7 Confessions of a Cruise Baggage Handler

The cruise terminal is like a well-oiled machine. It not only takes the crew members on the ship to ensure a great cruise vacation, but also pierside workers like embarkation staff, parking attendants, line handlers, and baggage handlers.

When talking to baggage handlers over the past year, a lot of them had many things in common.

7 Confessions From Cruise Line Baggage Handlers

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photo credit: flickr/Nicole Hanusek

1. $1 Per Bag is Customary

When I was talking to a porter, I overheard someone say, “Why should I pay someone to move my bag four feet?!” Yes, the bags go in bins, but even then, they have to be crated, sorted, and driven onto the ship. $1 per bag is generally customary.

2. Checked Bags Get X-Rayed

Think before you stow your bottle of alcohol in your checked luggage; it gets screened piece by piece. Think twice before sticking that whole bottom of rum in your bag, it could get flagged. But it’s not only alcohol, they are also looking for items such as irons.

3. Also, Sniffed by Dogs

It is not uncommon to see a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent and their K-9 dog stationed at a luggage access point. These dogs are trained to detect drugs, weapons, and believe it or not, even fruit (it is illegal to bring fruit back into the states after your cruise).

4. They Do Not Control Baggage Arrival Time

Your bag can be delayed getting to your stateroom for a number of reasons: it gets caught up in customs, a backlog at the loading zone on the cruise ship, crew members aboard the ship are behind on delivering, or your bag could’ve had something inside and got pulled for inspection (usually booze).

5. Protect Fragile Items

Your bags are tossed and stacked into a big metal crate. Where your bag is stacked determines how much it will get squished and squeezed. Pack fragile items toward the center of the bag or inside your shoes. “The bottom bag could have over 1,000 pounds of pressure on it,” a porter recently told me.

6. Most are Union Workers

Depending on where the port is, most dock workers are union and make really good money. In some of the larger ports they make up to six figures annually.

7. Cruise Lines Can Delay Disembarkation

When disembarkation is very slow and seems like it’s taking forever, it’s not the dockworkers’ fault.

The cruise ship is allotted so many U.S. Customs agents per ship. Anything over that amount the cruise line has to pay for. So, it’s up to the cruise line how many extra customs agents are added during disembarkation.

Customs agents can go on break whenever they’d like. “So when the bags are delayed, it’s not our fault,” one baggage handler told me.

Do you tip your baggage handler for taking care of your bags at the pier? Tell us.

#cruise #baggage #vacation #confessions #cruising #ship

9 Responses

  1. Yes I always tip a cruise baggage handler, its no different a service I see to tipping a valet, or bus boy for delivery my bags to my hotel room. $1 a bag and if there is a large group of us maybe an $2- $3 as usually they always seem to ask or check that all bags have been properly tagged.

  2. Of course I tip the baggage handlers, handsomely I might add! I’m not a Neanderthal… Shame on such cheapskates. If you cannot afford to tip the baggage handler, STAY HOME cause CRUISING’s NOT FOR YOU!!!

  3. yes we do tip baggage men they work very hard in all kind of weather and lifting heavy bags and they are very polite!!

  4. I make more than $100k and I get tips on my Job. This is the reason many of them have dedicated 10+ years to a job to get to that level. (14 years on mine) You don’t think that the younger person helping you just started out making that, probably making minimum wage. Just remember, they may have to feed 4 kids and keep the lights on also. A dollar a bag from a guest may make the difference if they can take their family on cruise someday. Please take care of the people that take care of you.

  5. You are probably he same person that does not tip the room steward the waiter’s the bartender’s any extra and then complains loudly about the poor service you got while others got good service.

  6. On my first cruise (before I discover cruise radio) I was with my mother and had driven to port, also we did not pack light or go easy on the shopping. We had at 2 large suitcases, 2 medium, 4 bags we were caring. The guy load them up took them all the way to our car and He got us through the customs line fast. we tip him $20.00.

  7. We have usually tipped $10 – $20 for 4 to 6 bags, hoping it gets our bags special care, but realisticly, it probably doesn’t help. May have to reconsider after reading this article.

  8. I tip but are you kidding?? They make that much? We have to scrape & save for our trip I can’t just hand out more than requested for tips. If $1 a bag is requested, that works for me.

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