The ship sailed, but they didn’t


At the dock without my glasses. / Photo by bimiers – Flickr Creative Commons.

When Antonia Giannasca called Carnival Cruise Lines this year to book a vacation to Mexico for her extended family, the sales representative assured her that she had all the travel documents necessary to board the ship.

Under the U.S. government’s “closed loop” rules for cruises, her 3- and 11-year-old sons needed only their birth certificates. She and her husband were required to bring a valid ID and a birth certificate. Her mother, Vittoria, a naturalized citizen born in Italy who would be celebrating her 71st birthday during the voyage, needed her naturalization form and an ID, the representative told her. Passports wouldn’t be required.

But those assurances gave way to a sinking feeling as they tried to board the Carnival Imagination in Miami. When Giannasca’s mother arrived at the dock with the family on June 18, a Carnival representative examined her paperwork and shook her head. “Uh-oh,” the agent said. “This is the wrong form.”

Vittoria Giannasca should have brought a naturalization form with a raised seal, a little detail that the Carnival sales agent apparently had failed to mention. An emotional confrontation between family members and cruise line employees followed, with Carnival offering to let the passengers find the required form and board the ship in Key West, Fla., for an extra $1,500 — money they didn’t have.

They missed their cruise.

Giannasca, a restaurant server in Boynton Beach, Fla., says that her family was traumatized by the lost vacation and by Carnival’s treatment. The cruise was to be their first, and she and her husband had saved for nearly a year for the special event. But being denied boarding wasn’t the worst part. When they asked Carnival to refund the $3,275 they’d spent on the cruise, the company turned them down flat, she says.

“We sincerely regret any misunderstanding regarding acceptable forms of travel documentation,” Carnival said in a form letter. “While I wish I had better news, we can’t respond favorably to your request for compensation.”

How many passengers are left standing on the dock like the Giannascas? No one keeps industry-wide statistics on denied boardings, the way the federal government does for airlines. But I’ve been hearing recently about more cases like the Giannascas’, some of them involving cruise line employees who provided inaccurate or incomplete information about travel documentation. After the ship sails, there’s little hope of getting any money back, except for refundable taxes and port fees.

I spent nearly two months working to secure a better answer than a form letter for Giannasca. If Carnival had recorded the conversation — and an automated message does notify callers that to “ensure high-quality service,” their call might be recorded — it could easily determine whether a sales agent had misled the passenger. A review of her paperwork turned up evidence of what Giannasca sees as Carnival’s negligence: The cruise line sent Giannasca a receipt for her purchase but no cruise contract, the legal agreement between Carnival and its passengers, and no details about the required travel documents.

I contacted Carnival on Giannasca’s behalf, but it merely reiterated its position. “We strongly recommend that consumers familiarize themselves with the required documents when considering a cruise vacation,” Aly Bello, a Carnival representative, told me.

“How could we have known that we needed a form with a raised seal?” Giannasca responded.

The short answer: She probably couldn’t have.

Carnival’s Web site is vague, saying only that it requires guests to provide “proper travel documentation,” and noting that it “assumes no responsibility for advising guests of immigration requirements.”

A look at the State Department’s online notice about closed-loop voyages wouldn’t have added much clarity. Even its definition of a closed-loop voyage (“U.S.-based cruises with itineraries that both originate and terminate in the United States, returning from contiguous territories or adjacent islands”) is enough to confuse the average traveler.

“In my experience, cruise lines are quite arbitrary in their enforcement of these rules,” says James Walker, a maritime lawyer based in Miami. What’s more, he says, there’s little consistency between cruise lines as to the types of certificates that are allowed: One line will accept a faxed copy of a birth certificate from a courthouse, while another one insists on a notarized document. There’s simply no way to know what will pass muster.

As always, there’s probably more going on here than meets the eye. Before 9/11, companies routinely offered passengers who were denied boarding a credit, if not an opportunity to make up the cruise. A first-timer like Giannasca would have been a good candidate for either; after all, a voucher might have enticed her to book another Carnival cruise and perhaps to become a repeat customer.

But the economics changed about a decade ago. Tighter security led to stricter travel document requirements. At about the same time, travel insurance became a significant source of revenue for the cruise industry and travel agents. (Carnival had offered Giannasca a $600 policy, which she decided not to buy and which she says wouldn’t have covered her anyway.)

