There are certain facts about travel to Hawaii that you should consider to ensure that your transportation to and from the island is hassle-free. In addition, whether your cruise sails round-trip from Hawaii or begins or ends there, you must decide whether to arrange airline tickets on your own or use the AIR/SEA program offered by the cruise line. Here are the main points to help you with your decision.
- Hawaii is two time zones west of California, two hours earlier than Pacific Standard Time and three hours earlier than Pacific Daylight Time.
- All international flights land at Honolulu International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu, Hawaii.
- If you depart from Honolulu, we suggest you arrive at least one or two days before your Hawaii cruise to provide a cushion of time in the event you miss your flight and to give you time to relax and get oriented before boarding the ship. To learn more about pre- and post-hotel packages, click here.
- Most of the major U.S. carriers have scheduled flights to Hawaii and many have direct flights.
- Morning departures from the continental U.S. arrive in Honolulu the same day, since by flying west travelers gain two to seven hours. Plan for three to four hours to transfer from the airport to the pier and to check in and board the ship. Most cruises depart in the early evening, so depending on your home city a pre-hotel stay could be required.
- Evening departures from California and/or U.S. west coast cities will arrive the same evening and require pre-hotel accommodations in Honolulu.
- Evening departures from the eastern or central U.S. will require a connection in a major west coast city with an overnight hotel (at your expense) before making a morning connection to Honolulu. This is attractive for travelers looking to break up the long travel day to Hawaii or save money by avoiding the pre-hotel accommodations in Honolulu.
- Return flights are frequently red-eye or late-night flights due to the time loss that occurs when traveling east. These flights arrive at the west coast of the U.S. in the early morning and allow for connections with carriers that service the continental U.S.
- Afternoon departures from Honolulu are an option for passengers living along the west coast of the U.S.
- Prepare for the unexpected by purchasing travel insurance.
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 the cruise line'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 the cruise line's AIR/SEA department -- are convenience and the peace of mind that your flight will make easy connections to your ship.
Cruise lines meet their AIR/SEA passengers at the airport and transport 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.
Cruise lines monitor the status of flights carrying their AIR/SEA passengers, and will sometimes (depending on the number of passengers involved) 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 the cruise line.
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.