By Tim O’Keefe
Although the following nuts and bolts relate to my extended 35-day cruise, the situation applies to everyone wanting to slash both their travel costs and port parking charges.
My 35-day Caribbean cruise aboard the ms Maasdam departing Nov. 12 from Fort Lauderdale comes with a few problems. Most important is determining the most efficient (cheapest) way to travel from the Orlando area. Driving my own vehicle is out of the question with Port Everglades charging $20 a day for parking. That will come to $700 or about 25percent of the actual cruise cost. Forget that.
Going by air is not feasible. Although the distance between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale is only about 215 miles, flying is an unreasonable and expensive proposition. Except for Spirit Airlines, whose direct flight with a very good schedule is only $120 per person roundtrip. Unfortunately, based on flying Spirit, I will never ever fly Spirit again. The airline doesn’t know what a schedule means. Further, luggage and a glass of water or anything (besides toilet paper?) on Spirit will be an extra charge.
Southwest Airlines with two free bags per person is a more attractive alternative but the roundtrip fare still is about $200 per person. AirTran, a favorite that does not fly directly to Fort Lauderdale, is $373. The best Priceline comes up with is $688 with multiple stops on Continental. Ridiculous since I can fly Continental from Orlando to San Diego for about $300.
My best option is a rental car. Using my discount as a member of BJ’s Wholesale Club, Budget Rent-A-Car rents me an intermediate vehicle from Orlando to the Fort Lauderdale International Airport with drop off there for about $100. The cost for the return is the same. I like that.
The Fort Lauderdale airport happens to be so close to the Port Everglades cruise terminal that rental car companies provide a free shuttle to the ships. Now, that’s a deal!
Perhaps most importantly, the amount of luggage is irrelevant. It does take a lot of luggage for a 35-day cruise. More importantly, there is the matter of souvenirs. Cruise lines don’t care how much you buy as long as it all fits it in your stateroom and can leave the ship with the rest of the baggage.
So I also will be bringing some extra suitcases, empty when I depart but packed solid when I return. And have no concern about their weight. The varieties of Caribbean hot sauces will weigh at least 20 pounds, if not more. And if I see another 35-pound carved wooden mask to add to my collection, so what? Or a painting that I can hand-carry off the ship and not worry about being crushed in airline luggage.
Point of all this: Consider your best option for traveling to the port regardless of cruise length.