Today, well-publicized stories about families being denied boarding are likely to benefit a cruise line, because they underscore the value of the company’s profitable travel insurance products. Online forums and discussion groups are filled with shouting matches between disgruntled passengers and cruise line apologists who insist that the aggrieved customers should have bought pricey travel protection policies.

It’s difficult to see how a cruise line would benefit from sailing with an empty cabin. That would deny it the revenue from optional beverages, restaurant meals and tips. But there’s certainly some incentive to deny passengers an opportunity to cruise later at a discount or at no additional charge. And public turndowns like this one, which passengers like Giannasca are sure to take to every cruise forum on the Internet, are just free advertising for optional travel insurance.

Regardless of the reason for the increase in denied-boarding cases like Giannasca’s, the solution is simple, says Janice Hough, a veteran travel agent based in Los Altos, Calif.: “Bring a passport.”

Even though you’re allowed to travel on a closed loop with a valid birth certificate and an ID, you might need to disembark in a foreign port and cut your cruise short. If that happens, you’ll need a passport to get home, says Hough.

Carnival concurs with that advice. In fact, when it comes to travel documentation, that’s one place where it’s uncharacteristically direct. “It is recommended that all guests travel with a valid passport during their cruise,” its Web site says.

Looking back, it would have cost the Giannascas $615 for new passports, just $15 more than travel insurance — and it would have been all the assurance they needed that they’d be able to board their birthday cruise.


  • Michael

    Here’s the rub – the rule about the documentation is not Carnival’s rule – it is the federal government’s rule. Also, the rule concerns what documentation you need to enter the US through Customs upon your return from the cruise. I think the reason cruise lines verify the documentation prior to boarding is so you don’t have someone go on a cruise and then run into a hassle with Customs agents when they return. If you don’t have the documentation and they let you board, imagine the feeling when you get back and are held up in Customs while they take their time figuring out if you are who you say you are and can enter the country.

    Also, Carnival does not mail hard copies of the cruise contract documents anymore – everything is electronic delivery.

  • Anonymous

    Ok so what would Carnival be violating if it allowed an American Citizen to board a closed-loop cruise if that American’s only issue is that his/her form does not have a RAISED SEAL? What fine would Carnival pay?

    What harm would it have done to Carnival? Seems to me only the family was harmed since Carnival took their money and they were not able to cruise.

  • DCTA

    Heavy fines Tony.

  • DCTA

    Heavy fines Tony.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, exactly HOW HEAVY ?
    I suggest you look at the Fineable Offense Table under the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA).
    I found nothing. ZERO.

    In fact the government itself found closed-loop cruises such a low risk of immigration fraud.

    What exactly did the Giannascas do wrong. Brought a certificate without a RAISED seal on her photograph? How would anyone know a RAISED seal is required? Even the CBP does not say a RAISED seal is required on this WHTI acceptable document.

  • Jeff Linder

    Two different issues here – one, the cruise ship can be fined under other civil statutes for transporting a national across borders without proper documentation. Is it likely to happen? No. But since when does a business operate under likely to happen if it costs them nothing to enforce the rule. Remember, they still get paid for the cruise. In addition, it may not just be the US where the line is liable, if they disembark guests without proper documentation for that country. So the cruise lines are generally very picky.

    Second, that was my point above. CBP (and the similar agencies in other countries) should clearly define the type and nature of the documents required, including authentication. Until they do, the enforcement is left to ships security, which is inconsistent. In fact, CBP should be doing the pre-screening, but that will never happen.

    I’ve copied Carnival’s policy below. The question becomes if the document was considered a copy. If it’s a copy, it doesn’t count. Without seeing the document itself, no way for any of us to tell for sure.

    Carnival highly recommends all guests travel
    with a passport (valid for at least six months beyond completion of
    travel). Although a passport is not required for U.S. citizens taking
    cruises that begin & end in the same U.S. port, travelling with a
    passport enhances your disembarkation experience, as delays may be
    expected upon your return to the U.S. if you do not have one.
    Additionally, passports make it easier for you to fly from the U.S. to a
    foreign port should you miss your scheduled port of embarkation, or
    need to fly back to the U.S. for emergency reasons.

