If you're looking to book your next cruise holiday, you might have noticed the term 'fly and cruise' pop up.
Rather than book a cruise and airfare individually, it pays to consider the value of a fly and cruise package.
Not only does it make it easier to cruise destinations that are further away, but you might be left with a little more in your pocket, especially if the package includes a heavily discounted airfare that is only available in conjunction with the cruise.
Depending on where you're going, you may also be able to book an earlybird special if you're prepared to commit in advance.
The experts at Cruiseabout share their top tips for a fly and cruise holiday:
1. Connection times
While statistics show that most flights take off on time, it pays to expect the unexpected when you're planning airfares to connect with your cruise.
Naturally, you don't want to arrive at the port to see your ship sailing off into the horizon.
If your cruise leaves from an international port, consider arriving at your departure location a day or two before your flight. If your cruise leaves from a domestic location, plan to arrive several hours ahead of your scheduled boarding time.
A similar rule applies to your return flight - allow for possible delays.
2. Flexible flights
It doesn't necessarily pay to book the cheapest available flights to connect with your cruise.
Fares that are slightly more expensive may provide you with more options, particularly if your cruise ship is delayed on its journey home and you need to reschedule your return flight.
3. Open JAW airfares
If your cruise sets sail from one city or country and returns to another, ask about an 'open JAW' airfare.
In basic terms, this kind of airfare allows you to fly in to one location and to return home from another, rather than having to fly in and out of the same city.
A hypothetical example could include a fare that allows you to fly to the UK and home from Athens after a cruise from Southampton to the Greek Islands.
4. Don't be weighed down by baggage charges
Don't assume that your collection of suitcases will be acceptable on your cruise just because it is acceptable on your flight.
Cruise liners and airlines will both have luggage restrictions, but they won't necessarily be the same, so find out in advance.
Where possible, allow for some extra weight in your bags on the flight home, as you're certain to collect souvenir T-shirts and other holiday trinkets during your cruise's shore excursions.
5. Plan ahead
Cruising is an incredibly popular holiday choice. Consequently, many ships will be full, so don't leave your booking until the last minute.
By booking early, you also increase your chances of securing the cabin of your choice or special facilities that you may require.
In addition, it pays to lock in airfares as soon as possible as the cheapest fares tend to sell first, leaving only the more premium offerings available closer to departure date.