Should I fly in a day before?
Flying in the same day lowers your expense level. No hotel cost, just one taxi/shuttle cost from the airport to the pier. However...
Flying in a day early lowers your stress level. If you are cutting it close, a flight delay or cancellation could be a disaster. It is your responsibility to meet the ship, and a last-minute flight to the ship's next port won't be cheap. A night in a hotel before your cruise can also help you unwind and enjoy your first day on the ship.
Many experienced cruisers who have the time and money always fly in the day before.
However, not everyone has that luxury.
If you cannot fly in the day before, you can minimize your risk of missing the ship by following these rules:
- Fly non-stop. Connections at least double your risk of delay.
- Take an overnight flight. If you arrive early in the morning you will have plenty of buffer time before the ship leaves in the late afternoon. This is not relaxing, however, as you will not be well rested and will have a lot of time to kill.
- Allow at least a 5 hours buffer for delays. More if you are flying to or from areas known for delays (e.g., Chicago in winter), or if you know there isn't a subsequent flight that day that would get you in on time. You can check a route's average delays on FlightStats.com.
- Take an early-morning flight, provided you still have a good buffer before your flight. Morning flights not only get you in earlier, they have fewer delays because flights have not backed up yet.
- Don't check luggage. You will get out of the airport, and onto the ship, much faster if you only have carry-on baggage. (For tips on how to do this, read the tips on packing for carry-on.)
- Check in online. If you are very late, but arrive before the ship actually departs, giving the cruise line all your boarding information online beforehand may help you squeak past Custom and Border Patrol's strict 60 minute eNOD requirement.
For international flights, always fly in the day before.