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Good morning all. I am booked on a Southern Caribbean cruise out of San Juan, PR on Jan. 23-30, 2022. The itinerary indicates a return to San Juan at 6 a.m. on Jan. 30.

In your opinion, if I have an 11 a.m. flight home, is that feasible?  [My only other non-stop option is 9 p.m.]


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It depends on the level of risk you deem acceptable.

If everything goes smoothly an 11am flight is doable if you get up early and keep your luggage with you using the self-assist disembarkation process.  Keep in mind a 6am arrival doesn't mean everyone will be off the ship at 6am.  Moving thousands of people off a ship, moving thousands of pieces of luggage, sending thousands of people through customs and immigration takes time.  

If something doesn't go right such as a weather delay or a medical diversion during the cruise or if CBP doesn't have enough officers that day, etc. then an 11am flight might be missed. 

San Juan has an agriculture checkpoint prior to airline check in.  It's a decent size airport but there can be delays when thousands of guests debark from a ship and descend on the airport.  

We also don't know what pandemic protocols will be in use in January 2022.  The debark process might take twice as long compared to what we are used to.  We don't know.

I get it, no one wants to sit at an airport for hours waiting for a flight but that is the smarter move in case something doesn't go right.

You are the one that will face the extra costs or aggravation associated with missing a flight.  Only you can decide if the risk is worth taking. 

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As a solo cruiser (usually) I have an advantage in that it's just me.  I'm not trying to motivate sleepy children to get moving.  I don't have to consider a spouse who isn't a morning person.  As a frequent flyer my airline lets me get away with a missed flight and accommodates me.  TSA Precheck can save me a lot of time going through security.

Even with that said it can be stressful standing in a long queue for CBP watching the minutes tick by as the line slowly creeps forward.  Doing so with elderly parents, or young children, or a spouse who isn't a morning person can cast a gloom on the whole cruise if you have a tight timeline.  What a terrible way to end a perfect vacation. 

Having all the time in the world can make the last hours on the ship a little more relaxed and stress free.  Having a relaxed goodbye breakfast for example.  

You know your own level of stress tolerance and that of your traveling party.  Consider that too.  

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Personally I avoid tight connections.  Once they arrive at 6am, the ship has to get cleared  before people can disembark. I would stay in hotel one day and leave the next morning.  Or get a hotel for day use before your evening flight.    Also you might be able to use the airline club lounges for the day.


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23 hours ago, Craig 01020 said:

Thanks all. I'll plan on staying overnight and taking the 11 am nonstop the next day...that is, IF I actually go at all.

@Craig 01020 we are on that same Explorer of the Seas sailing as the first of a b2b. 

FYI we have sailed out of San Juan this same time period for at least the last 5 years and making a 11am flight would have easily worked every time.  But we also self debark taking our own bags and are in that line fairly early.   I have tried taking my time but they do throw you out of your cabin fairly early.

Do remember to run your bags through the agricultural screening as soon as you get to the airport again i have never seen it really that busy, but we depart the ship early so that may influence it.

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It is 100% doable only if you walk off with your luggage which means you have to pack smart.  

I've done this several times when flying out of Fort Lauderdale and Newark, in most cases the doors open about an  hour after the ship docks. I've walked off Allure at Port Everglades or Anthem at Cape Liberty at 6:30am and I'm on an 8:30am or 9am flight home. San Juan's airport is a bit further from the cruise port than Fort Lauderdale international is from Port Everglades or Cape Liberty is from Newark International.  However, if the ship arrives at 6am you should be ready to walk off the ship by 7am.  The beauty of walking off with your luggage early are the lines to get through customs aren't that long. You could potentially be in a cab on your way to the airport by 8am at the latest for an 11am flight. 


The only other way I can see this working if you check your luggage is if you book a higher tier Sky Class, any Star Class suite or if you are top tier member of RC's Crown and Anchor society. If you are in one of RC top tier suites or a top tier member your luggage will be waiting for you in a separate area which makes it much easier to find.  Also I've found that customers booked in top tier suites once you claim your luggage you are escorted to nearly the front of the line of people waiting to clear customs.

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