If you plan to fly to your port of embarkation, you must decide whether to arrange airline tickets on your own or use the AIR/SEA program offered by MSC. Here are the main considerations to help you with your decision.
Advantages of Arranging Your Own Airline Tickets
The main advantages of securing your own airline tickets are that you will be able to select the airline you fly and you will have some control over the timing and routing of your flights. You may wish to fly a particular airline to use frequent flier rewards, or to earn frequent flier miles, or because that carrier has nonstop service to your port city. If you arrange your own airline tickets you will have more control over these variables. If you utilize MSC's AIR/SEA program, you may be given an air schedule with an overnight flight, multiple connections, and in some cases, a forced overnight stay at your expense.
Advantages of Using the AIR/SEA Program
The main reasons to let us book your air at the same time you reserve your cruise -- through MSC's AIR/SEA department -- are convenience, better access to flights that make easy connections to your ship, and added protection in the event of a flight or sailing delay or cancellation.
MSC meets their AIR/SEA passengers at the airport and transports them to the pier. These transfers are frequently free of charge, but even if a charge is levied it is typically less than what you would pay if you arranged your own transfers.
MSC monitors the status of flights carrying their AIR/SEA passengers, and will sometimes hold a ship past its scheduled departure time to wait for guests arriving on a delayed flight, but only if that flight was booked through MSC.
MSC reserves large blocks of seats on flights that make easy connections to their departing and returning cruise ships. These flights traditionally experience high load factors and you could have difficulty getting a low fare -- or a seat at any price -- as an individual, particularly for departure ports like Anchorage, Barcelona, Rome, Tahiti and Vancouver. On busy days like Saturday and Sunday, you might have to fly into your port of embarkation a day early if you book your own tickets, adding a day's meals and lodging to your cost.
And finally, sometimes unexpected things occur that affect travel plans. Flight delays or cancellations, changes in cruise ship arrival or departure times, and cancellation of sailings altogether, are some of the things that can force you to rebook at a later time or date or seek a refund for your airline tickets. If any of these things should happen before or during your vacation, you will not be eligible for assistance from the cruise line if you arranged your own airline tickets. However, if we secure your tickets through the cruise line's AIR/SEA program, some cruise lines will assist you in working with the airline to make alternate flight plans, help you catch up with your ship at the next port, or apply for a refund. Your cruise counselor will verify the details of each cruise line’s AIR/SEA program at the time of booking.
The bottom line: Ask your Vacations To Go cruise counselor to quote air from the cruise line and compare that rate to the best rate you can find calling airlines directly. If the rates are close, you're probably better off letting us book your airline tickets through the AIR/SEA program.