Thursday, February 26, 2009

Warning - You Could be Denied Boarding

The day you've been waiting for is finally here. You arrive at the Miami International Airport and meet the Carnival Cruise Line representative who directs you to a waiting shuttle bus for the ride to the Port of Miami. The excitement builds; you are just minutes away from boarding the ship for a fabulous cruise to South America.

At the door to the terminal, the guard checks your Carnival Fun Pass and photo identification and directs you to the check-in line. There aren't many people ahead of you, so this shouldn't take long you think. Finally, it's your turn. You present your paperwork and passport to the agent who begins checking you in. It won't be long now.

The port agent is very jovial as he starts processing your embarkation. All of a sudden, his face becomes serious and he asks you to wait a minute. He goes over and talks to someone else and both of them return. The second agent, his supervisor, asks if you have a visa stamp for Brazil. You tell him no, that you didn't know you needed one and in fact, you weren't planning on disembarking the ship in Brazil so why do I need one.

An enternity passes, and he says, "I'm sorry, without the Brazillian visa stamp in your passport, you are denied boarding". You plead with him, again saying that you don't plan to leave the ship. That doesn't matter he says, and explains that they are not allowed to board any passengers without the visa stamp. He says how sorry he is but there is nothing he can do.

You ask if you can't purchase the visa when you get to Brazil and he tells you that is not possible.

Walking away from the counter, you shake your head, you can't believe what just happened. This can't be possible. Unfortunatley, this is not a dream; it did just happen to you and in fact several more passengers recently suffered the same fate at the Port of Miami.

Passengers Headed for South America Denied Boarding

That story has been in the trade press and prompted me to write this post. Hopefully, you are reading this before heading to Miami for a South America voyage and it's not too late for you.

I've used Brazil for this story, because that was the circumstances around this recent incident. There are other countries that require a visa of passengers entering that country. Even if you do not plan to leave the ship when it arrives for a daylong stop in that country, you will not be permitted to board the ship if you have not obtained a visa for that country.

Don't let this happen to you

Next time you book a cruise, determine in advance whether you will need a particular visa for a country on the cruiseship’s itinerary. If one such country does require a visa, and does not honor a "group visa" issued by the cruise line (like St. Petersburg, Russia does), then be sure to obtain a visa for the visa-requiring country.

How do you know if one of the countries on your itinerary requries a visa? That's pretty simple to find out. Consult the Country Specific Information on the U.S. Department of State website. While you are on their website, also pay attention to the Latest Travel Alerts and Warnings.

The direct link for Brazil Information shows some other information which you also need to check. Besides providing the information about the visa requirments, there is information about potential vaccinations you may be required to obtain for entry. In particular, if you have traveled to certain countries within the last 90 days, you'll be required to get a Yellow Fever vaccination. For example, after visting the Galapagos in Ecuador, I would have needed to get that vaccination to go to Brazil.

Traveler's Health Topics

You'll want to check Traveler's Health on the Centers for Disease Control website. Check for any warnings and also for information about health precautions and vaccinations. If vaccinations are required, discuss with your family doctor or a doctor that specializes in infectious diseases.

Obviously you'll not have to worry about water supply or food while on the cruise ship, but when you are in port, or if you extend your stay, you'll want to be aware of health safety. We had no problems in Quito before or after our cruise to Galapagos. We drank bottled water and not the tap water as was suggested. Following a few simple tips can make the difference between a good or bad cruise vacation.

Closing Thoughts

Ideally the cruise line and / or the travel agent that books your trip will supply you with information such as visa requirements and vaccinations. If they don't volunteer that information, you can ask them for advice, however the responsibility rests with you to check for yourself. Often information changes, and it is advisable to get the latest information directly from the country's website. I hope this warning prevents you from standing forelorn at an embarkation port, denied boarding because you didn't meet necessary requirments.

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