I made a 10:05 flight in FLL, but wouldn't recommend it ;)

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#1
Lafayette, IN
10,320 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Hi everyone ... I know that since a common question on this boards is about flights after debarkation, I'd mention my experiences last week. Now, by my post counts and obnoxious confidence about cruising, you can be sure that I'm on CruiseCritic a lot. You can also bet that I knew booking an early flight out of Fort Lauderdale was a risky proposition, but circumstances (as they usually do) made me think I could get away with it to save quite a bit of money.

Here's the scoop ... the Navigator was to dock in Port Everglades at 8:00 AM. From my time on her in November, I knew that she was actually supposed to arrive earlier and be cleared by 8 AM. This would still mean, however, that customs/immigration would have to be quick, I'd have to carry my own bags off, I'd have to hope there would be enough cabs, and I'd have to hope for short lines at the airport.

Well, it kind of worked that way, but my small insurance policy was that I only had a carry-on bag ... essentially giving me the full time, until 9:50 or so, to get on the plane and allowing me not to have to worry about getting my bags checked by a certain time.

So what actually happened?

Well, Navigator did dock early, but there was a small delay in customs/immigration. Those doing Express Walkoff 1 and 2 were supposed to meet in Studio B before 8 AM. Of course, those who arrived early were doomed to be the last ones out of the meeting area as those who arrived closest to 8 lined up by the doorway, blocking all exits incidently, instead of finding a seat in the room. At around 8:20 passengers were allowed to leave, which meant exiting Studio B and making your way down congested stairwells full of people who could barely manage the huge bags they were trying to carry off. Those who were a bit more sly did some photo shopping until it was evident that the ship was cleared, then slipped into the line as no one was keeping order, nor was anyone checking the express departure tickets that they were so adamant that everyone have.

Once off the ship (and yes, as they constantly announced, you do need your SeaPass in hand), there is the long walk down the length of the ship to the warehouse where customs is located. This walk really makes it clear as to who shouldn't have done express debarkation as many people had to stop, rest, readjust, and otherwise could not easily travel (though to be fair, I will say that Royal does not let passengers know just how long of a distance they will have to manage the bags). As I finally entered the customs building, there was quite a bit of looping around cattle-chutes, but there was almost no wait once finally reaching a customs agent and, in an admittedly quick fashion, I was cleared by 8:45.

At this point, there was a line for a cab. However, cabbies seemd to become aware that the ship was now unloading for, as soon as I took a few steps towards the line, 6 cabs pulled in to pick up passengers. By the time I made it up to the line there were only a few people there. A driver signaled me, I signaled him back, and some quick driving later, I was standing in the Fort lauderdale airport by 9:05.

Now I had heard that the Fort Lauderdale airport was a madhouse, but I'd never really experienced it because I'd only flown out later in the afternoon. I'd also never flown Southwest out of FLL. Both of those realities came crashing down on me as I looked at the Southwest ticket counter which was absolutely mobbed with people (I had counted on getting their earlier most passengers ... obviously not the case on a Monday morning with all of the weekend ships dumping their passengers in Miami and three ships letting loose in Fort Lauderdale). Luckily, however, I actually had forseen this (hence the carry-on and pre-printed boarding pass from the ship), so I proceeded to security for shock number two.

At first glance, the line was fairly short. Then I realized that the reason it was short was because it was broken up into several sections because the area was so small. There was one section right in front of the screeners. There was another section off to the right, Off of that second section, the overflow then ran down a long hallway that otherwise contained a people-mover. So yup ... I had to take a people mover to get to the end of the overflow-security line. Let me tell you, that was a GREAT feeling with 50 minutes left until the flight and as I shook my head, I told myself that I really did know better, but of course the siren's song of cheaper flights (there's a reason why they are cheaper) had befuddled my mind.

Now ... the story takes a positive turn, thank goodness. The security line was super-long, but it also moved super-quickly as those agents were good at getting people screened and through. That huge line only lasted about 20 minutes or so which meant that I was at my gate about 10 minutes before boarding started. So all of that ... a combination of things going right and wrong ... and I still only had about a 20-30 minute cushion.

So the moral of the story, you ask? Well, first, add an hour to your "best possible" projection of getting off the ship and to the airplane. Second, don't be lured by an early flight ... they may be cheaper, but emotional stability is probably worth something too.

I hope that perhaps someone finds this helpful ... and others find it enjoyable. Cheers.
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#2
Florida
850 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
Glad you made it. I would've been a nervous wreck.
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2014 RCI Liberty of the Seas - December
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#3
West Haddon, UK
4,478 Posts
Joined Jun 2006
I think I'm glad we've gone for a 1400 flight in December!

