We’ve discussed before hotel park and cruise shuttles and how they’re not always the deal they seem. We’ve also written about how we recommend getting around before and after your cruise out of South Florida. Today however, at Fort Lauderdale International Airport we met a few travelers from New Jersey who just got off a Carnival cruise and were heading home. They opted to get to the airport using a transfer purchased from Carnival, so we thought we’d share their experience and our thoughts.
Getting Between the Airport & Cruise Port – An Overview
Regardless of where you’re cruising, there are generally a similar set of options when you need to fly into a city and then get to the port:
- Taxis – Pretty much every city has them, and you find them in abundance at airports and cruise ports.
- Uber/Lyft – Ride share services have become popular in many cities throughout the world. This can be an easy and economical option, often more comfortable than a cab. Be sure to check to see if the city in which you’ll be allows these services to go to the airport and cruise port.
- Hotel Shuttles – If you’re staying at a hotel before or after your cruise, you’ll find some hotels offer shuttle services. Some advertise a cost, others bury the cost, and others really are complimentary. This video exposes some of their secrets.
- Cruise Line Transfers – Most cruise lines offer transfers to get you to or from the ship at the port of embarkation/disembarkation. You generally book this in advance, much like a shore excursion. Don't show up to the airport expecting them to give you a ride without a reservation.
The ‘M’ Family
We met the M family while we were killing some time after our flight was delayed. I overheard them discussing cruising (and couldn’t miss their Carnival garb) so we chatted. They shared that they took a hotel shuttle to the port, but near the end of their cruise, opted to go from the port to the airport a different way. They weren’t pleased with the hotel shuttle. I brought up the pricing, timing of shuttles, etc and they said for them the issue was just that the operation was very disorganized. To get back to FLL after their cruise they chose an airport transfer from Carnival.
Overall, the family of three said they were pleased with the shuttle they took this morning. I asked them if they minded waiting (as they got to the airport around 9am but their flight didn’t board until around noon) and that seemed alright with them. A fourth family member however, was on a different flight leaving hours later – she’d be getting to know the airport waiting areas quite well today, and might have been happier getting to disembark a bit later than she did.
Cruise Line Transfers - What to Keep in Mind
Because these transfers carry a per passenger cost, the value prop quickly falls if more than one or two travelers are involved. Carnival & Royal Caribbean, for example, charge around $16 per person for a one way transfer from Port Everglades to Fort Lauderdale International Airport. As we’ve covered, this is roughly an $8.50 Uber or Lyft ride. If you’re traveling alone, this may not be a big deal, but for a family of four, that’s around $64 for transfers, or potentially less than $9 to go via a ride sharing service.
Taking a taxi or ride sharing service means you can come and go anytime you'd like. If you're purchasing shuttle service from a cruise line, they'll provide guidelines as to what flight times are acceptable. For example, Carnival notes, “…your flight must arrive at Ft. Lauderdale International or Miami International Airport no later than 1:30 PM on the day of your cruise. Transportation service will be provided between 10:00 AM and 2:30 PM. Return flights must not be any earlier than 12:00 PM on the day of debarkation.”
On a related note, if you have a very late flight after your cruise, the shuttle will get you to the airport reasonably early, so you’ll be stuck waiting there. If you make other arrangements however, you can explore the city before heading to the airport – though remember you’ll be schlepping your luggage around town.
Taking a cab, using Uber, etc are generally very reliable ways to get to and from your cruise. That in mind, like booking your airfare or shore excursions through the cruise line, there are certain assurances you get by booking transfers through the cruise line. This may be a bigger benefit in places like Rome, where you have an hour drive between the port and airport. Of course regardless of how you get to and from the port, if your flight is late, and you didn’t book it through the cruise line, you may still “miss the boat” (we know – it’s a ship).
Wrapping it Up
While there is no “universal best” when it comes to what cruise to pick or how to get to the ship, there are certain considerations to keep in mind and find the best solution for you. The great news is that most cruise ports have multiple options, and choices are always good.