What are the best luggage valet services for cruise passengers?

Audrey Claxton and her husband are about to depart on a cruise to Hawaii. But like many cruise passengers, they find it a burden to schlep their bags from their home to the ship.

Claxton heard about luggage valet services, which transport suitcases and bags to their owners’ cabins on ships and home again. So she asked our advocacy team for advice.

What should she expect if she uses one, and do we recommend any luggage valet services?

Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas all partner with luggage transport companies, including Luggage Concierge, Luggage Forward and Luggage Free, as well as courier services such as DHL and FedEx.

If your cruise line offers the service, you can arrange to use it when you book the cruise, or you can purchase it separately. It is not available on some lines such as Holland America and Oceania.

Some cruise lines that offer the service, such as Royal Caribbean and Disney, will also transport your luggage to airports and check them onto flights in specified locations. And some airlines will allow luggage valet services to transport and check in bags for their owners. However, this is not always permitted by the TSA, so research your airlines’ rules and airport regulations carefully and be prepared for the TSA to refuse to allow a valet service to check your baggage. The service is also sometimes limited to flights with a minimum number of passengers or that depart during specified periods of time.

Here’s what to expect when you use a luggage valet service:

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You’ll be without your bags for several days before and after the cruise.
You will need to alert your cruise or luggage valet company at least 30 days prior to departure to arrange the service, and have your bags ready to be picked up at least two weeks in advance of leaving on the cruise in order to ensure prompt delivery of your bags to the ship before it sails. When you return home, the service will deliver your bags within a few days. Also, for international cruises, your bags will have to go through customs and often undergo closer scrutiny, which can result in delays for which luggage valet companies will not accept liability.

Luggage can still get lost.
Should there be a delay in getting your bags to you, most companies will offer you a refund as well as compensation for essentials. But don’t use a valet service to transport valuables or anything that you cannot do without, such as computer equipment or medications, or anything that doesn’t travel well, such as large bottles of shampoo.

It’s expensive.
The services charge an average of $5 per pound for each bag, which comes to roughly $250 for a 50-pound suitcase, and their fees are subject to change without notice.

Read the fine print.
As with any other service, make sure you read your company’s terms and conditions very carefully to make sure that you understand what the company will and won’t accept liability for. Some have specific packing requirements; there may be limitations as to what items they can actually accept and transport. They may also cap compensation for lost or damaged luggage. For example, Luggage Forward limits its liability to $500 per luggage item unless the owner pays for more coverage. And in addition to customs delays, the companies deny liability in instances of force majeure, mechanical failures and other circumstances outside their control.

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So, Audrey, if your cruise line offers the service, by all means consider using it if you think the convenience is worth the fees and other risks involved. Safe and happy travels!

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    So basically, for a $250 fee for a 50 lb bag, you have to pack early, with no guarantees that the bag will make it, and a $500 cap on value unless you pay more. Instead, you check your bag with you on the plane, pay the $50 fee (or free if you fly Southwest), and have plenty of money ($200) for tips to pay skycaps, cabbies, and others to haul your bag to the cruise ship.

  • AAGK

    Or how about they don’t bring so much stuff. However, If they have the money to spend then shipping their luggage is a nonissue. In New York, the last FedEx flight leaves at @ 10 pm. So long as your stuff is at your local FedEx or picked up by 8:30pm, you will have it anywhere in the US the following morning at 8 am. I would not bother with those valet services. They sound beyond inconvenient.

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