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Brazilian cruise goes bust for hundreds

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 20 - 2009

On January 31, 106 passengers were denied boarding on Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Splendor heading for South America because they did not have required Brazilian visas. Sadly many watched their hard-earned vacation dollars sail off without them. How did this happen?

Disturbing trend
As more people book their travel online a disturbing trend is emerging — documentation snafus that can turn a dream cruise into a nightmare. Most people can easily book a Caribbean or Alaska cruise without any thought to proper documentation other than a birth certificate or passport. On the other hand, a laissez-fare approach to booking a cruise vacation that encompasses multiple countries with varying foreign entry requirements can be costly.

This problem isn’t just within the do-it-yourself crowd; there is a growing problem with online agencies, too. Many are employing inexperienced travel agents that are not versed in the nuances of foreign travel documentation. That is leading to huge problems for clients of those agencies.

According to Carnival spokesman, Vance Gulliksen, of the 2,800-plus passengers embarking in Miami for Splendor’s South American sailing, 106 guests did not have the required Brazilian visa. “The vast majority of those that did not have visas visited the Brazilian consulate in Miami to get theirs and were then able to meet the ship in the first port of call, Barbados,” said Gulliksen. He noted that a handful of guests opted not to sail on the voyage.

That was the case for one retired couple I spoke with that wishes to remain anonymous since they are pursuing compensation from their travel agency. The couple admitted that they weren’t experienced enough to check on the many countries that were involved in the voyage, so they employed the services of a travel agent. “We checked with the agency to see if we needed visas and they told us we didn’t.” As for not trying to get visas and catch up with the ship in Barbados the couple said that option was simply going to be “too costly.”

It’s a shame the aforementioned couple lost their entire cruise investment even though they had travel insurance. Travel insurance does not cover instances where the policy holder fails to obtain relevant visa documentation.

Without proper documents you walk the plank
Several ‘visa-less’ passengers I spoke with were quick to put the blame on Carnival. But Carnival gave its customers plenty of notice. Indeed, over 97 percent of Splendor’s passengers had obtained their visas.

Back in October Carnival notified its travel agent partners and consumers (who booked direct) via e-mail or fax regarding the Brazilian visa requirement. Subsequent notifications were sent to notify all new bookings after the initial mailing. Guests can only apply for the Brazilian visa 90 days or less prior to the visit date.

Several passengers wondered why they couldn’t just stay on the ship when in Brazil. Unfortunately, that’s breaking the law. Carnival said the fine for bringing undocumented guests into Brazil is $1,655 per person.

The cruise line feels badly for the guests that chose not to pursue getting a visa and flying to the next port. Gulliksen says, “We do really feel for those folks and are very sorry they were unable to participate on this voyage but hope they do understand that the visa requirement is a Brazilian government regulation and not a Carnival policy.”

Like all cruise lines, Carnival offers visa and passport documentation information in the “Ticket Contract” section of their brochures and on its Web site. The information clearly states that it is the “sole responsibility of the passenger to carry and have available all required travel documents.” It also says, “Guest traveling without proper documentation will not be allowed to board the vessel and no refund of the cruise fare will be issued.”

Bottom line: the visa requirement is your responsibility not the cruise line’s. Therefore do the homework necessary well before you leave home or employ the services of a very experienced travel agent whose job it is to know the requirements. You don’t want to miss your hard-earned dream cruise.

11 Responses to “Brazilian cruise goes bust for hundreds”

  1. Judy says:

    Most people have a passport, which is requried for most areas you will be traveling, but certain countries also require a visa for entry. Many people who I have talked to did not know this, they assume that a passport could get them into any country they wanted to visit. Wrong!!!! Some countries are very strict about visa, if you do not have one you are not allowed in that country.

  2. BlogProducer says:

    It is really a shame that they refused to let these people travel without a Brazilian Visa. I had a similar experience with some people like that at my job. It is really sad.

  3. As a travel agent specializing in (luxury) cruises, (and a former Seabourn employee) I’m not worried about my future earning potential after reading stories like this. This type of check is exactly one of the many items on my client checklist.

    Verifying passport validity
    Verifying best price on air travel (cruise line vs independent air)
    Verifying best insurance price (again, cruise line vs independent)
    Verifying best cabin for the money, i.e. free perks like shore excursions.

    All this for typically for no service fees, except maybe an air ticket.

    Have a good week,

  4. not everyone knows that visa is a requirement to travel to some country usually first world country requires visa not everybody knows it including me, I just realize it this past few months ago when I travel to China

  5. Julie says:

    Brazil got strict after 9/11 and when I was there a few years ago they also photographed visitors at the border. Not sure if they ever did that for cruise passengers, as I was on an overland trip.

    What a heartbreak for those people who had to watch the ship sail away.

  6. vin says:

    I never been on a cruise but I would like to go the first on this summer. I may go the Caribbean. Thanks for all the information here.

  7. Emily says:

    This happened to me when my husband and me went to Hongkong. We visited the nearest city of China but they refused on me because I don’t have visa to enter China. My husband is a Japanese so he do not need to acquire of it. Thanks God after several hours in the immigration I was given a 5 day visa to enter China.

  8. Selly says:

    I’m from Indonesia, but never find this trouble. Hope all will works with very fine.

  9. Linda (Mom of DJ) says:

    I guess what angers me is the way folks jump to put the blame on Carnival (or any cruise line). Our society here in the US in general are becoming a group of victims.
    It is always someone else’s fault.

    Now the couple who did trade money for services (via a commission) do have a valid complaint against that travel agency. This is exactly why people use a TA.
    When the travel agency took the commission, then they contracted with this couple to provide a “standard of care”. And this kind of omission on the TA’s part is negligent. The TA did not provide the “standard of care” the couple should have expected and the TA is liable.

    Everyone else has no one but themselves to blame.

  10. Online Poker says:

    That sucks for them passengers.

    I would like to think that Carnival would refund those affected by this, it’s not like they don’t make enough money already.

  11. mike costoev says:

    there goes their money down the drain. but then, some countries really are strict about these things.


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