To avoid a flight delay or cancellation wrecking your vacation cruise, arrive in your port city a day early and stay the night at a nearby hotel. Depending on the hotel, you’ll earn bonus points and an annual reward could cover the cost of your stay.
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After you’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on a Caribbean cruise, you don’t want to be late to the port because of a flight delay or cancellation. One way to reduce this risk is to fly a day early to the city from which your ship will depart.
You may even be able to pay for your one-night stay with credit card points or “points and cash.”
“Flying in the day before a cruise adds an extra level of security; you’re safe in the knowledge that a flight delay won’t make you miss your cruise,” says Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic.
And by flying to South Florida a day early, you can explore Miami or Fort Lauderdale. “Too often we breeze through an embarkation port, giving little thought to the fact it might be a vacation destination in its own right,” McDaniel says.
If your cruise is departing from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, I recommend these hotels for a one-night stay ahead of your adventure at sea.
See related:Before booking a cruise, check your rewards card
Try these hotels in Miami
Kimpton EPIC in Miami
The waterfront Kimpton EPIC has two swimming pools, several on-site restaurants, a spa, free Wi-Fi for IHG Rewards Club members, and it’s an easy Uber or cab ride to the port. There’s even a hosted evening wine hour for guests.
With Kimpton now part of the IHG portfolio, booking with your Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card will earn you an additional 10 points per dollar on your stay.
Since cardholders receive one free night’s stay every year, your EPIC night before your epic cruise might even be free.
Courtyard Miami Downtown
The Courtyard Miami Downtown offers cruise-and-stay packages that include breakfast and Wi-Fi, and the hotel has partnered with is a third-party shuttle service that will get you to the cruise port for $6 per person.
For your evening at the Courtyard Miami Downtown, I suggest taking a jaunt down to South Beach and then return for a dip at the hotel’s outdoor pool.
Courtyard by Marriott guests paying with the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card earn six points per dollar spent at participating hotels and an anniversary free-night certificate for any property up to 35,000 points.
With Marriott, you also can use “cash and points” to cover your night’s stay ahead of your cruise.
See related: Best hotel credit cards
Try these Hilton properties in Fort Lauderdale
The Embassy Suites on 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale probably is my favorite pre-cruise hotel when leaving from Port Everglades. This two-room, suite-style hotel has a sleeper sofa for extended families, a daily manager’s reception and a free breakfast.
Cruise travelers staying at the Embassy Suites can catch a ride from the airport to the hotel and then from the hotel to the port via a third-party shuttle for $9 a person (for each trip).
The Homewood Suites, Griffin Road, in Fort Lauderdale, is like a home away from home – with the bonus of a pool and fitness center. There’s a kitchen for meals, and you get a free breakfast, too.
For cruise-goers driving in from points across Florida, this Homewood Suites offers a cruise package that includes parking for up to seven days. (Just as you don’t want to miss the boat because of a flight delay or cancellation, driving in a day early cuts the risk that car trouble could keep you from being on the lido deck when your cruiseliner’s departure horn sounds.)
If you are flying into Fort Lauderdale’s airport ahead of your cruise, Homewood Suites guests can catch the free shuttle from the airport to the hotel and then book the shuttle to the cruise terminal for $10 per person.
Since Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites are part of the Hilton portfolio, booking with your no-annual-fee Hilton Honors Card from American Express will earn you seven points per dollar spent at a Hilton brand hotel. Paying with your $95-annual-fee Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express, meanwhile, will earn you 12 points per dollar spent at a Hilton brand hotel.
With the Ascend card, your night’s stay before your cruise may be covered by a free weekend night that you earn each year you spend $15,000 on the card.
Wherever you stay near your cruise terminal in South Florida, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready for your cruise – and maybe your night’s stay will be free with your credit card rewards.