Ever consider planning a pair of consecutive cruises? With the increased popularity of cruising and those longing for more, booking back to back cruises is the answer!
After completing my first back to back cruise in 2019, I can honestly say I found my new favorite form of travel! Leaving from Miami, the Norwegian Star and I traversed the Caribbean through the Panama Canal. We then proceeded along the western coast of South America, around Cape Horn, finishing in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
All together, I visited 8 different countries in a span of 30 days, all boasting totally unique cultures and extraordinary experiences. From Trujillo and Paracas, Peru to the Falkland Islands, choosing a back to back cruise was one of the best decisions of my life.
In this post, I am going to do my best to explain the ins and outs of back to back cruising as I know them. Stick around to learn about this underrated form of cruising and let me know if you have any other questions down below in the comments!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure here.
What exactly is back-to-back cruising?
Back to back cruising is when two or more consecutive cruises are usually booked on the same cruise ship. Many cruisers, including myself, choose to sail on back to back cruises to both save money on flight costs and ultimately spend more time at sea!
This is frequently done on transatlantic or transpacific sailings, however, is possible on practically any cruise ship if you are flexible. While many of the bigger, more well-known ships may sail the same route over and over again, if you look hard enough, you can find a back to back cruise on your favorite cruise sailing the ocean.
How do I find back to back cruises?
While cruise lines do not have an option to search for back to back cruises on their websites, it is easy to find back to back cruises by searching for a specific ship for a destination you are interested in.
Once you find the ship you want, see if the weeks surrounding that specific cruise are running different itineraries. For example, last December I wanted to cruise around South America. Once I picked out the cruise line and itinerary I wanted, I looked at the weeks surrounding, and was pleasantly surprised with an opportunity to tag on a cruise the week before.
This particular cruise served as a repositioning cruise, however, I got to visit the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, and see multiple spots in Peru during a 14-day sailing. This cruise I was not originally planning to sail came out to be less than $500 total (gratuities and cruise fare)... not too bad considering flights would have been double that!
While many cruise ships will be operating on the same cruise itinerary for months, you will be able to tackle at least 3 consecutive cruises together if you find out when they switch itineraries (the original itinerary, the transfer segment, and the new itinerary).
How do I plan a back to back cruise?
To plan a series of back to back cruises you should make sure to research certain criteria:
Check the itineraries
It is important to make sure the itinerary dates match up between the back to back cruises— that is, the date of the end of one segment is the date of the beginning of the next segment.
There have been many instances of cruise ships spending a few days in port to either restock, refuel, or work on the ship, so checking the dates is vital to preparing for the back to back cruises.
Check the ship
Once you determine if the dates line up, double-check that the cruise segments are in fact, on the same ship. This is especially important for larger cruise lines as they may have multiple itineraries going out of the same port.
If you do not care if you have to change ships, you may have more options for your second segment! Like I said earlier, you may have multiple ships leaving a port on any given day, so the odds of you finding your dream back to back cruises is high.
Using a travel agent to guarantee that you will be in the same stateroom for all the cruise segments can save you both money and a massive headache. Otherwise, make sure to book through popular cruise sites like Cruise Direct where you can choose the exact staterooms you will be staying in.
If you are in different staterooms for the segments, you will have to pack and unpack your luggage each time you start a new cruise segment.
While it is important to purchase travel insurance on a regular cruise, it is especially important on back to back cruises.
If you miss a segment’s boarding time, you will more than likely have to pay your way to another port to board the ship. Most cruise lines offer some version of travel insurance, but make sure to print out and bring these documents with you. Cruise lines are notorious for being disorganized with communications with their corporate and onboard teams.
The procedure in between the cruises
For many cruise lines, there are special receptions onboard the ship on the day of embarkation for the back-to-back cruisers.
If you are wanting to get off the ship, you will have to ask for the procedure from the cruise line, as it depends. Further, most cruise lines will have a separate line to both get off the ship and back on for those enjoying back to back cruises.
