Most active duty and retired military members are aware of the opportunities for travel and significant savings offered by the military Space-A flight system. But have you ever considered combining Space-A travel with an ocean cruise for that once-in-a-lifetime, special vacation that you and your family will fondly remember for years to come?
An ocean cruise is a popular choice for those wanting to enjoy luxurious accommodations while visiting one of many exciting domestic and foreign travel destinations. Staterooms are offered at various price points ranging from the very affordable to the very pricey. Depending on the stateroom chosen, you may enjoy a port (window) offering an ocean view, a balcony, or even a suite to include a personal butler!
Cruises are renowned for their many and varied dining options, and may include formal dining, specialty dining (steakhouses, barbecue, sushi, etc), casual burger and sandwich bars, as well as mouth-watering buffets. Travelers can also thrill to live entertainment, first-run movies, gambling casinos, night clubs, dancing, Las Vegas-style shows and more. For physical activity, cruises often offer swimming pools, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, while some even provide more exotic activities such as climbing walls and surfing pools. Or, if you prefer to unwind, enjoy a cool drink by the poolside or a pampered visit to the spa for a massage, facial, or a slimming wrap.
A large collection of Cruise Lines provide ocean cruises from ports throughout the U.S. and all over the world. As always, using Space-A flights to travel to or from your chosen destination will require flexibility and a willingness to expect the unexpected. But with a little luck, patience, and a good “Plan B” in case things don’t work out as expected, you will find you are able enjoy a memorable vacation while saving money!
To combine Space-A travel with a cruise, we would suggest one of two strategies: First, book your cruise in advance, and attempt Space-A travel 3 or 4days ahead of your cruise departure date. If you arrive early, you can relax and enjoy the local sights and entertainment while awaiting your cruise departure. You may even find that military lodging is available to help offset the cost of your stay. This approach will allow you to opt for commercial travel to your destination if Space-A travel is unavailable when you need it. Of course, before signing on for a cruise, be sure to familiarize yourself with your options if you are unable to reach your port in time. As with airline travel, cancellations can incur penalties and you may want to consider purchasing cancellation insurance.
The second suggested travel strategy is to catch Space-A travel to one of the many available cruise departure ports and upon arrival, seek to book your cruise. Depending on the time of year, you may find last-minute specials as the cruise companies try to fill empty staterooms before sailing. For this approach, we would also recommend you choose a location that offers other attractive vacation alternatives, so if you can’t book a cruise you can still enjoy your vacation.
Here are just a few possible ideas of how you might combine Space-A travel with a luxurious ocean cruise.
Cruise Destination: Rome
First, fly to Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia from one of many Space-A installations located in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas or other U.S. Space-A departure locations. Next, fly Space-A from Norfolk to Italy. Keep in mind, there are no Space-A installations directly in Rome, so once you arrive at Aviano, Sigonella, or Naples via Space-A, you will need to seek commercial travel to Rome. As of this printing, for example, a one way flight from the city of Catania, (about 30 miles from Sigonella) to Rome was as low as $17 per person!
From Rome you will find a variety of cruises to such exciting destinations as Pompeii. Sicily and Naples, Italy; Marseille, France; Barcelona and Palma De Mallorca, Spain; Croatia; Athens and Crete, Greece; Turkey; Monaco; Portugal; the Azores; Gibraltar, and the Netherlands. Even if you are unable to catch a cruise from Rome, you still have access to all the amazing and well-known tourist destinations to be found in Rome, Naples, Venice and all of Italy!
If, by chance, you can’t catch a Space-A flight from Norfolk, you still have many options at that location for an enjoyable vacation. You can stay at one of the amany military lodgings found in the Norfolk area to save on hotel costs. While there, you can visit the Virginia Zoo, the Norfolk Botanical Garden, and Nauticus (an ocean and maritime museum). You are also within easy reach of the sandy Atlantic beaches of Virginia Beach, historical Yorktown and Jamestown, and the popular Colonial Williamsburg. Or, travel to Washington D.C., just 3 hours north by car or 60 minutes by air. Whether your initial plans come to pass or not, you just can’t lose!
