In that case, it’s perfectly fine to head in on cruise day, as long as you’re leaving yourself enough time for any reasonable delays.
So if you live a few hours’ drive from the port, leave yourself an extra hour for stops, traffic, or anything else that might come up.
Why would it be ok to drive in on the day of a cruise but not fly?
First, there is the fact that flying even a short distance takes so much longer. For example, a two-hour drive takes… two hours. A two-hour flight includes the extra time to drive to the airport, waiting at the gate, the flight itself, and then getting off the plane and heading to the port. On even a short flight, you begin to cut it close if arriving the day of your cruise.
When you drive, you can plan out how long the trip will take and set your own schedule to get to the port on time.
As well, any delays you run into while driving are likely to be short. A traffic jam or a flat tire might add some time to getting to the ship, but the delay is nowhere as long as having a flight cancelled.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with arriving early to the port city if you are driving in. It allows you plenty of time to relax and get into “vacation mode” instead of worrying about driving in on cruise day. But if you want to avoid having to pay for a hotel room and take an extra day off work, then driving in on embarkation day is just fine.