Checked Bags Banned for Some Costa Cruisers?

July 1, 2009
Imagine packing for the flight that will take you to your weeklong Mediterranean cruise ... using carry-on luggage only. Though that may sound impossible (this Cruise Critic editor has been known to pack a bag just for shoes!), that's the fate some Costa Cruises passengers thought they were facing when Ryanair -- one of the Italian cruise line's air partners -- announced at a press briefing in London last week that it plans to eliminate checked bags from its flights.

But not so fast: Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara tells us that there's been quite a bit of confusion about the proposed project, which wouldn't roll out until at least winter 2010 (the low-cost, Ireland-based airline's CEO, Michael O'Leary, simply got "excited" and spoke "a little prematurely" about it).

Turns out, the abolition of checked bags doesn't mean you'd have to travel with only your carry-on. The program that's been proposed will actually allow passengers to bring as much luggage as they wish. Whatever they cannot carry into the cabin of the aircraft (there's still a limit of one carry-on item weighing 10 kilograms or less) will be taken at the gate by baggage handlers. The benefit of this system, McNamara says, is that it will cut down on lost luggage -- and fliers will feel more secure watching their belongings get loaded straight onto the plane as they themselves board. (Note: Additional baggage fees as part of this proposed program were not discussed.) So what does this mean for Costa passengers? Costa forged a three-year partnership with Ryanair earlier this year, through which the airline promotes and sells Costa voyages as well as flights to embarkation ports. However, it's important to note that Ryanair flights are by no means required. "Our agreement with [Ryanair] is essentially marketing-based," says Costa spokeswoman Dana Dominici. "Guests may conveniently book Costa cruises from [the airline's] Web site, but do not have to book a cruise and air package together."

Dominici adds, "We have not yet received any official confirmation from Ryanair regarding this matter."

So let's say Ryanair goes through with the plan (there's also a pay-to-pee policy in the works; the carrier is notorious for hitting folks with extra fees). The bottom line is that those cruise passengers who do use Ryanair to get to their departure ports -- Costa or otherwise -- can still pack as much as they want or need for a week or more at sea. They just have to be prepared to schlep it all through the airport by themselves.

Could you travel by air to a weeklong cruise without checking a bag? Vote in our poll!

--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor