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

Hey Brian

you can ignore my e mail and my PM over at that faux FV site. I forgot you already post here. Sorry for the confusion.

I also PM'ed Jerry re his wife

your fine Bennett!!!!! i just saw the email at the other website this morning! it was a jog in my mind Yummy

i like to hang out with yall cruisers!

I witnessed them taking the bags and lifting them above their head and slamming them down on the pile. We reported it and their manager came down to talk to is. Not for sure what happened from there but he was not too Happy with them

Good to know. We tip.

I guess most of the comments here regarding tipping the porters have to do with those who arrive at the cruise terminal via cab or their own transportation somehow. We never see our bags again until they arrive in our cabin on board the ship after seeing them onto the coach that takes us from the hotel to the pier. Been so long since we got to pier via anything but a cruise line transfer I guess I forgot what a porter even looks like. We tip the bus driver who does all the muscle work getting our bags onto the bus and off of it.

Don't trust the shuttle drivers, keep an eye on your luggage , make sure it is on the shuttle before you leave. We use the same shuttle service cruising out of Galveston, on our 10th cruise out of Galveston, we got complacient in trusting the shuttle loaders and drivers. Needles to say they left our luggage at the check in shuttle station. Got to ship, hailed porter, alas no luggage, Driver called base, and found out it was on another shuttle to another pier. So that cost us an hour and a half waiting. Now I visually make sure luggage is loaded. No problems with porters, I tip em good. (I tip shuttle people too)

I have no problem tipping $1/bag or more. Worth it (IMO).


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