Cruise Destination: New Orleans
First, fly Space-A to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans from one of many Space-A installations located in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Virginia, or other U.S. Space-A departure installations. From New Orleans, you can find many cruises to wonderful tropical and Caribbean locations such as Cozumel, Yucatan, and Costa Maya, Mexico; Honduras; Belize; Jamaica; Mahogany Bay; Isla Roatan; Grand Cayman; Aruba; Curacao; Grenada; Barbados; Antigua; St. Thomas; Puerto Rico, and Guatemala. And, if you can’t get a cruise connection, you can still enjoy the many wonders that make New Orleans such a great place to visit. These include the Garden District, the French Quarter, the National World War II Museum, Jackson Square and the New Orleans City Park. There are also many varied sightseeing and walking tours to take in all the many historic and cultural sites hosted by this unique city! Cruise or no cruise, this will surely be a vacation to remember!
Cruise Destination: Alaska
First, fly Space-A to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, located next to Anchorage Alaska, from Space-A installations in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Japan, Kansas, or other locations in the U.S. and overseas. Or, you may choose to catch a Space-A flight to Eielson AFB, AK, near Fairbanks, and then catch another Space-A flight from there to Elmendorf-Richardson.
From Anchorage, you will find many exciting Alaskan cruises sailing to spectacular, scenic locations including the Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Seward, Glacier Bay National Park, the Sawyer Glacier, Skagway, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), the Inside Passage and even Vancouver, BC.
If it turns out a cruise is not available, there are a large selection of guided tours out of Anchorage, or you may opt for a rental car and a self-guided tour to explore the breathtaking, panoramic views of the Alaskan countryside. Camping, kayaking and rafting are available for the adventurous, while a variety of museums, cultural attractions, and other entertainment venues are available to please the whole family. Enjoy fishing, sightseeing, river cruises and wildlife viewing unparalleled in the United States. With or without a cruise, an Alaskan vacation is one you’ll never forget!
Cruise Destination: Florida
Space-A travelers may fly to MacDill AFB, Florida from military installations in Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington State or from a variety of other locations in the U.S., Europe and Asia. From MacDill, it’s only a short, eight-mile trip to Tampa/St. Petersburg, which offers a selection of cruises to such exotic locations as Cozumel Mexico; Honduras; Belize; Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands; Aruba and Curacao.
If it happens that a cruise is not available when you need it, the Tampa area offers many other, exciting attractions for the vacation traveler. These include Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay; the Florida Aquarium; the Lowry Park Zoo; Adventure Island; the Henry B. Plant Museum of Art, and the Museum of Science and Industry, just to name a few.
Or, if you prefer, you can rent a car or hop on a bus – it’s a drive of about 1.5 hours from Tampa to Orlando, where the whole family will enjoy Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. If sunny beaches are more your style, head 25 miles west from Tampa to Clearwater Beach, or about an hour south to Siesta Key. Sanibel Island, which boasts some of the finest beaches in Florida, can be found about 150 miles south of Tampa. Whatever your tastes, whether on sea or land, your vacation to Florida will mean fun and relaxation for the whole family!
We hope these few examples have opened your eyes to how you can use Space-A travel in conjunction with an ocean cruise while saving money in the process. Also, keep in mind that you may also save even more money by using Space-A flights to return home after your cruise/vacation! Of course, Space-A travel is never guaranteed, but as we’ve shown, some advance planning and flexibility can ensure a successful vacation whether your plans for Space-A travel work out or not!
To enhance your planning resources, please refer our Military Space-A Air Travel Guide™. This book provides extensive information on worldwide Space-A installations, flights, departure points and destinations, points of contact, phone numbers etc. And for even more detailed information on military lodging, phone numbers, accommodations, and attractions at potential vacation spots, please see our Temporary Military Lodging Around the World™ guide. Both of these publications may be found at your local AAFES Base/Post Exchange, or may be purchased directly online at www.militaryliving.com, where you can also view samples of each.
We wish you many happy, safe, and memorable travels. You’ve earned it!
Author: Bob Biel, Military Living® Publications
Reprint from March–April 2016 • Volume 46, No. 2