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Woe, Canada: Visa snafu ruins cruise

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 22 - 2007

All Michael and Terry Weadock wanted to do was take a three-day cruise to the Bahamas. Imagine their dismay when Carnival Cruise Lines turned them away at the pier in Miami. The problem? Terry is a Canadian citizen, and her papers were not in order. What went wrong?

Your documents, please

When the Weadocks received their cruise documents a month before the cruise they found a notice titled, “Urgent — Read Immediately.” The notice went on to say that all guests must present the required citizenship and immigration documents at embarkation or they would not be allowed to board.

Because Terry is a Canadian citizen, the Weadocks paid special attention to the notice. They reviewed Terry’s documentation and everything looked good: Her Canadian passport was far from expiration, and her U.S. Immigration Form I-94, which states the term of her authorized stay in the United States, was valid through January 2007.

“Terry has traveled into and out of the U.S. several times recently with no problems,” says Michael Weadock.

But when the Weadocks turned up at the pier in Miami, the embarkation officer refused to allow Terry to board the ship. Why? Because her K-3 visa had expired. Even though Terry had already begun the process of renewing that visa, which is issued to non-citizen spouses, she could not sail. Seeing how upset the Weadocks were, a Carnival official called to have a U.S. immigration agent personally come to the pier to double-check the documents. Unfortunately, the agent agreed with the cruise line’s assessment, and the Weadocks lost their cruise.

The documents provision is not unique to Carnival; on the contrary, all cruise lines have contract provisions that require passengers to produce necessary documents before sailing. In fact, Carnival went out of its way to make the best of a disappointing situation.

“The Carnival representatives were very kind with us and I received my cruise fare back,” Michael says. “However, we were very upset we couldn’t get Terry’s cruise fare back.”

That’s when Michael asked Tripso to help.

Carnival responds

I contacted Carnival and spoke with Carnival spokesman Vance Gullicksen.

Gullicksen explained that because of increased security measures and documentation requirements, Carnival is diligent in requiring all its guests to produce the proper documentation before boarding its vessels. As for the Weadocks, Gullicksen says, “We checked with our reservations administration department, which works closely with various government agencies regarding immigration and documentation, and were told that Mrs. Weadock was denied boarding because her K-3 visa expired in 2005 and her Alien Resident Card number was not yet registered in the system.

“Further, although Mrs. Weadock’s I-94 immigration form had an expiration date of January 2007, this document only allows non-U.S. citizens to stay in the United States until the expiration date and is not intended for travel in and out of the United States. Since Mrs. Weadock did not produce the required documentation, we were unable to allow her to board.”

Clearly, Terry Weadock did not have the right documents, and Carnival was within its rights not to reimburse her cruise fare. Still, Carnival wanted to help — and they did.

“As a gesture of goodwill, our reservations administration department has agreed to provide the Weadocks with a future cruise credit of $368.20, which represents her entire cruise fare less a $35.20 administration fee,” says Gullicksen, who went on to say that Terry must, of course, produce the proper documentation in order to take advantage of the cruise credit.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” says Michael Weadock.

So, how could this problem have been prevented? Simply put, if you have any doubts about proper identification, check with the appropriate government agencies, embassies or consulates to determine all the requirements. A good resource for information is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Web site. A little homework can keep you from missing the boat.

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