A back-to-back cruise is when you take consecutive cruises, and the opportunity, While it might sound odd initially, has a lot going for it, especially when you opt for back-to-back cruises on the same ship.
I recently did back-to-back cruises from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean. I was hosted by Royal Caribbean for a total of 4 nights to explore their new ship, the Wonder of the Seas. My takeaway: Whether you’re an experienced cruiser or will be cruising for the first time, the back-to-back cruise experience deserves your consideration.
Here are seven reasons you should consider booking a back-to-back cruise, plus some helpful tips if you decide to go this route.
1. Extend Your Vacation And Enjoy Your Ideal Itinerary
If you want to take a longer vacation but see a great cruise deal (or a route that appeals to you) on a shorter cruise, book two 3-night cruises. You can also look at adding a 3-night cruise to a 7-night cruise — your options just depend on what routes your cruise line has set, what interests you, and what you have time and money for.
Taking two back-to-back cruises that followed the same route doubled my time on the ship. This might sound obvious, but the additional time allowed me to experience more of the ship’s amenities and take part in more activities on board, such as getting to see all the shows and experience the different pools and sunbathing areas.
When you take a shorter cruise, you often have to choose between spending more time exploring the ship or focusing on exploring the ports of call. Cruising on the same ship twice allows you to do both.
2. Earn Cruise Loyalty Status
Each cruise line manages loyalty points differently. Some reward you for nights sailed, and others reward you per cruise. Disney Cruise Line gives you loyalty points for each cruise, so three 3-night cruises will give you more points than one 10-night cruise.
Royal Caribbean gives points for each night cruised and doubles the points if you book a suite. Princess Cruise Line does a hybrid model of nights and points: Their Ruby loyalty tier level can be attained by three cruises or 30 nights sailed.
Whether it’s a cruise line, airline, or hotel chain, you’re going to get max benefits if you work their loyalty programs.
If you’re doing back-to-back cruises on a cruise line that rewards you for the number of cruises versus nights cruised, taking two consecutive cruises is a way to double dip.
3. You Can Book The Same Stateroom
Back-to-back cruises are infinitely easier and more enjoyable when you book both cruises in the same cabin. Most cruises will allow you to leave your belongings in your stateroom if you’re not changing rooms. If you are switching rooms (or are on the rare cruise that doesn’t allow stateroom storage in the interim), you’ll need to get your luggage off the ship the same as if you were disembarking. You can either carry your luggage back on and keep it with you until your stateroom is ready or re-check it with the porters to have it delivered to you.
If you’re booking back-to-back cruises and want to be in the same stateroom during both, I recommend using a travel agent that has enhanced access to cruise booking tools, especially if you’re booking high-demand cruises. Routes that have just been published or new cruise ships are always very popular.
If you are going to attempt this on your own, know exactly what you want to book and be quick. Other travelers are likely looking at the same staterooms you want to book.
Another option is to call and book with the cruise line over the phone. Explain to the representative what you want to do — they’ll be able to have a larger picture view of available staterooms on different cruises to assist you in making your choices. A travel agent will do the same thing, though, and they will be on hold to speak to the cruise line’s customer service, not you.
Pro Tip: Having some flexibility on dates and taking cruises during periods less popular with cruise travelers may also make getting the same stateroom on back-to-back cruises a bit easier.
Important: Even if you book the same stateroom on back-to-back cruises, you will still have to get off the ship after the first cruise and reboard.
4. Have The Ship (Almost) To Yourself
When you reboard the ship for your second (or subsequent) cruise, you will be among the first to board the ship. Uncrowded pools where you have your pick of loungers, minimal lines at the buffets or water slides, and being able to take pictures without other people in the background are all perks of getting on board first.
Boarding early also affords you the opportunity to get to know crew members and explore the ship while things are still quiet. Note that some facilities and services, such as casinos, shops, and spa/salons, may not be available during this time.
5. Time To Explore The Port City
While your cruise line might not offer an excursion at the end of Cruise 1 and before Cruise 2, if you’re not worried about getting back on the ship as soon as possible, you may have time to explore your port of embarkation between cruises.