    The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) allows U.S. citizens
    (including children) sailing on cruises that begin and end in the same
    U.S. port to travel with one of the WHTI compliant documents, listed
    below. Additionally, baptismal and hospital certificates, copies of
    U.S. passports and naturalization papers, are not WHTI compliant
    documents, therefore, are NOT acceptable.

  • Anonymous

    No one said the old lady showed a COPY (and not an original).
    They only said she had the wrong form – no raised seal.

    “Uh-oh,” the agent said. “This is the wrong form.”

  • Anonymous

    No one said she brought the original and didn’t bring a copy. Had she ever left the US before? That isn’t mentioned either.

  • DCTA

    You’re looking at individuals’ fines – not the owner of the transport.

    Let’s use an airline for an example – say you need a Visa to enter Brazil (as a US citizen). You present your Passport to Airline Ticket Agent to check-in. She says “uh oh” you don’t have an entry visa, we will have to deny you boarding until such time as you do. IF the airline made an exception and boarded you, they would pay a large fine to the Brazillian authorities who would “deport” that passenger back to the US – not only the fine, but the airline would be forced to transport him/her back.

    The Immigration folks could exercise the same right to fine the cruiseline – they would probably allow the purported citizen back in the US based on a attestation of identity and citizenship, but CCL would be fined. Immigration does not recognize photo copies or any documents that does not have an embossed or raised seal on it for US citizens re-entering the country absent a Passport. While one can certainly forge a seal, it is more likely that a photocopied or plain paper document would be forged – though it is certainly a fine line. Look, I don’t make up the rules, I’ve just been giving the info since 1996.

  • Anonymous

    I understand YOU do not make the rules. But you talk like you know the rules. So my question is where are the rules so we can read them for ourselves. I am concerned specifically about the rules for AMERICAN citizens taking closed-looped cruises. I have read some of the rules (and I provide links to some here) but I have yet to find that:
    (1) Passports are required for AMERICANS on closed-looped cruises (WHTI), and
    (2) Cruiseships are required to look for RAISED dry seal on US Certificates of Naturalization before they allow an AMERICAN passenger to board.
    This is a matter of LAW and not speculation.

  • DCTA

    You are correct and they are not required for a cruise. As for cruise lines and the raised seals – you can be certain that they’ve gone to their lawyers and asked for a definition of appropriate documentations and what has come back is “raised seal”. I am not pretending to know the rules, I am saying – and loudly – that I know precisely how to counsel my clients to make certain that they run into no problems. THAT is the bottom line. I have not had a client turned away from a ship EVER and plenty of them have done closed-loop without a Passport regardless of my begging them to get one. When it becomes clear to me that they will not use a Passport, I advise them to have an “original” birth cert. (or cert of nat) and EXPLAIN that “original” means “raised seal”. They then sign a waiver that indicates precisely what I have told them and indicates that I am not responsible if they are turned away at the pier. I will not release cruise documents until they have signed. Believe me, once they read that form, they GET the either an “original” birth cert (which costs about $25 to get from the State) or they go ahead and get a Passport. You can argue about what you don’t see in the rules until the cows come home, but if you are a Travel Agent you are responsible for giving them the correct info (what will work for them) regardless of what you can find on-line. It’s my job to know this stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, where is the travel agent supposed to get the correct info? Neither the supplier (the cruise line) nor the government sites mention the need for a raised seal on INS or USCIS forms N-550 or N-570.
    Note: the birth certificates of Naturalized Americans are irrelevant so please do not use these examples.

    How and where do YOU (a travel agent) get the correct info? Why can’t travelers get the same info YOU get?

    I have yet to know of a law or rule in the USA that is not printed. All Federal Rules are in CFRs.

    Here’s what the USCBP says about what one needs for a closed loop cruise:

    “Closed Loop” Cruises: U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization).
    Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents.

    Does it say anything about a raised seal? No.

    Just in case you have not googled it, there are immigrants who were handed Form N-550s WITHOUT RAISED SEALS during their oath taking.
    These certificates are ORIGINALS without the raised seal.
    How were they supposed to know these certificates were “defective”? Is it their responsibility to second guess the INS/USCIS, or the Judge or Clerk of Court who handed them the certificate during their oath taking? Are they suppose to call a travel agent to check their documents???

    I will repeat, what is the penalty for a cruise line that admits boarding to an AMERICAN on a closed-loop cruise whose document is an N-550 without a raised seal? IMO Nothing. So why will they (the cruise line) penalize the same people by not allowing them to board?