Also, you will need to ask for the time to be back on the ship as it will not be stated in the cruise itineraries. Most cruise lines cherish those staying with them on back to back cruises, so don't be afraid to ask for help during the day in between your back to back cruise.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I stay in the same stateroom for all back-to-back cruises?
It is important when booking this type of cruise to make sure to either ask your travel agent to book you in the same cabin or if you are doing it yourself, call the cruise line to guarantee this to happen.
With many of these cruise lines, you can choose the specific room you are staying in. If this is the case, you can simply choose the same stateroom for both cruises.
Will I have to complete the muster drill for all back-to-back cruises?
Yes, unfortunately, you will have to complete the muster drill multiple times.
Even though you completed the first muster drill, it is mandatory for all cruisers for any cruise as these back-to-back cruises are formally separate cruises.
Can I go into port in-between cruises?
Yes, you can go into port typically. Most cruise lines will allow you to get off when the other passengers disembark from their cruise, but they may not have regular shore excursions for you to enjoy.
Make sure to plan ahead and ask your cruise line or other back to back cruisers (through Cruise Critic boards) what their plan is for shore excursions on this day. More than likely, you will be able to find a fantastic shore activity for the day in-between your back to back cruises.
The cruise line will let you know what time you will have to be back onboard typically the night before through a letter as it will not be in the official itinerary.
Will I have to board with the regular guests in between cruises?
No, many cruise lines acknowledge the presence of back-to-back cruisers and therefore will have a separate line for these guests which will go a lot faster than the normal boarding line.
Will I have to get a new keycard for each cruise?
Yes, you will be receiving a new card for each individual cruise you go on.
This is important to remember when debarking between cruises as you will need to have your new key to get back on the ship.
Do I have to get off between cruises?
Most cruise lines will allow back-to-back cruisers to stay on board if there is a large population of back to backers. Many cruise lines will actually hold a special reception or party for these cruisers.
Otherwise, you will have to briefly disembark and get back on the ship. This normally does not take long however and you will not be clumped with all the other passengers.
If you are staying in the same stateroom, you will maintain full access to your cabin as well.
Are there special discounts for consecutive cruises?
Typically you will not be able to find discounts for back-to-back cruises but there are a couple of cruise lines that offer discounts.
However, there are expenses you will be saving on just from cruising on two segments in a row. For example, you will only have to pay for 1 flight for each cruise where typically you would have to pay for 2 flights.
You also will not have to take off additional vacation days from work for pre and post-cruise activities. Further, you will not be paying for nights at a hotel for pre and post- cruise days when booking your consecutive cruises.
If I did not get the same room for the different segments, when will I be allowed into my room?
Unfortunately, if you booked separate cabins for the different cruises, you will have to pack up your stuff and leave it outside your cabin the night before debarkation just like the other passengers.
You will not be seeing this stuff until the next day like the next cruise’s passengers, so make sure to pack what you need for either your day on the ship or your day in port the night before.
How do I find other people who are doing the same back to back cruise?
If you are trying to find people before the cruise, shoot out a message on your specific cruise’s roll call on Cruise Critic asking if anyone is planning to go on the back to back cruise.
You will also find on most cruises a Cruise Critic meet and greet scheduled during one of the first days at sea.
If the back to back cruises have different itineraries there will more than likely be people at this meet and greet who are also doing the back to back.
If you ask around, I am sure anyone will be more than happy to help you find others who are doing the same thing.
How do I pack for a back to back cruise?
While packing for back to back cruises can be stressful, it actually is not much different than packing for a regular cruise.
If you want to pack light, make sure to bring laundry detergent to wash your clothes on board. Otherwise, make sure to pack enough clothes for every day on the cruise taking note of the climates you will be visiting.
Also, bring extra medication and personal care items; if you run out at sea, the cost will typically be significantly higher on the ship and in foreign countries.