Are you planning a cruise this summer? Before you set sail, here’s some advice: learn from the woeful tale of the Frantz family of Cleveland, Ohio, and get a passport.
Many, if not most, cruisers tend to head to port with documents that meet just the minimum requirements to board. For so-called “closed-loop” cruises to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean that begin and end at the same US port, that means just a wallet-sized passport card or even a driver’s license and a birth certificate. Under current law, that’s all you need. But there are some compelling reasons to go ahead and spend the extra money on a full-sized passport, and if you don’t believe me, read the letter Denise Frantz wrote to the Travel Troubleshooter.
In it, she describes how their flight was delayed due to “technical difficulties” on the aircraft. This caused the family to miss the cruise ship’s departure from port. Instead of rescheduling, Carnival recommended that the family just fly to Cayman’s and meet the ship there.
The only problem: they had gotten passport cards, which are only good for land or sea travel in the Western Hemisphere. For air travel, you need a passport book. Naturally, the airline wouldn’t let them on the plane, and their travel insurance only paid out $500 per person for the whole fiasco. Ouch!
Fortunately, Denise Frantz had the presence of mind to write the Travel Troubleshooter, and he managed to get the family enough reimbursement from Carnival for them to try again later. However, he also took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of getting a passport, writing “This cruise just wasn’t meant to be. But it might have been — if you’d gotten a passport instead of a passport card. Carnival doesn’t mince words when it comes to your paperwork requirements.” He then quoted the following passage from Carnival’s website:
“Carnival highly recommends all guests travel with a passport (valid for at least six months beyond completion of travel). 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.”
Remember to get your passport well in advance of your cruise. Normal passport processing is currently running at about 6 weeks, while expedited processing is running at about 3 weeks. To get a passport more quickly, you’d need to either make an appointment at the closest passport agency office. Or, skip the appointment at the lines and get a passport using an expediting company like RushMyPassport!