Air Reservations

There are certain facts about travel to and from your Alaska cruise or cruise tour that you should consider to ensure that it is hassle-free. In addition, whether you take a roundtrip, northbound or southbound cruise, you must decide whether to arrange airline tickets on your own or use the AIR/SEA program offered by the cruise line. Here are the main points to help you with your decision.

  • When flying the day of departure try to book non-stop flights.
  • Allow for extra connecting time if a connection is required.
  • Choose an air carrier with a hub in your region.
  • Consider flying in a day prior. In most cases you'll need to fly a long distance to reach your port of departure. Arriving at the port city at least one or two days in advance of your cruise will give you time to rest and get oriented before boarding the ship. Most cruise lines offer pre-cruise hotel packages.

Inside Passage Cruises

  • Cruises that embark in Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco, cruise the Inside Passage, and return to the port of embarkation are referred to as Inside Passage cruises.
  • Passports are not required for roundtrip Seattle and roundtrip San Francisco sailings since the itinerary is considered a closed-loop sailing, departs from a US port and returns to the same US port.

Vancouver to Anchorage Cruises

  • Cruises that embark in Vancouver and disembark in Anchorage (port of Seward or Whittier) are referred to as Northbound Cruises.
  • Missing the ship in Vancouver would prohibit embarkation in any other port due to the Jones Act which prohibits cruise lines traveling between US ports to accept new passengers.
  • Allow a minimum of three (3) hours to get from the airport to your ship. If you are traveling from the airport to the cruise port during a high-traffic time, you may want to allow for four (4) or more hours.
  • Sailings ending in Anchorage arrive in Seward or Whittier in the early morning but you should schedule your flight to depart after 2pm since the transfer from cruise pier to airport is long. In many cases the only options will be red-eye (overnight) flights so a post hotel might be considered.

Anchorage to Vancouver Cruises

  • Cruises that embark in Anchorage (port of Seward or Whittier) and disembark in Vancouver are referred to as Southbound cruises.
  • The cruise ship piers are 2.5 (Whittier) to 3.5 (Seward) hours away from the Anchorage airport. Allow a minimum of five (5) hours to get from the airport to your ship.
  • If you fly in the day of sailing, arrange a transfer to the pier in advance of your arrival
  • Fly in a day early and arrange for the early morning train transfer from Anchorage to the cruise terminals. Princess’ transfer is called the Scenic Rail, Holland America’s is called the Train Transfer. Travel time to the pier is a little longer but the trip is beautiful. Other cruise lines also offer this as a transfer option.
  • Sailings ending in Vancouver arrive at the cruise pier in the morning but you should schedule your flight to depart in the afternoon, at least four (4) to five (5) hours after arrival. 

Advantages of Arranging Your Own Airline Tickets
The main advantages of securing your own airline tickets are that you will be able to select the airline you fly and you will have some control over the timing and routing of your flights. You may wish to fly a particular airline to use frequent flier rewards, or to earn frequent flier miles, or because that carrier has nonstop service to your port city. If you arrange your own airline tickets you will have more control over these variables. If you utilize the cruise line's AIR/SEA program, you may be given an air schedule with an overnight flight, multiple connections, and in some cases, a forced overnight stay at your expense.

Advantages of Using the AIR/SEA Program
The main reasons to let us book your air at the same time you reserve your cruise - through the cruise line's AIR/SEA department - are convenience, better access to flights that make easy connections to your ship, and added protection in the event of a flight or sailing delay or cancellation.

Cruise lines meet their AIR/SEA passengers at the airport and transport them to the pier. These transfers are frequently free of charge, but even if a charge is levied it is typically less than what you would pay if you arranged your own transfers.   

Cruise lines monitor the status of flights carrying their AIR/SEA passengers, and might hold a ship past its scheduled departure time to wait for guests arriving on a delayed flight, but only if that flight was booked through the cruise line.

Cruise lines reserve large blocks of seats on flights that make easy connections to their departing and returning cruise ships. These flights traditionally experience high load factors and you could have difficulty getting a low fare - or a seat at any price - as an individual, particularly for departure ports like Anchorage, Barcelona, Rome, Tahiti and Vancouver. On busy days like Saturday and Sunday, you might have to fly into your port of embarkation a day early if you book your own tickets, adding a day's meals and lodging to your cost.

And finally, sometimes unexpected things occur that affect travel plans. Flight delays or cancellations, changes in cruise ship arrival or departure times, and cancellation of sailings altogether, are some of the things that can force you to rebook at a later time or date or seek a refund for your airline tickets. If any of these things should happen before or during your vacation, you will not be eligible for assistance from the cruise line if you arranged your own airline tickets. However, if we secure your tickets through the cruise line's AIR/SEA program, some cruise lines will assist you in working with the airline to make alternate flight plans, help you catch up with your ship at the next port, or apply for a refund. Your cruise counselor will verify the details of each cruise line’s AIR/SEA program at the time of booking.

The bottom line: Ask your Vacations To Go cruise counselor to quote air from the cruise line and compare that rate to the best rate you can find calling airlines directly. If the rates are close, you're probably better off letting us book your airline tickets through the AIR/SEA program. 

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