Wonder of the Seas stopped in Port Canaveral for the day. While I got back on the ship as soon as I was allowed to do so, there were a few things in the area that I considered checking out: Disney World, the Kennedy Space Center, and Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge. I quickly ruled Disney World out as being not cost-effective — it was an hour’s drive each way, plus lines and security to get into the parks didn’t seem worth it.
A single day, one park ticket runs over $100 a day per person, and the lines at Disney World are notoriously long. If you’re sailing out of Port Canaveral, I recommend doing Disney World before or after.
If you choose to explore your port city, make sure the activity you’ve planned allows a cushion for travel time plus an extra hour or more for traffic and anything that might go wrong. Your best bet is an activity that’s close to the port.
Pro Tip: If you’re not going to reboard as soon as you’re allowed to, make sure you’re clear on the all-aboard time and allow yourself plenty of cushion to avoid being late getting back.
6. Experience More Of The Ship
I’ve been cruising for 15 years, and I know it’s impossible to see and do everything on a cruise ship, especially the larger ones like the Royal Caribbean Oasis Class or soon-to-come Icon Class ships, in 7 days or less. That said, sailing the same (or similar) route consecutively gives you more time and the option to select different restaurants and entertainment options the second time around.
7. Do More Of Nothing
If you do back-to-back cruises, you can spend one action-packed cruise seeing all the shows, going to all the entertainment events, going on excursions, or whatever appeals to you. You can spend your subsequent cruise lounging by the pool or having a lazy morning with coffee on your stateroom balcony.
Or do two action-packed cruises or two chill cruises. All cruises allow you to make your vacation what you want it to be. Back-to-back cruises just let you do more of the same.
8. Optimize Family Or Friend-Group Travel
If you’re trying to travel with grandkids, friends, or extended family, getting everyone’s schedule to align on a single set of dates can be a challenge. Back-to-back cruises where you cruise with different family members or friends on each of your cruises might work, especially for grandparents seeking to spend time with busy adult children and their families. Book two short cruises and spend one with the kids in your life and another focusing on relaxation and the ship’s amenities.
Other Things To Consider When Taking Back-To-Back Cruises
Here are some things to consider when taking a back-to-back cruise. Every cruise, cruise line, and travel scenario is different, but these will give you some food for thought and alert you to potential pitfalls.
- Be prepared for a bit of a wait to get back on the ship; take something to do or plan a DIY excursion as suggested above.
- Account for mobility issues: If you have any sort of mobility issues that result in you needing assistance to get on the ship, you’ll need to make sure you put those same systems in place for both cruises.
- Know that you’ll have to settle your shipboard account and start anew with Cruise 2. If you purchased a drink package or internet access, you’d need to repurchase those if you want them on your second cruise.
- If you’re staying in the same stateroom and prepaid your gratuities, your stateroom host should probably get two sets of tips from you, or one larger tip at the end of Cruise 2.
Pro Tip: I made sure to verify that the same stateroom attendant would be taking care of my room during my second cruise. I ensured he knew I’d be giving one payment at the end of my second cruise and tipped him in cash.
- Your stateroom attendant will know you’re a returning cruiser and will provide instructions on the final night of your cruise. When I did my back-to-back cruises with Royal Caribbean on the Wonder of the Seas, I got a very detailed info sheet on the final afternoon of my cruise that answered every possible question I had about what I needed to do.
- The process for back-to-back cruises will vary by cruise line and location, so make sure you’re reading the fine print and checking with your travel agent to make sure you understand what’s going to be expected of you.
- Again, I strongly recommend working with a travel agent. Travel agents have resources at their disposal to see what staterooms are available on consecutive cruises, and that will be easier than scrambling to ensure you’re in the same stateroom on your consecutive cruises.
- Finally, even though your second cruise may feel like a continuation of your first cruise, it is not. Boarding passes, health questionnaires, and clearing customs all have to be accomplished again for the second cruise, and you’ll have to get off the ship and get back on again.