    If YOU know about the raised seal issue then why doesn’t Carnival know the same? Are they stupid? If they are inspecting for a raised seal, why don’t they disclose that in their website so people can read it BEFORE they buy? Obviously they know because they are the ones inspecting the forms for a raised seal. That makes them so disingenuous, IMO.

  • DCTA

    Not exactly. The cruiseline or airline that allows you to board and transports you without the appropriate documentation is heavily fined by the country of arrival (sometimes) and/or by the US Customs and Immigration. It’s not because they don’t want you to “feel badly”.

  • Jeff Linder

    There’s a couple of issues here.

    1> Yes, the documentation requirements are very vague, but I don’t find that the fault of the cruise line. When it comes to immigrations and customs, the ICE should clearly define what is acceptable and what is not, and not leave those decisions to deck agents. I checked with the ICE on this a while ago, and apparently an ‘original’ document is the requirement, so the carnival rep at the dock was technically correct. Some reps are just more lenient, not wanting to ruin a vacation, but that can lead to immigration issues on the return.

    2> Every cruise line has their contract of carriage online. No one reads them, or if they do try to interpret them to their own ends (see any discussion of wine on the Princess cruise critic boards). The cruise contract is heavily weighted to the cruise line as well.

    3> Even if they sent the cruise contract, and the family read it, would not have helped, as all it says is guests are required to provide documentation and can be denied boarding if not present. Like the websites for both Carnival and ICE, its vague,

    4> Almost all travel insurance policies do not cover documentation issues that are considered the fault of the passenger (as opposed to a stolen passport mid trip for example).

    Janice is right – a passport, while not REQUIRED is a really really good idea if you are leaving the country.

  • Anonymous

    Nothing in the article says that she did not bring an ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE (i.e the form). Carnival’s objection was she did not bring the form with a RAISED SEAL. I believe Carnival is wrong if it thinks it is qualified to authenticate a US Certificate of Naturalization. That’s not their job.

  • Jeff Linder

    Unless they have revised it, all naturalization forms issued by the federal government have a raised seal on the original document. Additional copies may not have the seal.

  • Anonymous

    Raised Seal of WHAT?
    Jeff and travel agents who say they know about the seal – do any of you know what the seal LOOKS LIKE? Will a raised Mickey Mouse seal pass? Find someone with a Form N-550 and try to read the seal. Good luck.

    For lay people, the standard document we need to read is DHS M-396 if we need to check IDs.
    That does not require us to look for a raised seal.

    PS. These certificates were issued (I believe) starting 1906. There must have been many variants through time. I find it remarkable that low paid Carnival employees know what exactly to look for. Many immigrants do not know anything about a seal. They believe the form given them at oath taking or subsequently by mail is good.

  • Jeff Linder

    Actually, from the document you referenced regarding the CoN: “It contains a gold embossed Great Seal of
    the United States in the top center portion” Without being there, that could simply be the seal in question, as a color copy would not have it.

    That said, its entirely possible the doc you showed us (which I am bookmarking as a reference by the way) could be used to train Carnival personnel as to what to look for and use as a guide. We don’t know specifically what training materials they are given.

  • Anonymous

    The RAISED seal they are talking about is a DRY seal (no ink) that they press (emboss) on top of the photograph (that is glued on the certificate) of the new American citizen. There are times that INS or USCIS forgets to press a seal or does not press it hard enough so it is not raised. Unless you put a light on an angle, you cannot decipher what the seal is (since there is no ink on it). But you need to realize that there are so many different versions out there since these forms were put in use since 1906.

    The old Italian lady is 71 years old. No telling how old her certificate is.

  • DCTA

    “gold embossed” is “raised”.

  • DCTa

    Tony – I’ve been telling clients about the “raised seal” for 16 years now. They all look different – depends on the State – you don’t have to know how it looks, you just need to be able to feel it through the paper. In the old days we’d tell people for a cruise (any cruise) to the Caribbean – “birth cert. but it must be an ‘original’ with a raised seal”. Technically for a Passport, your birth certificate or marriage license (if you’re changing your name on it) must be with a raised seal.

  • Anonymous

    It’s the first time I have ever heard of inspecting for a raised seal on a Certificate of Naturalization. The only thing I know about a raised seal is for Birth Certificates.

