I am taking a cruise but got my flight separately. I do have transfers through Royal Carribbean, though. Will I have to get my luggage at the airport and transport it myself to the ship, or will it automatically go from the airport to the ship?
Patty, due to security, no one's luggage goes automatically to the ship anymore. Whether or not you purchased your airfare through the cruise line, you need to pick up your luggage in at the baggage claim area. There should be a cruise line representative standing somewhere in baggage claim, holding up a sign that says, "Royal Caribbean." Go to that person and s/he will tell you where to go, with your luggage, to get the transfer bus. Once your luggage is on the bus, you won't need to handle it again until it is delivered to your room. Keep anything with you in a carry-on that you need in the first few hours onboard, such as your proof of citizenship, cruise documents, sunglasses, medications, maybe even a change of clothing if you want to put on shorts.
We booked our flights separately too. When we got to the Miami airport, we picked up our luggage and met the RC rep near by. Royal Caribbean had a customer service desk by the luggage carrousels. The rep who walked us to the shuttle was walking around with a sign that said Royal Caribbean Shuttle. She walked the families (about 5 of them) to the bus (a grey hound). We carried and pulled our luggage with us. When we got to the bus, they loaded our luggage and we didn't see it again until it was delivered to our room. We didn't have to take it off the bus and take it through security at the port. They did that for us. When we got to the port, we had to have our cruise documents and passports with us, so don't pack them.
Actually, most cruise lines recommend you attach your tags before checking your luggage in for your flight. The airlines won't get confused and sometimes it helps to keep the bags on track (or so I've been told).
You should always put your luggage tags on before your flight. If the airlines lose your luggage you will report it to the airlines, but you will also let Guest Relations on the ship know your have lost luggage. Having your cruise tags on the luggage will help them track it and get it to you in a later port. The airlines are very accustomed to seeing cruise line luggage tags it doesn't affect the destination tags.
I guess this is going to be one of those opinion things...so here is mine. We ALWAYS fly to the port at least one day before the cruise. One reason for this is to reduce the chances that our luggage will be lost. It is rare for lost luggage to not be found and delivered within a day. We do not put the ship's tags on the luggage until the morning of the cruise. As SonnyV correctly notes - they can get quite mangled or torn off by the airline baggage handlers.
That works fine Dave IF they fly in a day before, and IF the lost luggage is found in a day. Most of the cruise lines have the self-adhesive tags like the airlines use, so it's not likely those will get torn off. Carnival and HAL I believe still have the paper tags with elastic. Some cruise lines literature tell you to put them on before leaving home.
This is the Royal Caribbean thread, so to remain on topic, the RCI Pre-Cruise Checklist, usually found on Page 4 of the Guest Vacation Documents Booklet, says, "Attach the enclosed ship baggage tags and any personal ID in the form of a nametag to each piece of luggage before you leave home."
I admit that we have never done this before, but that is what RCI recommends...
Rhapsody - W. Caribbean - 2004; Rhapsody - W. Caribbean - 2005; Sovereign - Bahamas - 2005; Enchantment - Canada/NE - 2005; Rhapsody - W. Caribbean - 2006: Vision - Alaska - 2006
Navigator - E. Caribbean - 11/2006
Vision - West Coast Repo - 4/2007
Grandeur - Canada/N.E. - 9/2007
Voyager of the Seas -"R"W. Caribbean - 1/2008