Doing A Back-to-Back: When One Cruise Isn’t Enough
Written by: David Beers
I have done many cruises over the years, going to many places, but one thing I had never done was consecutive cruises – more commonly called a ‘back-to-back’ or simply ‘B2B’. This is a fairly common thing among older, retired cruisers who have the luxury of time go on two, three, perhaps even four consecutive cruises. But there was I, having zero experience on this aspect of cruising, so I set out to change this by going on two 5-night cruises recently, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty Of The Seas.
Admittedly, I had another motivation for doing these B2B cruises. It was December and Royal Caribbean was again having it’s “December Celebration” for Crown & Anchor members at the Diamond level and above, which meant double points for me and elevation to Diamond Plus member when all is said and done. Actually I got triple points since I was booked into a Junior Suite for both voyages. I was not alone in this quest, with literally hundreds of others aboard for the same bonus. Yes, it may seem silly to some but it is a goal and it carries some nice perks of membership.
Although you may consider it to be one long cruise the fact is the cruise line looks at it as separate cruises, with a different booking number and shipboard account for each cruise. Thus I had two Set Sail passes printed out and ready to hand over when I approached the check-in desk at Port Everglades on December 3. However the agent only wanted my documentation for the first cruise, telling me the ship’s staff would handle everything dealing with my second voyage. Subsequently I never had a need for the other Set Sail pass as the Guest Relations staff never asked for it. More on that later.
Having cruised on Liberty Of The Seas a few times previously I knew my way around and once aboard did the usual drill of heading for the Windjammer for lunch, followed by a visit to the pool bar to have a drink while waiting for the cabins to be opened for guest access. This is normally 1pm or so and they rigorously enforce it. Schlepping around your carry-on luggage is not particularly fun so I prefer to find a place to sit and stay there until I can enter my cabin. I was at the pool bar for just a few minutes when a couple walked up and started chatting up the bar staff. They were on their second of three consecutive cruises, and we quickly became good buddies which carried through for the following ten days aboard.
When I went to my junior suite I passed by the cabin of the ultimate consecutive cruiser for Royal Caribbean – that being ‘Super’ Mario Salcedo who had a sign on his door noting his achieving 3500 cruise points some months previously. Nice to maintain some perspective on things, as I was looking to put together enough points to total 175. Super Mario stays aboard cruise ships literally months at a time.
Since this article is about the process of doing consecutive cruises I won’t get into details about the cruises. Trust me when I say they were pleasant with good food, great shows, and a simply marvelous crew who were a joy to be around. This is even more so when they know you are staying with them for an extended period. When I returned to the Liberty Of The Seas a month later, for the full-ship charter Rock Legend II cruise, I was immediately greeted by several crew members who remembered me (and it seemed they had positive memories of me) from the B2B cruises. Yes, I did three cruises on the same ship in the span of a month. I was definitely ready for a change of scenery by the time I left the rock and roll cruise.
So What Is The Process?
While this is how Royal Caribbean handled it, I’m sure the process is similar for most cruise lines. Keep in mind this is how they do it in Port Everglades and the process is pretty much dictated by local authorities and not the cruise line.
On day 3 of the first cruise a letter was delivered to my cabin telling me to report to the Viking Crown lounge the following afternoon.
At the meeting we were handed an envelope as we entered the lounge. The envelope contained our new Sea Pass cards for the next cruise, a transit card to show Customs, and an informational handout about the process we’d undergo on the turnaround day, which included dining choices and information on what to do if we decided to go ashore. The transit card seemed useless since it was no more than a business card, but as I said previously this is Custom’s show and they want to see the transit card.
The Guest Relations staff reviewed the process with us and then answered questions. Perhaps the biggest topic of discussion involved those who were changing cabins for the next cruise. I was staying in the same cabin for both cruises but this is not always possible and many guests were going to be required to move. The good news is they were not required to pack their bags. These guests were asked to empty drawers and leave those items on the bed “neatly if possible” and to pack up their bathroom articles and other small items and also have them in plain view. They were told to not forget the cabin safe, and to empty it and leave it open. The housekeeping staff knew who was going where and they would coordinate with the new cabin attendant and transfer the items to the new cabin. The guests didn’t have to move anything. Items on hangers were removed from the closet – hangers included – and taken directly to the new cabin’s closet. It was a seamless and easy operation. I was quite confident when I left the meeting.
One of the nice things about being on a B2B is you don’t have to get up early on disembarkation morning because, well, you are not leaving. Consecutive cruisers are handled as a group and we were told to meet in the Viking Crown at 10:30 am, where we would be ushered off the ship, through a perfunctory Customs check, and then return to the ship. The plan is that all the other passengers would have obtained their luggage and cleared Customs, so we could be quickly screened with no delays. Sadly that is not what happened in my case because of an issue with Customs staffing, the whole process was slow and we were not taken off the ship until almost noon, or about 90 minutes late. This was not Royal Caribbean’s fault but it did delay the special private luncheon for us in the dining room, since we were all about an hour late getting seated. Lunch was a set menu with a couple of choices for an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Despite the problems it was very pleasant.
After lunch we consecutive cruisers simply blended in with the new passengers who were already boarding, conspicuous only because we were not toting carry-on luggage and our favorite bartenders had our preferred drink ready as soon as they saw us approaching. And so it was over and I was once again in familiar territory, on a cruise where I’d have to pack up and finally leave when the cruise ended.
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Posted: February 8th, 2013 under David Beers.