    That said the 2011 version of DHS M-396 now mentions a seal on the photograph on the new redesigned form but it also states that there are many different type of certificates of naturalization out there.

    My office is full of naturalized Americans and none of them also heard of this raised seal requirement. Never had a travel source that told us about it too for Certificates of Naturalization. I have yet to READ a document requiring inspection a raised seal on N-550. If anyone here has one please post it.

  • Lynn

    The cruise lines should just require everyone to have a passport. Easy to understand, good for 10 years, and necessary in emergencies anyway. These endless exceptions that try to make things “easier” often seem to have the opposite effect.

  • DCTA

    “How could we have known that we needed a form with a raised seal?” Giannasca responded.

    Well, why is that I, and every other professional Travel Agent seems to know? I’m not saying this as an “I told you so”, but I swear that just Monday I listened to one of my colleagues at t he desk across from me explain exactly this to a client who was arguing that all she really needed was her Driver’s License. The Agent (my colleague) had the woman sign a form agreeing that they Agent had told her she needs original certificates with a raised seal and that she understands without these she may be denied boarding and refused refund and that she agrees the Agent having told her this has no responsibility vis a vis refund.

    We have to do this sort of thing DAILY because people want to believe only what will be the easiest for them.

  • DCTA

    “How could we have known that we needed a form with a raised seal?” Giannasca responded.

    Well, why is that I, and every other professional Travel Agent seems to know? I’m not saying this as an “I told you so”, but I swear that just Monday I listened to one of my colleagues at t he desk across from me explain exactly this to a client who was arguing that all she really needed was her Driver’s License. The Agent (my colleague) had the woman sign a form agreeing that they Agent had told her she needs original certificates with a raised seal and that she understands without these she may be denied boarding and refused refund and that she agrees the Agent having told her this has no responsibility vis a vis refund.

    We have to do this sort of thing DAILY because people want to believe only what will be the easiest for them.

  • Anonymous

    Hey doubters, do you see any mention of a raised seal here?
    According to the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Inspector’s Field Manual (IFM) Section 23.4 Inspecting Cruise Ships:
    (b) Passenger Inspection. Except where an en route inspection has been arranged, passengers will be inspected after docking. Some port facilities have a passenger terminal, with inspection booths provided similar to those at airports. In either case, there are often a large number of passengers requiring inspection in a relatively short time span. The master or purser of the vessel will provide a manifest, usually on Form I-418, of all passengers. A lookout query is required of all passengers, either at the time of arrival or in advance, using APIS. To minimize inspection time, U.S. citizen passengers who departed on the same cruise vessel are not required to report for inspection, but should be briefly examined upon disembarkation. An oral declaration of citizenship is usually sufficient , unless further inquiry appears warranted. All other passengers must appear for inspection by an immigration officer, at an appropriate location on the ship provided by the master, with any required passport, visa, or Form I-94. As each passenger appears, note the manifest with the action taken, as described in Chapter 23.3(a), executing Forms I-94 as necessary. Once all required passengers have appeared and been inspected, coordinate with Customs to authorize departure from the ship. Inadmissible passengers are processed as prescribed in Chapter 17. Prepare Form I-92, Aircraft/Vessel Report and bundle it with the I-94s collected during the inspection. Forward these for data entry. Passenger lists on Form I-418 are no longer retained after inspection [See Chapter 22.7 for I-92/I-94 forwarding instructions.].

  • Jeff Linder

    Correct, stressing usually sufficient. Unless, like at the airport, you get to be one of those selected for special screening. That said, when we got off the ship from our Panama Canal closed loop cruise, people who had passports used one line. People with other documentation were diverted and their documents appeared to be checked more thoroughly. No idea if that was a random or standard thing.

  • Anonymous

    These closed-loop cruises are heavily marketed as cheap vacations where Americans do not need a passport. Cruise lines were the primary force behind the government’s carving out an exemption for the WHTI. If American’s need passports for these cheap cruises, you can assume there will be less customers.

    That said, it is disingenuous for cruise lines to suggest that one get a passport just to take one of these closed-loop cruises. A passport will cost $135 plus the hassle of a personal appearance. These cheap cruises are advertised at about $180 plus tax and surcharge. The cost of the passport is more than half of the cruise. For people on a limited budget, the passport costs a lot of money (and may have limited use in the future).

