Back when the concept of leisure cruising was first introduced in the UK, it was largely the only way to travel to many destinations around the world. Then, when commercial flights became accessible, the two forms of transport were very distinct. It was very much an ‘either/or’ situation. Today, however, the two methods of transport have come together to offer a holiday option known as ‘fly-cruising’. The notion involves flying to a destination to join a cruise ship back to or from the UK, or flying both ways whilst sailing an itinerary aboard your chosen ship in between. Fly-cruising is loved by some and disliked by others – whether this type of holiday is for you really depends on your own personal preferences.
If you’ve never been on a fly-cruise before, here are some aspects to consider:
There are many, many reasons to book a fly-cruise with the concept becoming increasingly popular across the world. Ranging from benefitting those with time constraints to improving access to ships, here are some reasons why fly-cruising is an excellent way to travel:
Minimal Sea Days
While a great deal of cruise passengers see the voyage itself as an important part of the holiday – exploring the ship, savouring the food, and enjoying the entertainment – others use cruise ships primarily as a way to get from A to B. Although the ships magnificent facilities and amenities are utilised and appreciated, cruising for some is merely a way to see the world, immerse themselves in different cultures, and view famous sights. When sailing directly from the UK, it can take a day or two (sometimes more) to reach the first port of call. For example, it takes one day to reach the Norwegian Fjords, two days to reach Lisbon, and three days to reach Madeira. Flying into destinations that are much closer to popular ports than the UK can reduce sea days, and maximise the time you have to spend discovering beautiful and exotic places.
Cruise & Land Combination Holiday
On most itineraries, cruise ships dock or tender just for the day (often between 8am and 6pm), although sometimes they visit for just a few hours. The exception is with hugely popular destinations such as St Petersburg where many ships will dock overnight. For those who want to spend more time in a destination than a typical cruise itinerary allows for, fly-cruises are the ideal solution. This method of cruising is very popular following transatlantic cruises to the New York. A fly-cruise combines the opulence of intercontinental cruise travel with opportunities to spend as much, or as little, time in the USA as you wish. Staying for a week or two, for example, provides chances to travel a little further afield, such as venturing north to the colonial New England city of Boston, or south to grab a cheesesteak in Philadelphia.
Local Departure Airport
In the UK, Southampton, Dover and Harwich are considered to be the major departure ports, and while these locations are good for some, they are highly inconvenient for others, particularly those who live in the north and have long driving times ahead of them. Fortunately, more and more UK ports are starting to welcome departures, such as Liverpool, but currently only a few cruises lines, such as Fred Olsen, are permitted to utilise these regional ports. When flying to meet your ship, you’ll often have the choice of flying from a range of regional airports closer to home, such as Manchester and Birmingham for example. Departing from a local airport reduces travel stress, saves on petrol costs, and simply makes leaving for a cruise holiday much more comfortable.
P&O Cruises have also recently announced regional departure airport choices for their Ventura Fly-Med itineraries. See all details for these exciting cruises here.
Of course, for some, fly-cruising isn’t all sunshine and smiles. Whether you simply adore flying or hate it with a passion, there are some ways in which flying and cruising don’t mix quite so well:
Airline Baggage Allowances
Luggage allowances are the biggest nuisance when it comes to fly-cruising. The beauty of cruising is that baggage restrictions are often very relaxed. In fact, as long as you can fit all your bags comfortably in your cabin seems to be the motto but really, only health and safety issues are the concern with luggage needing to weigh no more than 23 kilos per case for baggage handlers to safely handle with care. There is no real strict limit on the amount of cases however. This large allowance is often necessary on cruises, as you need to ensure you take a good blend of casual daytime clothing, gym wear, swimming gear, and tuxedos or cocktail dresses for formal night dinners. Unfortunately, the rules aren’t so agreeable on airlines. If you’re travelling in economy class, you’ll often be restricted to just one bag weighing no more than 23 kg.
Potential Airport Delays
With huge numbers of crew onboard, cruise ships are constantly on the go. All cleaning and maintenance work is done at sea, so the ship is always ready for her next voyage. Of course, this isn’t possible with planes, and any problems need to be dealt with on the ground. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, but maintenance work and problem solving can delay flights for several hours. Bad weather can also ground and cancel flights, although cruise ships are able to sail through most extreme weather conditions (just check out the recent pictures of the QM2 covered in thick snow – although she was a little delayed, she did it!). A delay can really put a dampener on your holiday.
A final problem, and one that some fly-cruise passengers don’t think of until it’s too late, is transport. If you’re flying from a regional airport, such as Manchester, you may choose to leave your car there. Sailing back into Southampton or Harwich, you will then need to arrange for transport to get you back to Manchester to collect your vehicle. This isn’t a problem if you’ve got a loyal friend or family member who doesn’t mind acting as your chauffeur, but otherwise you will either need to pay the high costs of public transportation. Booking a dedicated cruise shuttle service is an option at good value but must be booked with a Sales Consultant at the time of booking so as can be arranged in plenty of time.
We think fly-cruising is an excellent way to see more of the world, but we’re also aware that certain aspects means this type of holiday isn’t for everyone. What do you think of fly-cruising? Is it a great idea, or are there simply too many restrictions surrounding this increasingly popular way of travelling?
Need more information? Check out our fly cruising guide here.