I'm hoping someone out there can help. We're planning our first cruise with our kids for March break 2011. We got a great deal on airfare flying into Punta Gorda, Fl. I understand (from mapquest) that it's about a 3 hr drive from Punta Gorda to Miami. We are arriving a few days early, just to be sure. BUT .... our cruise (Carnival Liberty) arrives in port at 8am, on the day we leave. Will we have enough time to get our rental car and drive to Punta Gorda? Any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks!
What time does your return flight leave? If it's after 2, then you should have no problems. Just remember, you have to wait for the ship to clear customs/immigration, and then you have to wait for our luggage, and then you'd have to get to your rental car. So figure you're going to be in your rental car around 11am, then it's 3 hours on the road. Then you have to drop your car off and go through security.
Is this the 3pm flight to Plattsburgh on Direct Air? If so then you really need to be at the airport no later than 2pm.
Some things to consider...and that is all I'm saying:
Charlotte County Airport (PGD) is primarily a general aviation airport that has a few commercial flights a day. It is more about the Cessna 172s than it is about Boeing 737s. This actually can be a good thing, but it likely also means TSA only has one lane, which means you may need more time to get through to the gate. It is good that the airport is right off of I-75.
Speaking of I-75, most of your road time will be in Alligator Alley and there are tolls you'll have to pay.
No rental cars are available at the Port Of Miami. You have to take the rental agency shuttle bus from the pier to their car lot. Most of them have lots within a couple miles of the port, but still the clock is ticking.
Realistically, the best you could hope for is to be leaving the ship by 9am. It could be a little earlier but you are at the mercy of U.S. Customs & Border Protection. I've personally been affected by a computer outage at Miami, which shut down debarkation for 45 minutes since CBP is totally dependent on computers to process passengers. I strongly urge you to be in the first group to leave the ship.
Most likely you will be okay and will make it to PGD in time, but you don't need the little delays and glitches to start accumulating. Otherwise you'll find yourself spending another day or two in Fort Myers waiting for the next Direct Air flight.
Self-debarkation means you have to be able to take everything off with you unassisted. It is supposed to mean people with perhaps a garment bag and a roller carry-on, but it is often abused and I've seen people struggling with huge suitcases, slowing up the line in the process. This is the first group called to leave and it is also often the largest group.
It is always a good idea to have travel insurance, and I don't mean buying the cruise line policy. They usually offer less coverage and cost more than a better policy you can get on your own. You have to read travel insurance policies carefully. A policy won't necessarily pay for missing a flight just because you booked it at an airport several hours away from the port and the road trip took longer than you thought.
Another thing - I was looking at new member profiles and see you have a .ca e-mail address. So I assume you are a Canadian citizen but flying out of Plattsburgh?
Yes, we are Canadians from Montreal but leaving from Plattsburgh, NY. Could you recommend a reputable cruise insurance company? I've done some investigating myself but they all seem the same to me.
As for self-debarkation, we travel light. We usually do all-inclusive land resorts and it's usually a back-pack for each child and one carry-on each for mom & dad. I do realize we might require more clothes on a cruise due to formal nights and a stricter dress code, though.
We haven't booked our cruise yet - so, should we do it or forget it?
Don't back out just on what I've said! It's your decision. You'll have to go with your comfort level on your plan.
You have other options to consider. How about a one-way flight to Punta Gorda and then a one-way flight from Fort Lauderdale to Plattsburgh? The thing is you'd have to stay overnight after leaving the ship because US Airways is the carrier and they leave in the early morning - you wouldn't make it if you tried to fly out of there on the morning the cruise ends. I was looking at the fares for both Direct Air and US Airways. Using my option would add around $120 per person, not including the extra night of hotel and meals, plus the rental car might be higher since it won't return to Punta Gorda.
But again, it is most likely you will be fine with your original plan. I'd just have a backup plan if things fell apart. I didn't mean to scare you away from the cruise.
Again, I'm really impressed with how well you know your stuff! I will definately keep it in mind when we decide to book. I've also looked at other itineraries that leave on the Monday and return on the Friday so we'll be sure to make our flight out on Saturday. I can't believe how many things there are to consider when booking a cruise.
I understand from other posts that Cozumel is your favorite port. What excursions would you recommend for adventurous 5 & 8 yr old girls (and their parents)? Do they have excursions to Xcaret and are they worth it? Any nice beaches near the port?
Thanks again for all your help. You've been amazing!
Yes, I love Cozumel. It is a very pleasant island with nice people and fun things to do. You really can feel safe there. There are many nice beaches on Cozumel. Nothing you can walk to that I'd recommend, but the taxi fares are very reasonable. Look HERE for a good beach guide. I like Playa Sol. Mr. Sanchos and Paradise Beach are also highly rated. Playa Sol usually has a pinata event for the kids. They swing at it with a club to beat it open and get candy. Playa Sol has spotlessly clean restrooms and a nice restaurant. They also have many shops for souvenirs. There are always taxis waiting to take you back to the ship.
Better yet for the kids - spend the money and let them do a dolphin swim at Chankanaab Park. Chankanaab is also a great place but the beach has lots of rocks between it and the water. Playa Sol is more like a traditional beach.
You'll have to check your particular cruise to see if they will offer a tour to Xcaret. I do not advise doing this on your own from Cozumel...only if you can book it via the cruise line. Frankly Xcaret has never impressed me and I've been there three times just to make sure. It is big, and it has lots of stuff, but personally I wouldn't waste my time going there from Cozumel.