Choosing Your Pre-Cruise Hotel

Hotel Indigo – Massachusetts

Perhaps you’re looking at the title of this post and thinking I’m crazy. “Pre-cruise hotel?  What for?  I arrive to the port on the day of my cruise, not the day before!”  Many people feel this way, which is why I always suggest arriving in your port city before your cruise sails out to sea.  I was watching the newly revamped TV series on TLC titled, “On the Fly” this past weekend.  Have you seen it? You might recall the prior version of the show, “Airline,” that used to air on A&E.  Although the name is different, the premise is the same. Viewers get a behind the scenes look at travelers flying through various airports on Southwest airlines. Besides the typical intoxicated passenger who insists that they are able to fly, lost or destroyed baggage, and the antics of employees, we act as voyeurs as people attempt to get to their final destination despite insurmountable odds.  As I watch these episodes, I’m reminded of how people are willing to take such big chances with important events in their lives such as their own weddings, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or vacations that they have planned and paid for in advance. If they only had made their plans to arrive the day before the big event instead of traveling the day of, they would not be as stressed as they are traveling on the day of the event.  It seems so simple and yet, this simple fact seems to elude them.

Ritz Carlton – St. Thomas, USVI

I totally understand why someone wouldn’t want to pay for a hotel night if they felt that they could travel the day of their event.  For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to call the event a cruise, but feel free to substitute in any event of your choosing. Unless you live across the street from the cruise terminal, you simply can’t guarantee that the airlines are going to get you to your final destination on time. There can be flight delays or cancellations, bad weather from your city or your destination or anywhere for that matter, or mechanical failure.  All you need is one piece in your travel puzzle to change and your travel plans can fall apart easily.  In one episode, a couple leaving from Baltimore on the day of their cruise, faced delays as their plane to San Diego is repeatedly delayed.  The woman relies heavily on her Bach’s Rescue Remedy to get her through her increased stress levels, but I watched thinking that all of her stress could have been alleviated had they just planned their trip to arrive in San Diego the night before.  Luckily, they made their cruise but I’m sure just barely.  I don’t like starting my vacation by running to make the ship.  Do you?

Holiday Inn – Bogotá, Colombia

How can you avoid the unnecessary stress of same day flying?  Book your flight to arrive into your final destination or port city to arrive the day before your cruise.  Some people object to this idea because of the added expense, but let’s look at this in another manner.  Should you fly to your cruise port the day of your cruise and miss embarkation, you will have to pay to fly yourself to the next port.  One night in a hotel prior to your cruise vs. purchasing a same day ticket? When you weigh out  the cost and the potential stress involved with the latter, it seems like the obvious solution is to fly out the day before the cruise.

There are a multitude of hotel choices available throughout the United States and abroad.  Choosing a pre-cruise hotel is like choosing any other hotel, but before you start looking at hotel options, I highly recommend that you get your expectations in line with your budget.  Many people expect a five-star hotel on a 2-star budget.  That doesn’t mean you have to stay at a “roach motel,” but it does mean that you have to realize that you get what you pay for if you want a little more than that, it requires paying a little more.

Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV

Cruise port cities in the U.S. typically have hotels with cruise packages that are the most beneficial for cruise passengers.  I always sing the praises of travel agents and this is yet another reason to utilize your travel agent not just for booking your cruise, but your pre-cruise hotel.  There will always be budget hotels available, but I know I personally try to find the best package available.  For example, let’s say there is a hotel available for $89 a night.  You’ll have to pay for transportation from the airport to the hotel, dinner and breakfast, internet charges, and transportation to the cruise port the next morning. Another option might be to pick the  hotel with a cruise package for $129 a night that offers complimentary airport transportation to the hotel and a package that includes free internet, breakfast, and transportation to the cruise port in the morning.  The only out of pocket cost would be dinner, but after you add up all of the extras with the $89 hotel, you’ll probably pay more with the less expensive hotel than the one with the cruise package.  It pays to shop around and look for the best option instead of assuming the cheapest option is the best option.

If you consider your pre-cruise hotel stay as the start of your vacation, you can start your vacation out  earlier and less stressed.  Imagine lounging by the hotel pool relaxing vs. running through an airport hoping your flight will leave on time.

Here are a few more tips:
1. Don’t assume that the budget travel sites like Expedia and Orbitz will have the cheapest hotel rates available.  In fact, the hotel web sites often have the best rates possible.  If they don’t, call them up and ask them to match the lower rate you found.  Doesn’t hurt to ask!
2. Visit travel review web sites like and read reviews about your potential hotel.  Don’t read only a few, but glance at several to get an overall feel of the hotel. Take a look at the photos from travelers vs. professional pictures, too.
3. All airport hotels are not created equal.  Lots of people avoid airport hotels because they think they are either dumpy or overpriced or both.  There are some great airport hotels out there like the Marriott Airport Miami, which has a great restaurant and bar, beautiful lobby, a Starbuck’s, large fitness center, and great rooms.
4. All hotel room types are not the same.  You can expect to find larger rooms when booking at extended stay hotels like Candlewood Suites, Residence Inn, etc.  This is great if you are traveling with more than two people and need the space.  Hotel rooms in NYC will be smaller than in most other cities.  Do your research to avoid surprises.
5. Use an app like TripIt to make your travel plans portable.  Instead of printing out maps and hotel confirmations, simply forward your reservations to and it will automatically populate the fields in your travel plans.  You can share your plans with others and best of all, it’s free!  This is great when you arrive at your hotel and if asked, you can simply go into TripIt and give the confirmation number and any other information needed instead of rifling through your bags to find a piece of paper.  Visit for more information.  The app is available for iPhone and Android users.
6. Especially when traveling for a cruise, I recommend the following packing tip.  Pack the clothes and toiletries that you will need the day of your cruise on the very top of your bag. This way you won’t need to rummage through your bags to look for your things.  If you’re traveling with a checked bag, don’t put the cruise line’s luggage tag on until the morning of the cruise.  Since most cruise lines have you print these out at home, they won’t last through a flight to your cruise port city.  Instead, put them on the morning of your cruise. If you forget, don’t worry as the porters curbside at the port will have blank ones you can fill out.
7. Relax and enjoy your vacation!  That’s the best advice I can offer you!

Do you have any pre-cruise hotel advice to offer?

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