Simon
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Past Cruises
Nov 2003 Legend of the Seas [Panama Canal]
Jun 2005 Radiance of the Seas [Alaska]
Jan 2007 Freedom of the Seas [W. Carib.]
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May 2008 Navigator of the Seas [W. Med. 3 B2B's]
Nov/Dec 2009 Independence of the Seas [TA W'bnd]
Dec 2009/Jan 2010 Explorer of the Seas [E. Carib B2B]
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#4
Deep in the heart of Dixie
1,483 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
They ought to make your post a "sticky".
Glad you made it, I would have been borderline insane.
Aubie
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#5
Fairfax Station, Virginia
682 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
You are a cruise daredevil! I wouldn't have the guts to try and your experience would probably take a few years off my life.

I have a 12:17PM flight out of FLL on my upcoming Navigator cruise and will probably still get off as quickly as I can.
#6
18,837 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
I have one thing to say - Told ya so.
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#7
Jersey Shore
9,163 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Thanks for sharing your experience. I always say, it's not worth ruining a nice, relaxing cruise by worrying about making the flight in time. I would spend the whole time on the ship worrying about whether or not I'd make the flight. Then I'd be rushing to ensure that I make the flight. I can live without those boosts of adrenalin! And to those who say they'll just go standby for the next available flight, that could be days later! With weather conditions causing flight cancellations and/or delays and the airlines reducing their flights, one can never be sure of getting on the next available flight. And some airlines will charge you the difference in the price of the ticket, thereby negating anything you may have saved up front.

Perhaps your story will encourage those who want to save a dime that if they are paying all that money for a vacation, why not just add a little more cushion $$$ and get a reasonably timed flight home. I know it's very tempting (especially in this economy) to try and save a few bucks, but your story illustrates why that may not be the best decision.

Jo-Ann
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Wine Crawler
#8
Fairfax Station, Virginia
682 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
Originally posted by jerseygirl3
Thanks for sharing your experience. I always say, it's not worth ruining a nice, relaxing cruise by worrying about making the flight in time. I would spend the whole time on the ship worrying about whether or not I'd make the flight. Then I'd be rushing to ensure that I make the flight. I can live without those boosts of adrenalin! And to those who say they'll just go standby for the next available flight, that could be days later! With weather conditions causing flight cancellations and/or delays and the airlines reducing their flights, one can never be sure of getting on the next available flight. And some airlines will charge you the difference in the price of the ticket, thereby negating anything you may have saved up front.

Perhaps your story will encourage those who want to save a dime that if they are paying all that money for a vacation, why not just add a little more cushion $$$ and get a reasonably timed flight home. I know it's very tempting (especially in this economy) to try and save a few bucks, but your story illustrates why that may not be the best decision.

Jo-Ann
Well, if you're going to be frugal and then have to be stressed I vote for the way the Op did it. On the end where you're going home. If I miss my flight and have trouble getting back its only work that I'll be missing! Now, certainly don't want to take that chance on the front end and miss the cruise, I'd be calling DR Kevorkian.....
#9
17,898 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
Silentbob...excellent, pbjective narrative of what it CAN take to make an early flight....

glad you made it, thanks for sharing, and yes....i would nominate this as a STICKY!

People don't always realize that FLLs counters and security lines can be a disaster...and you only had a FEW ships...multiply that and get 9 ships in Port Everglades.....

Again, great review.......thanks! (i asked the MODS to please sticky this someplace as this question gets asked at least daily!)
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#10
Tennessee
5,050 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Originally posted by silentbob007
Hi everyone ... I know that since a common question on this boards is about flights after debarkation, I'd mention my experiences last week. Now, by my post counts and obnoxious confidence about cruising, you can be sure that I'm on CruiseCritic a lot. You can also bet that I knew booking an early flight out of Fort Lauderdale was a risky proposition, but circumstances (as they usually do) made me think I could get away with it to save quite a bit of money.

Here's the scoop ... the Navigator was to dock in Port Everglades at 8:00 AM. From my time on her in November, I knew that she was actually supposed to arrive earlier and be cleared by 8 AM. This would still mean, however, that customs/immigration would have to be quick, I'd have to carry my own bags off, I'd have to hope there would be enough cabs, and I'd have to hope for short lines at the airport.

Well, it kind of worked that way, but my small insurance policy was that I only had a carry-on bag ... essentially giving me the full time, until 9:50 or so, to get on the plane and allowing me not to have to worry about getting my bags checked by a certain time.

So what actually happened?

