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Linda Coffman

Professional Cruise Expert

Cruise Luggage

Featured On:

  • Good Morning America
  • Travel Channel
  • Chicago Sun Times
You know the days of massive steamer trunks are history, but is there a maximum amount of luggage that you can bring on a cruise?

Yes, there really is a limit of sorts. While some cruise lines state that each passenger is allowed 200 pounds of personal luggage, I’ve never seen anyone’s bags actually being weighed. However, it's not the cruise line policy that you have to worry about. Cruisers arriving at their embarkation port by air should be aware of airline restrictions. Most major airlines have recently been enforcing suitcase size and weight policies, which have been on the books for years but seldom applied. The result has been a rude (and expensive) surprise to some travelers with large, heavy suitcases.

What's the best luggage for a cruise?

It just so happens that the “best” luggage for your cruise is also suitable for most types of travel. Airport and pier baggage handlers are notoriously rough with suitcases, so a top consideration is sturdy luggage. It doesn't have to be top-of-the-line, but it should be well-built to withstand the rigors of conveyors and sorting machines; not to mention being stacked, dropped and thrown through the air.

Hard-side vs. Soft-side Suitcases

Over the years I’ve worn out more suitcases than I care to think about. They can be a significant investment, so the right choice in terms of design and durability is important. Brand name luggage that comes with a good warranty is always desirable, but no-name or private label brands can also stand the test of time.

Hard-side luggage has ultimately been the longest wearing of all my purchases. In addition to being the most rugged, built-in locks also make them the most secure and water-tight. Improved composition materials have made their shells lighter; however, even when empty they can still be heavy.

If my casual observations at airport conveyors and in cruise ship terminals are any indication, soft-side suitcases are by far the most popular choice. They are lighter in weight, zippers can be secured, almost all have wheels, and many are expandable for additional packing volume.

What to look for in a suitcase:

Hard-side suitcases should have metal "piano" hinges and solid hardware. Combination locks are great, but look for those that also have key locks. Unless a clasp is locked, it could snap open. Wheels (preferably in-line skate type) should turn smoothly and be wide set for stability. Retractable handle assemblies should be strong and adjustable for maximum comfort and ease of maneuverability. Padded interiors with pockets and garment tie-downs are fairly standard. For frequent travelers who want the greatest luggage mileage, it makes sense to look at hard-sides.

The soft-side suitcases you are considering should be covered in a tightly woven ballistic nylon for the greatest durability—other fabrics can snag, pill, and tear more easily. None are indestructible, but ballistic nylon (especially Teflon® coated) is judged the best. Frame construction is a premier consideration; it should be strong enough not flex out of shape when the suitcase is fully packed. Corners must be reinforced with rubber bumpers hefty enough to prevent abrasion, which all too often occurs in these vulnerable areas. Wheels and handle assemblies should have the same properties as hard-side cases and a solid "skid plate" between the wheels is beneficial to protect the suitcase fabric from damage when encounters with curbs and escalators are inevitable. Look for self-healing, industrial-grade zippers that move smoothly and have large enough zipper pulls for ease of use. Interiors can include a variety of "wet" bags, pockets, and other organizers, particularly in the lid/door.

Business travelers have long favored garment bags for carry on ease and quick wrinkle-free packing. Their bulky favorites are being replaced these days by garment bags on wheels that are virtually rolling closets with multiple pockets and organizers for folded items, shoes, and even toiletries. Look for the same construction qualities as any soft-side suitcase. These bags hold a LOT and are not sized for carrying on aircraft; however, they are a wonderful choice for a cruise—think of the formal wear you need that won’t be crushed inside one of these super-sized garment bags.

All suitcases should be well balanced with adequate feet so they don't fall over when you are waiting in a check-in line. In addition, many of the newest models include removable garment bags or “suiters” for wrinkle-free packing.

Best Cruise Luggage by Linda Coffman

The Best You Can Get

  • Hartmann Tweed

    Linda says: The classic choice for discerning travelers who demand only the best comes from one of the oldest luggage brands in America.

  • Tumi Generation 4 Ballistic Nylon Luggage

    Linda says: Business travelers have known for years that Tumi is some of the most well-designed and virtually indestructible luggage available.

  • Victorinox Swiss Army Werks Traveler

    Linda says: Leave it to the Swiss to design functional and practical suitcases with quality second to none.

  • Travelpro Crew 6

    Linda says: There’s a good reason airline flight crews use this luggage; for the money, it’s hard to find higher quality and durability.

  • Samsonite Luggage

    Linda says: By far one of the most popular luggage brands world-wide, their collections include a broad range of styles and sizes.

You will be happy with any of these

  • Travelpro Airpro Luggage Lite, 4-piece set

    Linda says: Practical in basic black with three rolling pieces and a tote bag.

  • JanSport Super Break Collection, 3-piece set

    Linda says: Bold colors and patterns with two rolling pieces and a tote bag.

  • Delsey Bristol Privilege, 4-piece set

    Linda says: Pretty in pink, lime green, or cadet blue, includes three rolling pieces, a duffel bag, and tote bag.

  • Samsonite Xion Spinner Upright

    Linda says: With four wheels for ease of rolling, make up your own set with a variety of sizes in basic black or distinctive blue and add a matching tote bag.

  • Ricardo Beverly Hills Del Mar Lite

    Linda says: Two compartments make the rolling suitcases a breeze to pack; in basic black or red, matching totes are available in rolling- or shoulder strap-style.

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