One of the best reasons to cruise is the ease of unpacking only once, while your 'floating hotel' transports you to fascinating ports of call.
But your baggage has to arrive at the ship for that convenience to work out! And these days, baggage that's delayed, misplaced or missing after a flight is a real worry for many travelers, and especially cruise travelers, who know that ship is going to sail with or without your luggage.
Don’t worry! Here are my essential tips to make sure your next cruise isn’t ruined by baggage blues.
And even if you're driving to your next cruise's embarkation port, read on! A lot of these tips also apply to cruise luggage even if you don't fly.
Carry On Heroes
For many people, their first solution is to not check bags on a flight at all. I suppose there are some people making rather short trips with little variation in clothing who can do that, and if you are one of them, I tip my (packed in my carry-on) hat to you!
But for so many of us, the opportunity to dress for dinner and special occasions is one of the things we love most about cruising. No carry on will do.
That said, your carry on bag - whether you are flying to embark on your cruise or driving! - should contain all your documentation, valuables like jewelry, medication and anything you can’t live without for a day or permanently in your possession at all times.
Do yourself a favor and add a couple of pieces of essentials that might include swimwear, some way to make yourself dressier for dinner, and a change of footwear as well as toiletries that can get you through a day of luggage delay at port - or an afternoon and first evening on the ship if there are delays getting your luggage to your ship stateroom.
Fly in Even Earlier for your Cruise
Most experienced cruise travelers already know it’s best practice to fly into your port of embarkation a full day ahead of sailing in case of any flight delays or luggage problems. You don't want to be stressed watching the clock as your ship's sail away hour approaches!
These days, I’d suggest arriving two days ahead if you can. It’s much easier to be reunited with lost or delayed luggage if you’re still in the same place where your flight landed instead of two ports of call away, and these days, getting lost luggage sorted out can take more than one day.
Get Travel Insurance
Comprehensive travel insurance – unlike just travel medical insurance – can include compensation if your bags are lost. Some specialist luggage insurance even includes expert trackers who will work on your behalf to recover your luggage and reunite you with it.
Ask an expert to help make sure you get the travel insurance coverage you’re looking for.
Split your Luggage
It’s like hedging your bets. The odds of ALL your luggage being delayed or going missing are pretty small.So if it’s two of you travelling, put half of your belongings in each bag you’re checking. That way, if one bag is delayed, you’ll still both have something in the bag you recover at your destination. It gives you essentials and some breathing room for your remaining piece of luggage to catch up with you.
Ship your Luggage
If you’re like most of us, you’re using shipping services more than ever before, and it’s never been easier to ship your luggage to meet you at your hotel – or even your cruise ship! In fact, some ultra-luxury cruise lines even offer that service to their guests.
There are companies who specialize in exclusively shipping travelers’ baggage. As a bonus, it also makes your airport experience more relaxed as at this point, you are only traveling with your carry on bags.
Document, document, document - and make your bag stand out!
I had a piece of luggage go missing recently – and in fact, it wasn’t an airline or airport error. It was human error in the baggage hall after I disembarked from a ship.
Someone’s porter had mistakenly picked it up (and the traveler hadn’t been paying attention.) But because I had a label with my name, phone and email on my bag, before I’d even made it to my post-cruise hotel, she was texting, emailing and calling me to tell me she’d accidentally taken my bag. And she delivered it to my hotel for me.No label – no solution! Incidentally, if I'd been transferring straight from the ship to the airport, it would have been trickier to solve.
Make a list of what’s in your bag and the value of the bag itself. If you do need to make a claim, you won’t be second-guessing yourself.
Take a photo of your bag. If it does go missing, a photo can be a lot more help than a vague description of a bag that looks like a million other bags that go through the airport.
And - PLEASE choose a bag that stands out! Or make your bag stand out from the million of other black suitcases on the airport carousel or in the disembarkation baggage hall.
Of course you’re going to put a solid, secure, proper label on every piece of your luggage.
But some people are going to greater lengths, with Apple Air Tags or other digital solutions inside their checked bags they can track on their smart phones.The airline might not know where your bag is, but you will.
And Finally - Be a Good Fellow Traveller
Don't just pack your patience, pack your politeness, too.
It goes without saying that you should check to make sure a bag is yours before you walk away. And be polite to stressed baggage service staff if something goes wrong.
But you can go even farther. Someone I know saw a bunch of ‘abandoned’ bags at an airport carousel, and as a good citizen, while she was waiting for her own bag, started texting owners of ‘missing’ bags their bag label and pic of where it was in the airport so they could reclaim it. She got messages back saying she had saved the day for some fellow travelers!
Don’t let luggage worries stop you from cruising or get you down. Use these tips to keep the baggage blues away from your next trip.
By: Lynn Elmhirst Producer and Host, World's Greatest Cruises
Watch World’s Greatest Cruises on your local PBS TV station!
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