ABOARD THE NORWEGIAN PRIMA – Something was missing when two executives and their wives arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland for the Norwegian Prima’s maiden sail last week.
As a host of lost baggage issues, not to mention delayed and canceled flights, plague airlines and create havoc for travel agents, cruise lines are in a unique position to attempt to reunite customers with their belongings during their cruise: Since the departure of a cruise is fixed, there is a limited window of time to unite the suitcases with the passengers and the passengers with the ships before logistical challenges develop and customer satisfaction don’t fall.
What has been invented “the summer of lost luggage” was “something we didn’t see coming,” said Harry Sommer, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. “That never occurred to us.”
Amid a surge in travel demand and short-staffed airports, claims for lost luggage have risen 30% this year compared to the pre-pandemic period, according to Mapfre, a Spanish insurer.
When NCL mapped the challenges it would face this sailing season, chasing down lost guest bags was not one of them, Sommer said this weekend during Norwegian Prima’s maiden sail.
But managing flight and baggage issues proved to be a major challenge for the brand, prompting it to grow its airline team from around 30 people to 150 people to manage the disruptions.
Several cruise lines have also increased the size of their travel services teams to handle flight delays, cancellations and lost customer baggage, including Holland America Line and Seabourn. Meanwhile, lines like Princess Cruises have encouraged customers to book with their airline programs and encouraged customers to arrive a day early to minimize the impact of airport meltdowns and save them more time.
Cruise lines are working with airlines to transport that luggage to locations farther along the cruise route, Sommer said. But depending on where and when the luggage is, returning a bag to its owner doesn’t always work out well, he said.
Sommer said airline executives assured him the problems would ease after the summer travel season ends, as they plan to realign their schedules in late September or early October to minimize further disruption.