All in all, my misadventures in travel on Day 5 turned out pretty well, considering that I never actually made it home (or even left the state of Florida, for that matter!). I had a nice room at a hotel I was familiar with, and I’d even managed to pay for it with my Hilton points, meaning I wasn’t out of pocket any additional money. I had a ticket on a direct flight home (well, almost home) on the next day, and it didn’t even leave until the reasonable hour of 11:30 am.
I was feeling pretty good…perhaps, too good? I woke up fairly early on the unexpected day 6 of my trip and packed up my things to head to the airport around 8:30. Sure, I’d be a little early, but Orlando can be a notoriously busy airport, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get there a little early. Indeed, the rash of cancellations on the previous day meant that Delta’s ticket counters were busy and the lines were a little long. I checked my bag again, feeling a strong sense of déjà vu, and went through the security line.
I had been resting comfortably in the Delta Sky Club, posting my Day 5 blog post, for about an hour when I saw the first delay on my flight. Here we go again, I thought, but fortunately for me, Day 6’s flight delays had a much happier ending than Day 5’s. While we were delayed about a half an hour in our departure, we only landed about five minutes after our scheduled arrival time.
I arrived home to a winter wonderland – the weather system that had cancelled my flights on Day 5 was still in full effect, and it snowed for most of our drive home from the airport. Even though it was cold, I was glad to be home. But that doesn’t mean I’m not counting the days until my next cruise!
Ever since I started cruising with my mom, over 20 years ago, I’ve always held fast to one rule: Always fly in to your port city the day before your cruise. Airlines and weather are unpredictable, and it’s always better to give yourself a cushion where something can go wrong and you’ll still make it to your cruise on time.
But when I booked our last-minute cruise to Cuba, I was faced with a dilemma: Flights on the day before our sail date were considerably more expensive, adding to an already expensive last-minute plane fare, and that fare increase would have added to the cost of a hotel room to make our last-minute deal not so much of a deal at all. So I took a deep breath and broke my cardinal rule of cruising: Always fly in the day before your cruise.
I booked us on flights that left first thing in the morning on the day our cruise was scheduled to sail. To make my sins even worse, I had no choice but to book us on a connecting flight through Delta’s hub of Atlanta, with a connection time of less than one hour. Yikes!
It wasn’t all bad. I had done some research to check that there were two connecting flights that would have (theoretically) gotten us to Tampa in time to make the cruise. Flying through an airline’s hub airport will usually give you this kind of option as a backup. I’d done some research and learned that Tampa’s port was relatively easy to get to from the airport, so I figured that a same-day fly-in would be less difficult here.
In the end, our flights went smoothly and we made it to Tampa with plenty of time to get to the port – we even had time to stop at a grocery store so I could pick up a couple of bottles of wine to take with us. I even felt brave enough to schedule our next cruise’s flights on the same day the cruise sailed (though I did opt for a nonstop flight, which significantly helped put my mind at ease in the lead-up to our cruise).
As I always say to my writing students, you have to know the rules before you can break them. In general, I think I’ll stick to my oldest rule of cruising: Always fly in the day before your cruise. But now, I feel like I have a little better of an idea now about when I can break that rule.