Friday, October 13, 2017

Are post-hurricane cruises really a great deal?

As you might imagine, there are excellent deals on Caribbean cruises at the moment.

And don't feel bad about taking advantage of the deals; the islands need your tourism dollar!

Before you leap though, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Itineraries are in flux - You should expect ports so ports of call to change. All cruiselines have been scrambling to replace visits to now-closed ports (such as St. Thomas and St. Maarten). But even the new itineraries are not etched in stone; to support local economies you should expect further itinerary changes as ports re-open.

Sailings may change or cancel - As cruiselines continue to adjust the new realities, sailings may be cancelled, as ships are redeployed to more popular gateways, or for truly unforeseen circumstances. A case in point: mere days after modifing itineraries and ensuring supports were in place to support the Carnival Fascination to continue sailing from San Juan, and announcing confirmed details, Carnival received a request from FEMA to charter the ship for 3 months to support relief efforts in the US Virgin Islands. Always ready to support the community and to help in any way possible, Carnival granted the request.

Hotel availability may be limited - In San Juan, for example, there are hotels that are closed that still have reservations on their books (I discovered this recently when I called a hotel directly), while others are overbooked (as demonstrated by the hotel that called me directly to see if my clients were still travelling). This is also a bit of an issue in larger port cities, such as Miami, as a number of displaced Florida residents are still housed in area hotels.

Flight schedules are subject to change - Airlines survive based on passenger loads, and they can't afford to service areas hit hard by hurricanes, at least not to the same levels. Case in point: my clients who had booked their November cruise from San Juan back in the spring, found themselves without flights when WestJet cut service until early in the new year. Not only did they need to find new flights, airfares would undoubtedly be higher, and availability limited as planeloads of people all need to rebook.

Does all that cause you to think twice about travelling?

If you want a specific itinerary, perhaps this isn't the best time to go... or if the very thought of changes to your planned vacation stresses you out, maybe you should make other plans.

However, if you need some sun, and are flexible, these low fares offer fabulous getaway opportunities.

If you want to go, here are a few tips to help things go more smoothly:
  • This is a good time to work with a travel agent, even if that's not your usual way of doing things. Your travel agent can put that great deal on hold long enough for you to confirm that all the other parts of your trip can be planned.
  • Ask your travel agent for a quote on flights, and while the seats are on hold, check out hotel availability. Booking your flights with a travel agent also means you have someone to help you if something goes sideways.
  • Book hotels with refundable rates. While the price may be lower with a non-refundable rate, and you may be determined to go, things can change. Why not pay $20 more than risk holding the bag on a hotel room in a city you won't be visiting afterall?
  • More than ever, it is important to travel with trip cancellation an interruption insurance!
  • Travel lightly and be organized.
  • Carry snacks, extra medications and reading materials, as well as a cellphone.
  • Pack a sense of humour, and remember that travel is an adventure!

Feel free contact me for more information or a quote. I'd be pleased to help!

Related resources
Caribbean cruise deals
Travel insurance
Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights - Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

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