Well, Navigator did dock early, but there was a small delay in customs/immigration. Those doing Express Walkoff 1 and 2 were supposed to meet in Studio B before 8 AM. Of course, those who arrived early were doomed to be the last ones out of the meeting area as those who arrived closest to 8 lined up by the doorway, blocking all exits incidently, instead of finding a seat in the room. At around 8:20 passengers were allowed to leave, which meant exiting Studio B and making your way down congested stairwells full of people who could barely manage the huge bags they were trying to carry off. Those who were a bit more sly did some photo shopping until it was evident that the ship was cleared, then slipped into the line as no one was keeping order, nor was anyone checking the express departure tickets that they were so adamant that everyone have.

Once off the ship (and yes, as they constantly announced, you do need your SeaPass in hand), there is the long walk down the length of the ship to the warehouse where customs is located. This walk really makes it clear as to who shouldn't have done express debarkation as many people had to stop, rest, readjust, and otherwise could not easily travel (though to be fair, I will say that Royal does not let passengers know just how long of a distance they will have to manage the bags). As I finally entered the customs building, there was quite a bit of looping around cattle-chutes, but there was almost no wait once finally reaching a customs agent and, in an admittedly quick fashion, I was cleared by 8:45.

At this point, there was a line for a cab. However, cabbies seemd to become aware that the ship was now unloading for, as soon as I took a few steps towards the line, 6 cabs pulled in to pick up passengers. By the time I made it up to the line there were only a few people there. A driver signaled me, I signaled him back, and some quick driving later, I was standing in the Fort lauderdale airport by 9:05.

Now I had heard that the Fort Lauderdale airport was a madhouse, but I'd never really experienced it because I'd only flown out later in the afternoon. I'd also never flown Southwest out of FLL. Both of those realities came crashing down on me as I looked at the Southwest ticket counter which was absolutely mobbed with people (I had counted on getting their earlier most passengers ... obviously not the case on a Monday morning with all of the weekend ships dumping their passengers in Miami and three ships letting loose in Fort Lauderdale). Luckily, however, I actually had forseen this (hence the carry-on and pre-printed boarding pass from the ship), so I proceeded to security for shock number two.

At first glance, the line was fairly short. Then I realized that the reason it was short was because it was broken up into several sections because the area was so small. There was one section right in front of the screeners. There was another section off to the right, Off of that second section, the overflow then ran down a long hallway that otherwise contained a people-mover. So yup ... I had to take a people mover to get to the end of the overflow-security line. Let me tell you, that was a GREAT feeling with 50 minutes left until the flight and as I shook my head, I told myself that I really did know better, but of course the siren's song of cheaper flights (there's a reason why they are cheaper) had befuddled my mind.

Now ... the story takes a positive turn, thank goodness. The security line was super-long, but it also moved super-quickly as those agents were good at getting people screened and through. That huge line only lasted about 20 minutes or so which meant that I was at my gate about 10 minutes before boarding started. So all of that ... a combination of things going right and wrong ... and I still only had about a 20-30 minute cushion.

So the moral of the story, you ask? Well, first, add an hour to your "best possible" projection of getting off the ship and to the airplane. Second, don't be lured by an early flight ... they may be cheaper, but emotional stability is probably worth something too.

I hope that perhaps someone finds this helpful ... and others find it enjoyable. Cheers.
I did enjoy reading your adventure on catching a early flight. Thanks for posting it. Glad you made it.

Laura
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#11
Lafayette, IN
10,320 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Thanks for the kind words everyone. It's funny ... I actually worried more about the time before leaving for the cruise then I did the day before ... I guess I had already reached the "acceptance" phase that I had done all I could do.
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Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

Cruise Albums on Flickr
#12
1,860 Posts
Joined Jul 2007
Thanks, this is my first platinum cruise! So hoping it will work out. I let Steve know about my earlier flight and I am hoping he will be in the area for around 7ish and I can just hurry to the airport!
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#13
Toronto Ontario
191 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
I thought i was daring for doing a 9:30 am out of Miami . I was off the
Liberty OTS at 6:30am and was checked in waiting to board at 7:10am.
I wont be doing that anymore. I didnt do it to save money as the 1:00pm
flight was the same price when i booked, i was just being efficient . I tried to change my departure time to the later one about a week before the cruise ( after getting some advice on this board ) and the airlines wanted $ 2000.00 more for the pair of us .
Now its afternoon flights for me.
#14
NC
5,873 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
Woo I would have been a nervous wreck. My 12:30 flight out of LAX was nerve wrecking. I pre-printed as you did on the ship. I arranged the for the entire group to be off with the first grouping and we had pre-reserved a van to take us to the airport. Of course once we were off at 9 I felt fine. We were at the airport very early and had a nice long wait for our flight. However, my same time flight out of MIA did not go well at all. We did make it but I hate Miami Internaitonal. We made it to the gate when they were boarding. We were lucky we had enough time to go to the bathroom when we arrived since our number was next to be called. I learned from that flight to print your boarding pass on the ship and ask for the first off tickets. We did not do self debarkment.
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#15
more or less in TX
10,418 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
So often this question is asked.