    Since it is the cruise line that inspects documents, then why couldn’t they say in their websites for folks to check for raised seals in a certificate of naturalization. If Carnival was gonna look for raised seals then why not say it? I don’t think Carnival was fair to this family.

  • Anonymous

    Tony, most vendors pass the responsibility on to the passenger, so this isn’t new. It is ridiculous to not require a passport for a cruise. This just creates confusion with the various forms of ID’s these days. If you leave the US, get a passort, period!

  • DCTA

    Amen. You either need it for everything or you need it for nothing.

  • dcta

    The Passport is a 10 year investment. You pay once and you can go on as many cruises/flights as you’d like until the expiration. I like to look at it as a $13.50 per year investment. I haven’t had a client do any cruise – even a closed loop – without a Passport in about 10 years. I’ve had a few tell me they were going to until they read my disclaimer and waiver telling them that they are solely responsible if their non-Passport ID causes them problems and they are denied boarding. It also includes language stating that insurance, other than “Cancel for Any Reason” will not cover them for improper documents. Period. End of story. We don’t have these issues come up.

  • DCTA

    Interesting – don’t see the words “birth certificate” anywhere?

  • ms1234

    Customs (as you quote above) and immigration are two different things. That’s why, in some cases, you wait in two different lines for 2 different guys in uniform. When you only go through one line, that means that customs didn’t bother to show up that day.

    The quote that you should have posted:
    “Closed Loop” Cruises: U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization).
    That statement is an *exception* from the standard requirement to have a passport to re/enter the United States.

  • James Penrose

    Too many people think that visiting another country is like going to Disneyland.

    Those are sovereign states, *they* get to set the rules for who they let in and what you need to bring along to show them. Plus you need to know the rules for your own country if you want to go play outside and then come back in,

    Simplest answer is to get a bleeping passport and be done with it. You gain flexibility and if something bizarre happens and you are re-routed or med-evaced via Lower Slobovia it will likely be far easier.

    Yes the silly thing is overpriced but once you have it, it’s good for 10 years so amortize it.

    Then check the countries you plan to visit, they usually explain very clearly exactly what you will need. Even a good travel agent is unlikely to be 100% accurate as some of this stuff changes with the relationships between countries and quite frequently. (Look at Brazil for example or some of the former Soviet Empire client states that still tend to treat any foreigner as a spy or saboteur in potential and whose visa requirements get into interestingly Byzantine levels of complex..)

    Being ignorant is fixable. Being stupid usually is not.

    It’s up to the traveler to do the homework not the cruise line.

  • Len

    How is it that I know about raised seal docs. including birth cert. Because I checked with sources other than the cruise line. It is not the cruise line that requires these docs it is the us gov. If you can not afford a passport how can you afford a cruise ?

  • Sherry

    I agree with Lynn why don’t they just require a passport and there will not be so many misunderstandings. However, I had a citizen of US who wanted to book but his wife was from Liberia, I told her she needed visas from her country to enter the countries they were going to or get her citizenship and passport. Never heard back but will a Carnival agent do this to her? Be careful, Carnival has transferred most of their customer service clerks to home based and I don’t see how they can record all calls. USE a Travel Agent

  • ms1234

    “Looking back, it would have cost the Giannascas $615 for new passports, just $15 more than travel insurance — and it would have been all the assurance they needed that they’d be able to board their birthday cruise.”

    This is a bit misleading. Having a passport and travel insurance are two entirely different things. Insurance provides things like emergency evacuation, protection against theft, lost luggage, etc, and also medical coverage on the ship (where VERY few employer policies will cover you.) None of those things are provided by a passport.

    Buying both in this case would (apparently) have cost them $1200, which would seem out of reach for this family. Of course, they managed to spend $3200 on a 4 or 5-day cruise, which is extremely pricey for Carnival. The only thing I can get to price out that high for next June is a Grand Suite. Cry me a river…

  • Lilikoi

    In plain English what happened to this family is pure malarky. Carnival could EASILY post any significant fine print details necessary for documentation on their site & contracts based on past experiences.
    I just don’t understand why everyone is defending Carnival. Did it occur to any of you that many American born citizens are denied passports because of their documents don’t fit the Passport agency’s criteria? I’m one of them and I know how it feels. Those of you fortunate enough to born under all the right circumstances should think before you are so quick to judge others and say “oh just get a passport!”