P&O Cruises - How do fly cruises work?
Updated: Oct 22
Although we prefer the convenience of sailing from Southampton, when you only have a week off work and want some sunshine the fly cruise is the way to go. We've been on three fly cruises with P&O and they are a great way to start enjoying ports and sunshine straight away.
P&O have been operating fly cruises for a long time now, and have a very slick operation in place. They began with cruises in the Caribbean but over the last 10 years P&O have also been operating fly cruises in the Mediterranean and around the Canary Islands. Due to restrictions on when we can travel, we haven't been lucky enough to try out a Caribbean cruise yet, but we have experienced cruises from Malta, Tenerife and Venice.
What's so special about a P&O fly cruise?
The reason these cruises with P&O are so popular, and why we love them, is because P&O look after everything for you. Instead of booking a cruise and then flights separately, it's all included in the price you pay. This means you'll also have a transfer to the ship and P&O will look after your luggage. We've also been lucky enough to get flights from Birmingham Airport for all of our cruises, although if you don't book early some regional flights may sell out.
P&O charter flights for their fly cruises and most of the time you'll end up on one of these. This means that your flight will be full of passengers heading to the cruise and it makes it feel like your holiday has started the moment you check in!
How does it work?
When you book the cruise, either through your preferred agent or directly through P&O, you'll do everything as normal but you'll also have the option to choose a regional flight rather than the default Gatwick flight. There's usually a small additional charge for regional flights depending on the airport. Your flight information will then be made available to you on your cruise personaliser closer to the time of sailing. You'll also be given the opportunity to prebook flight seats should you need to. We haven't done this on any of our fly cruises and we have always been seated together. If it is important to you to be sat together it might be worth prebooking. On our flight in February 2023, we were seated next to someone who's partner was seated at the opposite end of the plane.
When you arrive at the airport on your departure date you'll be greeted by P&O staff who will explain the process. They'll be wearing P&O lanyards and will be easily identifiable. If your flight is a charter flight, which most are, you won't be able to check in online and some flight information services wont show your flight which can be a bit unnerving. It also feels a little bit weird not having any check in paperwork, but the staff at the desk will get you sorted and will give you a paper boarding pass ready for your flight. This is also where the magic happens. For most P&O fly cruises, you'll check your luggage in at the airport and the next time you'll see it will be when it arrives at your cabin onboard the ship.
We did have an exception to this in Tenerife where we had to collect our own case from the luggage carousel and bring it to the coach. However, we didn't have to worry about taking it from the coach to the ship. On some Caribbean fly cruises, you'll be picked up in a coach directly from the plane and taken straight to the ship, no need to go through the airport at all!
What about the journey home?
Coming home is just as simple, you'll receive a pack in your room towards the latter end of your cruise with all of the information for your journey home. P&O take care of check in for you, so in your pack you'll find your boarding passes, luggage labels, instructions, and usually a sheet explaining departure times for each flight.
Just like you would on a normal cruise, you'll get your case ready and leave it outside your room the night before departure. You'll meet it again once you've arrived at your home airport, so its ideal for those with limited mobility or if you struggle to carry your case. Again if you're on a chartered flight, you'll be travelling with fellow cruisers, so the chances are you'll be able to swap some stories on the way home!
If your flight is a bit later on departure day, you'll be able to stay on board until it's time to head to the airport. P&O also arrange some excursions that pick you up from the ship and then drop you off at the airport allowing you to make the most of your final day. The main benefit you get from the fly cruise here is that if your flight is delayed, as long as the ship has notice, you get to stay onboard and don't have to wait for hours in the aiport.
What could be better?
P&O are experts at the fly cruise, they've been doing it for a long time, so have really perfected it. The operation is slick and well organised and it makes the start of your holiday fuss free. We didn't experience any issues at all on our most recent fly cruise, but there are some aspects that could probably be improved.
The communication at times is a little bit patchy, and had we not done a fly cruise before we would have been a bit nervous turning up to the airport with no paperwork. Seating on the flight was also hit or miss. As mentioned we've always been lucky, but we have spoken to other guests who seemed to have been intentionally separated. They had arrived before check in opened (and before us!) and were still seated apart on the flight.
One thing that was totally our fault, was that we forgot about the airport liquid rule and how this would impact on our last morning. All of our toiletries were full sized so they couldn't be packed in hand luggage, which meant we would either be left with nothing for the final morning or they would need to be left behind. It looks like airports will be changing liquid rules very soon, so this won't be an issue for much longer, but until then don't forget to pack some miniatures to use on your departure day.
The major difference with a fly cruise is that you'll need to be careful with your luggage allowance. We're so used to taking as much as we like on a Southampton round trip that we struggled with having a set limit. We had the scales out and some items needed to be removed the night before we flew. We are looking forward to not having to worry about this before our next cruise and being able to pack extra items just incase they are needed!