Here is the answer.

With Oasis in the mix now, this is really important!
#16
Surprise, AZ.
12,288 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
Great story....glad it had a happy ending!

This has always been a popular question, especially for FLL...I hope others will take your advice and take a later flight.

***
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#17
Lafayette, IN
10,320 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Hahaha ... I was browsing threads and was like ... wow, there's a blast from the past.

I'm definitely interested to hear about disembarking Oasis ... leaving the full ship, finding a cab, and then the airport. I guess FLL should be about the same as flights on departure day were fairly close to capacity anyway, but finding a cab could be more interesting.
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Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

Cruise Albums on Flickr
#18
Carterville, IL USA
5,425 Posts
Joined Jul 2002
Hey Bob, Crystal's (from the loser boards, LOL) husband here.

Is there any way you would try this now with Oasis? I too agree, you can get a flight out of FLL earlier than anywhere but don't think this is gonna be possible with this ship, just too many passengers wanting to get to flights making it almost impossible. Even with the ease of FLL, I would probably not book anything prior to 11:30 am, what about you?

Tim
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Sovereign OTS Aug '05 The lack of air conditioning cruise
Explorer OTS May '05 The Maho Beach and Trunk Bay cruise
Mariner OTS Aug '04 The cruise we took with our son for HIS honeymoon
Sovereign OTS May '04 The Mom & Dad Cruise
Voyager OTS June '03 One of the best cruises
Sovereign OTS Nov '02 The get away cruise
Enchantment OTS Aug '02 The shortest cruise in history
Sovereign OTS Aug '01 The one that got this whole mess started

my email is herrinbowl @ midamer dot net
#19
Lafayette, IN
10,320 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Are you talking about coming off of Oasis? I'm not sure that anyone exactly knows what that will be like with a full sailing and a week's worth of luggage getting off. I definitely would be waiting until after noon for the first 2-3 months of Oasis's sailings. My motto: better to be waiting in the airport and watching your departure gate than waiting in a ship's lounge and watching your watch.
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Oasis of the Seas - 11/2015, Brilliance of the Seas - 5/2015, Quantum of the Seas - 11/2014, Brilliance of the Seas - 4/2014, Carnival Legend - 5/2013, Celebrity Solstice - 5/2013, Celebrity Eclipse - 12/2012, Allure of the Seas - 7/2012, Serenade of the Seas - 5/2012, Voyager of the Seas - 12/2011, Liberty of the Seas - 12/2011, Freedom of the Seas - 10/2011, Oasis of the Seas - 5/2011, Celebrity Eclipse - 3/2011, Celebrity Millennium - 12/2010, Radiance of the Seas - 12/2010, Majesty of the Seas - 12/2010, Majesty of the Seas B2B 11/2010, Radiance of the Seas - 3/2010, Rhapsody of the Seas - 12/2009, Mariner of the Seas - 8/2009, Mariner of the Seas - 5/2009, Navigator of the Seas - 2/2009, Jewel of the Seas - 12/2008, Navigator of the Seas - 11/2008, Majesty of the Seas - 9/2008, Explorer of the Seas - 7/2008, Monarch of the Seas - 5/2008, Grandeur of the Seas - 3/2008, Brilliance of the Seas - 12/2007, Carnival Glory - 6/2007, Monarch of the Seas - 5/2007, Voyager of the Seas - 3/2007, Grandeur of the Seas - 12/2006, Carnival Miracle - 9/2006, Carnival Valor - 12/2005, Carnival Glory - 3/2005, Carnival Glory - 7/2003, Sovereign of the Seas - 7/2000, CCL Sensation - 12/1999, CCL Ecstasy - 12/1997, NCL ?? - 6/1996, Hawaiian American Independence - 1992, Premier Atlantic - 1991


Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

Cruise Albums on Flickr
#20
WI
3,291 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
This is probably a really dumb question, but what's the difference between Express Walkoff and Self Disembarkation? We got off Liberty at 7:30am and at MIA at 8:15 for 1pm flight--we were in line at 6:15 with our own bags on deck 5. If there is a difference, do you wish you had done the other one?
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