Every now and then, it seems that an utterly ridiculous policy is enacted in the travel world. Usually, when you see them, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) or the airlines have their fingerprints all over them. But this past week, we discovered a doozie of a ridiculous policy at the hands of Carnival Cruise Lines.
Under the guise of maintaining a safe experience on board, Carnival is now (as of today) requiring all luggage to be unlocked and accessible so the porters can search for anything deemed “contraband” by Carnival. The following was sent to agencies this week for sailings beginning today!
SECURITY SCREENING AND PROHIBITED ITEMS POLICY
In order to maintain a safe and secure environment, Carnival prohibits certain items onboard, i.e., weapons, candles, irons, alcohol, or other dangerous goods. According to our policy, Carnival conducts security scanning of all luggage and if prohibited items are found, they will be removed and stored for safekeeping until the end of the voyage. Retained item(s) will be delivered to the guest’s stateroom on the last night of their cruise. Unsealed liquids that are prohibited will be discarded, as well as any unclaimed items left after the voyage, and no compensation will be given in either case.
IMPORTANT – All luggage must be unlocked before being turned over to the porters in order to avoid any inconvenience or delay in delivering the luggage to the guest’s stateroom.
For additional information, please refer to the terms and conditions located in our cruise ticket contract and related FAQs on Carnival.com.
This policy will now be strictly enforced effective with January 30th sailings of all of our Miami ships, with the rest of the fleet to follow shortly thereafter. We kindly request your assistance in making sure your clients are aware of this policy so they can be properly prepared once they arrive at the port for their cruise departure.
But is this about security and safety? Or is it a method to make sure that passengers are not bringing any alcohol on board. As we all know, alcohol sales are one of the top moneymakers on a cruise. And if anyone familiar with Cruise Critic knows, most of the Carnival loyalists routinely share stories on how to best smuggle booze on board. But does it stop at booze?
On top of that, there are many unanswered questions. Who is legally responsible for the porters? Are they Carnival employees? Are the contract laborers? Who is supervising the now required unlocked luggage? How will Carnival notify passengers? What policies does Carnival have in place to handle theft? The cruise lines are quick to disclaim liability for luggage in the hands of the porters—now they are demanding that our clients leave luggage unlocked?
In today’s security conscious environment, this is a foolish policy at best. What reasonable passenger would knowingly give an unlocked suitcase to a pier porter? Savvy travelers don’t do it in airports and use a TSA approved lock. The TSA even leaves a love note when they snoop through your belongings. There is no mention of this with Carnival’s new policy.
How does the travel professional break this news to the client? “Oh, and by the way, when the porter at the pier takes the luggage containing all of your needs for the week, please make sure it is unlocked as Carnival Cruise Lines now requires that they use the six hours or so they hold your luggage to rifle through it.” Come on Carnival, you can do a lot better than that.
But don’t take my word for it. Several other travel professionals spoke out as well in a forum:
- I would not have an issue with this if the porters were employees of Carnival or if they were employed by a security agency. Most of them are day laborers and this essentially gives them a license to steal!
- I believe they are union stevedores and not day laborers. CCL just want the bags unlocked to look for booze, with the cruise prices down, the cheap cruisers are not purchasing onboard drinks and CCL is looking to stop the free drinking.
- There’s no way I’m leaving a bag unlocked. Not for TSA, not for porters that will have a license to steal. You want to search my bag, fine. Ask me and I’ll open it, or break the lock if you have a good reason.
- I wouldn’t give my bag to someone I don’t know unlocked at the pier…..I think this makes more of a security issue than looking for lousy booze…
- Sure I’ll turn my unlocked bag over to you – just have someone in authority with CCL sign this Waiver accepting responsibility and indicating that I will be offered immediate compensation in the amount of $XXX will on board. They have got to be kidding!
- I was complacent about it earlier but then it hit me that the ship also sells a lot of other items in their shops that people might bring aboard from home. Aspirin, stamps, swimwear, cameras and film, jewelry, etc.
We sent an email to Jennifer De La Cruz in Carnival’s Public Relations office for some answers to our concerns. According to Jennifer, “Checked luggage is given to the porters in front of the cruise terminal. From there the bags are screened by third party trained security professionals working on behalf of the cruise line and transferred onto the vessel. Between the point they are handed to porters, screened and loaded onto the ships, they are held in cages and security is provided in the form of roving patrols by third party security professionals. Also, there is typically a significant law enforcement presence from various local and federal agencies in and around the dock area in general during a ship turnaround. Once bags are on the vessel, they are under the supervision of our shipboard security personnel.”
She did not address the addition of the “baggage must be unlocked” provision other than to say the policy is not new and that Carnival is taking steps to more strictly enforce it.
Somehow, I am not convinced, and I am not sure I will have an easy time convincing my clients! Carnival, you need to rethink this revised policy. What do you think? Are you comfortable turning unlocked luggage over to the porters at a pier?