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Helpful Cruise Guidelines (cont.)

What to expect when air is offered by the cruise line.

Cruise lines are in the business of selling cruises and provide air transportation merely as an accommodation to the passenger. In doing so, their responsibility is to transport you to the port of embarkation in time to board your cruise and return late enough to allow for disembarkation and transfer to the airport. Whether the air is a separate component of the cruise and priced separately, or whether it is offered complimentary as part of the cruise package rate, the lines deal with the same challenges. With the increase in the number of passenger ships and conversely the decrease of air capacity, it is now more likely to be reserved on flights or flight connections that are not the most convenient, timely or direct. Also, bulk fare contracts negotiated between the cruise lines and air carriers, require the airline to reserve the cruise passenger on the routing and flight(s) of the respective airlines choosing and not necessarily the most convenient and/or direct. With this in mind, we wish to advise of four options available to you:

Option (1) Do not use the cruise line’s air program and arrange your reservations independently.
Advantage — flexibility; ability to select preferred airline; redemption of frequent flyer and award mileage, non-use air credit if cruise package price included complimentary air.
Disadvantage- — must provide own transfer to and from pier or purchase from cruise line if offered; must act independently to arrange alternate air flights in event of airline or cruise delays.

Option (2) Utilize the cruise line’s air program in conjunction with a customized air service (deviation) charge that most cruise lines provide.
Advantage — allows you to customize your flight requests with regard to airline and time, subject to availability; allows for deviations and stopovers in city of embarkation and/or debarkation; cruise line’s responsibility to protect flights in case of delays.
Disadvantage — there is a service charge of $50-$150 per person, depending on the cruise line, plus any additional fare costs incurred by your request.

Option (3) Utilize the cruise line’s normal air program without customizing, leaving it up to the cruise line to assign you flights to and from your home city.
Advantage — cruise line is responsible for protecting flights in case of delays or cancellations.
Disadvantage — as previously mentioned, you can be assigned most any flight or connection and final flight information sometimes not available until closer to sailing.

Option 4) Have TravLtips arrange your air through our air wholesaler, Global Marine Travel
Advantage — you will be able to know your flight itinerary and exact fare ahead of time and in most cases fares are less expensive than cruise lines airfares.
Disadvantage — you must pay for flights at time of booking.

Cruise line cancellation policies with respect to confirmed air transportation vary. The reality is you may be faced with a penalty when you finally receive notice of your flights, find them unacceptable and attempt to cancel or change. While final flight routings are usually acceptable, there are an increasing number of undesirable flight itineraries that are confirmed. Because of the preceding, you may want to consider arranging your own independent air transportation, if some control is desired in planning your air flights. Should the passenger decide to take the cruise line’s air, TravLtips assumes no responsibility for the final flight itineraries assigned by the cruise line nor are we compensated in any way by the cruise lines for the air component of your trip. Lastly, airfares are subject to change until paid in full and regardless of how you book your air transportation, many airlines impose a fee for checked baggage.

Travel insurance — do you really need it?

Cruise passengers need to understand that cancellation policies are being enforced virtually without exception by all cruise lines, large and small. Passengers should read the line’s cancellation policy before booking and understand that once a deposit is placed, you are subject to their terms and penalties—and you should not expect any penalty to be waived. Gone are the days when lines would refund your money if they were able to re-sell the cabin. Therefore, TravLtips strongly recommends the purchase of travel insurance to protect your travel investment.

Travel insurance coverage cannot be emphasized enough, however it does have its limitations and should be understood by the traveler. The primary reason for travel insurance is for trip cancellation and interruption protection, specifically for non-refundable portions of your trip should you have to cancel for illness-related or other covered reasons. Secondary protection is the “wrap-around” coverage of medical expense, medical evacuation, baggage and travel delay. The limitations of these coverages are generally explained in the respective travel insurance brochures. We occasionally recommend the passenger call the insurance company direct for further clarification on coverage details and policy exclusions, especially those designated as "pre-existing (medical) conditions."

We want to remind members that our group Travel Protection Plan allows you to waive the pre-existing conditions exclusion provided the full insurance premium is paid within 14 days of initial trip deposit—an attractive feature for those passengers who otherwise might not be insurable under another insurance program. Our TPP insurance coverage is provided by TripMate, a reputable insurance supplier with whom we have had favorable experience over several years. Premiums are not “age-rated” as with other individually purchased, more expensive travel insurance plans. Premiums are based on a percentage (7.5% - 10.5%) of your total trip cost and duration (1-120 days) of your trip. And the Trip Mate TPP provides a comprehensive travel insurance coverage as described above.

Anyone taking a costly cruise should take travel insurance. But you also need to know what is covered and when. Passengers must read and understand the Description of Coverages for the travel plan purchased. The coverages are specific and limited to distinct definitions, which explain what is covered and when the coverage is in effect. Read the entire brochure, not just the benefits! Every year we have instances where passengers did not take out insurance and there is a substantial loss due to the line’s cancellation policy—don’t let it happen to you.

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