While Disney is usually the innovator in most endeavors, its decision to offer cruise passengers the option to check luggage before disembarkation follows in the footsteps of other cruise lines, most notably Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian Cruise Line. "The service was great on NCL America's Pride of Hawaii," says Cruise Critic's Managing Editor Melissa Baldwin. "I dropped my bag outside of my cabin before we got back to Honolulu and didn’t see it again until I got home."
Still, Disney's program offers a welcome twist: Disney has arranged to have actual airline check-in also take place while at sea. Because the ships visit the Caribbean and Bahamas -- which require special logistics and coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- the satellite technology and software involved is extensive. Therefore, the full program will not be completely implemented until some time in 2008 when most of the airlines that fly out of Orlando International Airport are able to participate. (All Disney ships end their domestic voyages in nearby Port Canaveral.) Details on exactly how the program will work onboard are also forthcoming.
So far, seven major airlines -- including Delta, AirTran and American -- have signed up, according to media reports. Both JetBlue and USAirways plan to join the program before the end of the year. Southwest, the airline with the most Orlando International Airport flights, has committed to joining the Magical Express program, which offers similar service to guests at Disney's land-based resorts in the Orlando area, in early 2008 but has not said whether it will join the cruise program.
Disney will offer service for free. (Cruise lines that offer the baggage check-in service to domestic passengers typically charge between $10 and $20 for the convenience.) Carnival Cruise Lines is testing a similar program for its Port Canaveral sailings but will charge a fee.
Now, if only they could arrange it so we could also avoid the long lines at security!
--by Jana Jones, Cruise Critic contributor