Passenger Loses Out on Antarctica Cruise Over Lost Luggage

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A sailing to Antarctica is a dream trip for many cruise travelers. For one UK guest, however, her trip quickly turned into a nightmare while she was still more than 8,800 miles from the southernmost continent on the planet.

Due to a crowded plane, missing luggage, and unreachable personal items, Valerie Coleshaw was unable to set sail on her Antarctic getaway.

Coleshaw had booked a HX (Formerly named Hurtigruten Expeditions) sailing to Antarctica departing in February 2023, but when she arrived at the Manchester Airport, her cruise plans began to sink. She was flying with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines but was informed that the plane was full, and she was asked to check her carry-on bag.

KLM Luggage
KLM Luggage (Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia)

KLM permits travelers to have one carry-on bag and one accessory item, such as a purse or laptop, provided both bags fit specific dimensions and have a combined weight allowance. If passengers are flying in Premium Comfort or Business class, they are permitted slightly more baggage for carry-on.

As most airlines will do if a flight is extremely full, however, travelers may be asked to check their carry-on items at no cost. Coleshaw agreed after being assured that the bag would be returned to her after reaching Amsterdam for her layover. From Amsterdam, her next flight was to have been to Buenos Aires.

Upon arriving in Amsterdam after the 80-minute flight, however, Coleshaw discovered her bag was missing. In it was prescription asthma medication and her paperwork to join the cruise. Without knowing where those items were and not certain whether they would be returned, Coleshaw was unable to continue on her trip.

It is unclear why Coleshaw did not have a smaller purse or bag to take onto the plane with her, where she could have placed those critical items. KLM advises travelers to use a smaller bag in case of limited overhead bin space if carry-on bags need to be checked.

“We advise you to pack any travel essentials such as medicines in your smaller bag, just in case,” the airline’s website states.

According to the Independent, Coleshaw claims she was not advised to remove any essentials from her bag as it was being checked.

“I had no additional handbag in which to store my documents, tickets and asthma spray. I had only a mobile phone, credit card and passport in my pocket,” she said. “No one ever suggested to me to remove my medication, tickets, holiday reservation, emergency contact details and so on. Had they done so, I would have taken my hand luggage on board.”

Coleshaw was given hotel vouchers and a return flight to Manchester the following day, losing the nearly $14,000 (USD) cruise fare in the process.

Dispute With the Cruise Line

In the months following the fiasco, Coleshaw has battled with Hurtigruten about refunds and vouchers. As she had booked the entire travel package through the cruise line, if the airline is at fault, she would be entitled to a full refund.

The cruise line did offer her limited vouchers at first, but a replacement African cruise she had booked was cancelled. Now, her personal circumstances have changed, and she no longer feels comfortable booking such an expensive trip.

Hurtigruten Ship Roald Amundsen
Hurtigruten Ship Roald Amundsen (Photo Credit: dvlcom)

“We are disappointed that we have been unable to resolve this current issue to date. Our guest experience team have been in direct contact with Ms Coleshaw for several months now and we have worked hard to try and find a resolution to this situation,” a cruise line spokesperson said.

Ultimately, Hurtigruten did offer a future cruise credit for the full cost of Coleshaw’s lost Antarctica sailing, an offer that exceeds their standard cancellation policy. The rebooking deadline has also been extended to give her the greatest opportunity to find a vacation she can enjoy.

Coleshaw has not stated whether or not she will be planning another once-in-a-lifetime vacation within the time frame available.

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