Easy Luggage handling program for cruise passengers

One of the great benefits of a cruise vacation is only having to unpack one time as your floating hotel goes from port to port, a big advantage over land vacations. But the cruise eventually comes to an end and we have to pack up and go hone. A relatively new service makes that whole process much easier.

The normal procedure for luggage handling at the end of a cruise has a lot of steps. Leave it out in the hallway the night before disembarkation, get off the ship in the morning, wade through a sea of luggage with everyone else, claim yours, head to the airport, check your luggage again then claim it one more time at their home airport. That’s just the way it’s been done for years.

The procedure has so many steps that passengers often choose a “self-assist” option where they carry their on luggage on and off the ship, bypassing some of the handling.

But now there is a better way and it gets you airline boarding passes too.

Airportbags.com has a new service that allows guests to skip all that, set their luggage out the night before disembarkation then never touch them again until they get to their home airport. Airportbags.com has partnered with cruise lines, airlines and government security forces to make it all happen and the cost is reasonable.

Onboard Airline Check-In Program from Airports Bags on Vimeo.

You now have the opportunity to complete the airline and luggage check-in process for your flight home before you even step foot off the ship. Simply complete an enrollment form while onboard the ship and return it to a staff member. The night before disembarkation your airline boarding passes and preliminary baggage tags will be delivered to your stateroom along with detailed instructions on how to proceed once departing the ship.

Ricardo Torres of AirportBags told Gadling “This disembarkation option allows you to enjoy your final hours in the port at your leisure. Imagine your options: 1) enjoy the sights of the city or 2) stand in a never-ending line at the airport–the choice is yours with Onboard Airline Check-In. “

I did a version of this coming off a Princess Cruises Alaska Cruisetour last year where we had to go through customs in Vancouver too. In that case we transferred from the ship to the airport on a sealed bus that followed a sealed truck with our luggage in it. Their version is called EasyCheck and it was simply wonderful.

Most major cruise lines have a version of it too. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises call it the Luggage Valet and Onboard Airline Check in plan. Disney Cruise Line’s version is the Onboard Airline Check-in Service. On Norwegian Cruise Lines it’s simply Bags and Holland America Line calls it Luggage Direct while for Carnival Cruise Lines the program goes under the name of Luggage Express. Prices vary by line but range from free on Disney Cruise Line to $20 on pretty much all the others.

Flickr photo by quinn.anya

Finding the perfect luggage for your cruise

On cruise vacations, a new goal on choosing the right luggage is to be able to walk on and off the ship with it by yourself. If you are physically able, this is the way to go.

Called doing it the “self-assist” way, the cruise lines require that you must be able to handle the luggage without assistance on and off the ship. If you can manage it yourself, you’ll save time and completely eliminate the possibility of your luggage being lost, stolen or rummaged through while you are not looking. Plus, you won’t have to wade through the sea of luggage after sailing to find yours among hundreds of others that look just like it.

If you can’t do that, you will need to give it to the porters at the pier to handle for you. (see photo)

Pre-Test:Which way sounds/looks like your luggage and the stuff in it will be better cared for?

Whatever you have, it will need to be small enough to fit through scanning machines on the ship, otherwise pretty much any size or shape will do.

Before you even think about looking for luggage though, we need to get the expectations for what it needs to handle straight. On a standard seven night cruise there will be two formal nights. Outside of that, there is broad acceptance for onboard apparel.

Consider where you’re going and what you’re packing before you shop for new luggage too. This will determine the quantity and size of luggage you’ll need. Not sure? Check travel guides and travel reviews for play by play recommendations before you shop. The big trick to making a budget on this stuff and sticking to it is knowing exactly what it is you want before you start looking for it.

Also consider that you will probably travel someplace else in your lifetime so versatility is a good factor to consider. A quick search of Gadling gear deals is probably a good place to start for the latest and greatest of what is out there right now.

Soft or Hard? Decide whether you want soft or hard-sided luggage. Heavier, hard-sided suitcases offer far better protection for fragile items. Soft luggage is lighter and bends when squished up against or rolled over by an airplane.

Check with your airline- Make sure the bags fits your airline’s approved carry-on size. The cruise line has no limits or restrictions on luggage but less is better here too. Choose a size that’s appropriate for the length of your trip. Keep in mind the possibility of needing to accommodate unexpected items or expand for a longer trip.

Here is a good line we have used on both short and long cruises as well as land vacations from Briggs and Riley.

Flickr photo by Marit and Toomas Hinnosaar