Here's how it works:
A Virgin van will turn up at your home, wherever you live in the U.K., within 48 hours of departure, and whisk one bag per person straight to the port. You'll next see it in your cabin. The same applies on the way home: All you have to do is hand over your bag in the arrivals hall at Southampton and your luggage will be taken to your front door, where it will arrive within 48 hours of the end of your cruise.
What's useful about the service, apart from the fact that it's free, is that the weight allowance per bag is 30 kilograms. This means that anybody flying from a regional airport to join their cruise can now bring more onboard -- if you're flying, you are only allowed 23 kilograms of checked luggage per person. It also helps if you need to avoid lifting heavy objects, or if you're travelling with children -- or simply have a car with a small boot.
Of course, 30 kilograms is mere hand luggage to some cruisers, especially on long voyages, in which case, Virgin will carry extra bags at a cost of £35 per bag plus a £25 booking fee.
There's an important bit of small print, though. You must ask for the Luggage Chauffeur at the time of booking to qualify for the free deal. You can add it after booking -- but the £35 per item and £25 booking fee then applies, making the offer considerably less attractive.
Although Virgin claims this is an industry first, Cunard has for a long time offered a White Star Luggage Service, which operates on much the same basis, including internationally. But there's a charge for this -- and naturally, it only applies to Cunard's own ships.
Will the new service be expanded to include other lines? Leslie Peden, managing director of Virgin Holidays Cruises, says that's the intent: "We expect to see Luggage Chauffeur rolled out across other Virgin Holidays Cruises destinations in the future," Peden is quoted as saying in a press statement from the tour operator.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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