The only thing I love more than taking a cruise is taking two cruises! Known as a back to back (or B2B), taking two cruises in a row on the same ship is an ideal way to really unwind, and make the most of your time on board. Admittedly, I can’t frequently take two week vacations, but when I can, I like to fill at least a portion of that time with a cruise. The entire two weeks? For me, even better!
My most recent B2B cruise was aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world. We never considered just a seven night cruise on a ship so large and chock full of stuff to do. Our planning revolved around a B2B, Allure’s alternating eastern and western Caribbean itineraries appealed to us, and we could not have been happier. In fact, over 200 of our fellow cruisers elected to do the same thing, though I think we were definitely the youngest!
What makes a B2B so satisfying? During week one, you’re still a little wound up from work. By week two…. you’ve let go, and are really unwinding. Not to mention, there’s an almost giddy feeling knowing that when all the other poor souls have to leave the ship you get to stay for another week… or more. Yes, I met a couple on Allure that were on a B2B2B2B cruise. Yes, that’s four weeks of cruising if you’re counting at home. However, if you only have a week to enjoy you can still take advantage of a B2B opportunity. The short three and four night Bahamas cruises from Florida ports offer some of the most affordable cruises. If you aren’t port particular, and are really looking to just take an affordable get away, combine a three and four night Bahamas cruise into a B2B and enjoy a reasonably priced seven nights of cruising. Here’s a little video courtesy of Royal Caribbean International to wet your B2B appetite.
There’s nothing special about booking a B2B. Call the cruise line directly to help arrange for the same stateroom and note your reservations as consecutive or use a travel agent. Then go cruise! The logistics of “turnaround day” on your B2B vary by cruise line, and even by the home port of the ship. Typically, you’ll get a letter on the last evening of your first cruise that contains your onboard charge card/room key for the following cruise. The letter will explain how customs formalities will be handled. If you booked a different stateroom for your second week (try not to, but it happens), you’ll need to pack your belongings and leave them in your stateroom when you exit to clear customs. Your bags will magically appear in your new stateroom. If you have the same stateroom (Yay!!), no need to worry about packing.
On turnaround day, there are one of a few possibilities most of which will include waiting in a lounge until everyone except those on the next cruise have disembarked the ship. Then a crewmember will walk you through customs. Some ports will even send a customs inspector onboard to collect your blue card, and you won’t even have to leave the ship. Wish they all did that. Once you are back on board, you may have the ship to yourself for a bit, or you may just barely beat the new guests on. During a B2B turn in Miami a few years ago, we were alone by the pool for nearly an hour before any other guests were allowed on board. The few minutes of quiet were nice…interesting even.
In summary, a back to back cruise is a wonderful way to maximize your cruise vacation. Try to keep the same stateroom for both cruises if you can. Part of the joy of not needing to leave the ship should also include not needing to pack on the final night of the first cruise! It’s a good idea to book your B2B cruise on the phone with the cruise line, or have your travel agent handle things for you to ensure the cruise line knows you are on a B2B sailing. Enjoy your cruise!
-MJ, May 22, 2013