Thousands of travelers are returning to cruising this year, for the first time since the pandemic began. But, most cruises now have very strict requirements about what you need to show before boarding.
And as two women learned, if you miss just one item, you can be turned away from that cruise you saved for so long to take. For Debbie Schwabe and her mom Blanche White, a cruise on the Celebrity Summit was supposed to be a dream trip.
They headed to Fort Lauderdale with their bags and documents, including, Schwabe said, "my original birth certificate, my driver's license, and my COVID test information."
But, as they were boarding, she says, "they said my birth certificate wasn't the right one."
A guard told Schwabe her 1969 original hospital certificate was not an acceptable ID.
"They said it was decorative, it wasn't state-issued," she said.
The women had to go home and their dream trip was over before it began.
"They wouldn't help us," White said. "I know, I still can't talk about it."
They slept at the Ft Lauderdale airport, finally flying home, out the $3,000 they had paid for everything.
Know exactly what is needed before a cruise
What happened? Travel agents say taking a Caribbean cruise is very different from going on domestic sailing trips because you are leaving the waters of the United States.
So, it's very important to have every essential piece of paper, or you could be denied boarding too.
Travel agent Jerry Katz of First Discount Travel says while a passport is best, passports are not needed for most Caribbean cruises. However, he says, cruise lines typically require a state-issued birth certificate, not a hospital certificate.
"That is a commemorative keepsake for mom and dad, but it has no significant relevance and no citizenship relevance for anyone traveling internationally," Katz told us.
He says the two women were not the first to show up with commemorative birth certificates.
"Absolutely, it happens every day," he said.
Katz says had they come to his agency, his agents would have spotted the fine print on Celebrity's website, stating that baptism papers, hospital birth certificates, voter cards, and Social Security cards are not acceptable forms of ID.
He also said if you have changed your last name due to marriage, you will need a state marriage certificate as well.
Celebrity was contacted to ask if the women could get a refund and the cruise line promised to investigate.
So if you do not have a U.S. passport, check any cruise's ID requirements months in advance, so you don't end up turned away like Schwabe and White.
"It was a nightmare," Schwabe said.
That way you don't waste your money.
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