Lost Luggage a Growing Problem for Cruise Ship Passengers

Difficulties with airline travel are causing more cruisers to set sail without bags, but some cruise lines are stepping in to help.

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With ongoing air travel challenges due to pilot shortages and other staffing issues, cruise travelers are having more difficulty with lost or delayed luggage that can dramatically impact a seagoing getaway. What can you do to protect your luggage and be sure it arrives on time for your cruise?

Luggage Problems Growing Worse

According to a recent report by Business Insider, luggage problems – while always a fixture for air travel – have become increasingly troublesome for cruise travelers.

Not only is luggage occasionally delayed, but delays are growing longer and luggage is sometimes rerouted to entirely different destinations far from cruise embarkation ports.

The cruise passengers having the biggest difficulties are those traveling through multiple airline connections to reach their ship. In these cases, a delay or cancelation at one airport can have a knock-on effect with luggage being completely lost or dramatically delayed.

Todd McCloud Jr. had planned a Caribbean getaway with Carnival Cruise Line earlier this month, when his lost luggage “put a damper on our whole trip.”

A last-minute flight change that rerouted McCloud’s bags ultimately meant the luggage missed the embarkation port, and he and his brother had to enjoy their cruise minus their luggage. The bags were waiting for them at the airport after the cruise.

Luggage on Carnival Cruise Ship
Luggage on Carnival Cruise Ship (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

“I’m lucky that I didn’t put our birth certificates in those bags or else we wouldn’t have been able to go on the cruise at all,” McCloud said.

Bob Sweigart, who enjoyed a European cruise aboard Celebrity Edge in June, had a 21-hour flight delay, causing a missed connection. His luggage was rerouted and did not make the cruise.

Other passengers reported luggage rerouted to multiple airports in attempts to meet up with cruises already underway, or luggage left at airports due to a shortage of available baggage handlers.

Travelers’ attempts to contact different airlines’ customer service representatives meant long wait times on hold, often with little or no information available about the whereabouts of lost luggage.

According to a June 2022 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, mishandled luggage reports have more than doubled from 2021, with well over 200,000 bags mishandled in April alone – the last month available for current reporting data.

Read Also: Cruise Ship Deploys Lifeboats After Cage Full of Luggage Falls Overboard

A “mishandled” bag is one that may have been delayed, lost, damaged, or had items reportedly stolen.

While the impacted bags only represent .5% (one-half percent) of all bags handled by the reporting airlines, this still means that 1/200 bags or more may not arrive to its intended destination on time and intact.

How to Cope With Lost Luggage

Cruise passengers have few options available when their bags are lost before setting sail.

Unlike travelers on land, cruisers on a ship do not have access to multiple retail stores to replace clothing, toiletries, or other missing items. While cruise ships do stock some items in the gift shops, high prices and limited supplies can make it difficult to replace everything.

In some cases, cruise travelers have reported borrowing clothing from other guests, even strangers, during their vacation. Other passengers have had to give up shore tours in order to find shopping options at ports of call.

Packing Less on a Cruise Vacation
Photo By: Melissa Mayntz

When luggage is missing, cruise guests should reach out to their cruise line for assistance as well. While the items may not be able to be replaced, some cruise lines can offer alternatives.

Passengers who lost luggage prior to recent trips with Silversea Cruises and Viking, for example, have reported that those lines waived laundry fees to help with the limited clothing available from carryon bags.

Other cruise lines may do the same, or may be able to help passengers contact their airlines to track luggage in the hopes that it can catch up with the ship. Guests may also request replacement personal items, such as toothbrushes or other essentials, or discounts on clothing onboard, though cruise lines are not obligated to offer such compensation.

Keeping Your Luggage From Being Lost

Ultimately, cruise travelers should take all possible precautions to ensure their bags arrive at the cruise port with them. This means taking advantage of carryon bags as much as possible, and packing sensibly in those carryon bags in case other luggage is lost.

Read More: 6 Ways to Protect Your Cruise Ship Luggage

All identification paperwork, medication, and valuables should be in carryon bags, as well as simple changes of clothing.

Planning to arrive at the cruise homeport at least the day before sailing can help prevent setting sail without bags due to luggage delays, as it will give the airline time to return lost luggage before embarkation.

Travelers should also investigate nonstop flights whenever possible, even if costs may be higher, to minimize the risk of luggage being mistakenly routed on different flights during layovers.

Putting electronic tracking tags and other copies of identification paperwork – including the ultimate destination of the bags – inside luggage as well as on easily readable, secure luggage tags can also help bags be located and returned quickly if necessary.

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