Lots of people take back to back cruises, often referred to as B2B. For anyone who flies to the port taking two cruises B2B means a cost savings on airline fees over doing the cruises at two separate times. If you stay in the same room on the same ship it’s easy. Just meet with the rest of the B2B folks at the time and place you’re told and they give you a new ship card for the next cruise and take everyone through customs quickly in a group just before boarding starts. There always seems to be a bit of a delay though due to one or two people who won’t get off the ship slowing down the process. Everyone has to wait until the stragglers get rounded up and sent on their way before B2B group can go through customs and get back on the ship.
Meanwhile at the port officials anxiously await that zero count of passengers on the ship so they can send the B2B group through and the boarding process can begin. Then they can start to empty the crowded room full of restless people who all showed up long before the scheduled boarding time in hopes of getting on the ship just a little bit earlier, some of them not realizing how long it takes to get the previous batch off.
Sometimes people change rooms for the second leg of their B2B cruise. Moving to a different room means packing up and either taking your luggage to the new room or having a steward move it for you. If you let the steward at the new room know what’s up likely they will clean your new room as soon as the former occupants leave. It may be ready by the time you are required to be out of your first room, but if the steward is not there to open the door you won’t be able to get in until after passing through customs and obtaining your new room card.
We recently tried a different approach to a B2B. While ending one cruise and starting another the same day, not only did we not have the same cabin, we switched to a different ship from a different cruiseline at a different port.
Our 17- Day Panama Canal Cruise on Celebrity Infinity started in San Francisco and worked its way down the coast to Panama where it spent a day cruising through the canal. Once on the Caribbean side it sailed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Though a hurricane had passed through the area just days before, the storm moved north several days ahead of us and had no effect on our itinerary and none other than weather on the ports. Our weather wasn’t bad, just cooler and cloudier than usual in a couple places. We had pretty smooth sailing the whole way so we got quite lucky as some cruise ships in the area a few days earlier had itinerary changes to avoid the hurricane. Some experienced rough seas and sadly a cargo ship was lost. The short 4-day cruise on the Ecstasy went back to the Caribbean where the aftermath of the hurricane was evident with some rainy weather and in Cozumel the normally crystal clear water had large amounts of broken bits of seaweed floating near the shore.
When disembarking a cruise ship passengers can choose to leave their luggage outside their cabin the night before where the crew will take it off the ship. Guests then pick it up in the port so they don’t have to carry it off the ship. Each person has a number assigned to disembark when it is called. Luggage is put out in batches according to those numbers. Others take the self-assist route and bring their own luggage off the ship with them. There is a third option for people with late planes to catch where they can take an excursion on their way to the airport and pick their luggage up there. Sometimes there is also a luggage express service offered that will deliver luggage directly to the airport without taking an excursion on the way. A fleet of taxis await any disembarking passengers who have not made arrangements for other transportation.
We took the self-assist route, which gives most people their earliest disembarking option since carrying your luggage with you means there is no wait for luggage to get put out in the port. People always gather as close as they can to the exit and line up long before the time to leave actually starts because that’s just how people are. They can actually slow down the disembarkation process if too many of them get in the way so ship’s crew does everything they can to keep passengers somewhere else. They can’t let anyone off until the ship clears customs. Once disembarkation started the Infinity’s lines moved fairly quickly and lines at customs hadn’t had time to gather many people yet so the whole process went quite a bit faster than we expected. We climbed into a waiting taxi and thought we may arrive in Miami before the doors even opened to let people into the port building.
An accident closing the express lanes and a traffic jam on the remaining freeway made for a long trip from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. We arrived while the ship was still disembarking, but after the doors to let arriving passengers in had opened so we did get to wait for embarkation inside the port rather than standing outside. The port had free wifi and since we had internet only occasionally in ports on the Infinity cruise we made use of the time to catch up on things.
Once all the departing guests leave the ship and it gets clearance for new guests to board they pile on in droves. Carnival Ecstasy had a couple weddings scheduled so those people got on first as they had limited time until all the non-sailing wedding guests had to leave. Passengers with priority boarding got on next, with the masses following close on their heels.
It would have been much easier if the two ships were in the same port so we could just walk over from one ship to the next. The two ports are close enough to get from one to the other in between disembarkation from the first one and the end of the embarkation time for the second. Taking two cruises in a row from different ports worked out since ships arrive in the morning and leave late afternoon or evening.
Of course one can’t help but make comparisons when going straight from one ship to another. There are always things that are better and things that are worse on any ship. On the Infinity we loved the no smoking anywhere indoors policy and the indoor pool. The Ecstasy had water slides and launderettes.