Q – We are set to take our second cruise sailing out of Venice next summer. This is a “Free Air” sailing, one of the reasons we picked it. We will be flying out of Miami and we are worried about the air route Holland America might give us. Our agent feels the fact that the air is included is worth waiting for. We won’t know our flights until two months prior to our departure from home. My husband is not a good flyer and I am concerned about being assigned a bad airline and bad routing since the air is included. Any advice would be appreciated.
A – You, like many other cruisers, have purchased an illusion. Airfare is almost never really free. Cruise lines, even those rated much higher than Holland America, get to promote Free Air even though you are clearly paying for it. You could have received a significantly lower “cruise only” fare. At this point, we would suggest that you have your agent get you an air quote with good routing. Out of Miami, you will have good connections on a number of airlines but look closely at Delta and Lufthansa.You can still cancel Holland America’s air program. Finally, make certain that you fully understand your options when it comes to doing an “air deviation.” Every passenger using a cruise line’s air program should be aware that, for a fee, the airline will design a custom air program for you with a schedule available within days of the request. But there are down sides involving transfers and the limitations cruise lines have when doing ticketing exclusively on those airlines with whom they have a contractual relationship. There may actually be a fully legitimate “Free Air” offer out there. It’s just that we’ve never seen one.