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.  Here are seven confessions from cruise line baggage handlers


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.

27 Answers

Thanks for posting :)

I always tip the porters, my bags are always heavy.Big Smile

Customs officers do not take breaks when they want to. That is a BS comment. Also ships arrive on regular shift work and the officers are paid their salary. If OT is warrented its in the budget. At times it is billed back if the OT requests are deemed abusive.

Most of the time I carry my bags on myself. When I don't I tip the porter a buck a bag.

This was taken from but my experiences with TSA is far more pleasant than with Customs officers.

My reply was not directed at you. Its a good article but the Customs part i pointed out is incorrect. The inspections yes.. Not about taking breaks or how they are paid.

Give the porter a tip if you want to see your luggage again.Happy

I tip them, but not per bag, per person ( We generally only check one bag a person, MAYBE a second one). But I don't agree with the porters that "threaten" to loose bags because they do not get a tip. I've had people complain to me, and had it experienced myself. Not fun and not fair...

I always tip the porter. My bag is always heavy. And I do want my bag not to fall off the Dolley. This is back breaking work even though they do get paid well for their work. I would not want their job.



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