Case dismissed: A little visa problem that sank their family cruise

Port separation anxiety is a term I use to describe the sudden decision some cruise passengers are faced with when a member of their party has to be left behind — usually because they don’t have a passport or the right kind of birth certificate.

It’s never an easy choice, but it’s particularly difficult when a family is being separated. Do we leave Mom and Dad behind and take the cruise, or do we turn around and go home?

But that was the decision Ananth Channaveer had to make when he tried to board Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas in Seattle recently.

He’d paid about $7,450 for a one-week cruise to the Last Frontier through And he suspected there might be a passport problem with his parents, who carry Indian passports.

I specifically asked the Royal Caribbean customer service, once I booked the ticket, if my parents needed Canadian visas and I was told they were not needed.

We flew from San Francisco to Seattle. While trying to board the cruise liner, my parents were denied entry because they didn’t have Canadian visas. Since we all wanted to cruise together we all could not take the cruise.

Channaveer contacted RCCL in writing, asking for a full refund. Here’s how it responded.

I am very sorry to learn that you were unable to sail with us. We understand how much our guests look forward to their vacation and we regret having to deny any guest boarding.

Verifying the documentation needed is an important part of the vacation planning process. We rely on each of our guests to research what their specific requirements may be, based on citizenship, immigration status, and cruise destinations. In an effort to assist, we post and frequently update our website and Guest Ticket Booklets informing of this.

I truly regret that you were unaware of this information prior to the sailing.

Additionally, we understand how much our guests look forward to, and have invested, in their vacation. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer a refund as requested. I kindly advise, for future reference, that you consider purchasing CruiseCare insurance, which can assist in these types of situations.

Ah, the old form letter. But if an RCCL representative told Channaveer that he’d have no problem with the Indian passports, doesn’t that count for anything? I decided to check with the company.

Here’s what it told me:

I asked Customer Service to look into this guest’s issue.

They checked both reservations, and they have no record of Mr. Channaveer or anyone else contacting Royal Caribbean about this issue until after they were denied boarding.

The first contact with Customer Service was on July 29, when Mr. Channaveer called to see what we could do for him since his parents were denied boarding and they did not take their cruise. The agent apologized and told him that we could not provide him with a refund, as it is the guest’s responsibility to have the proper documentation and/or visas. The agent did advise the guest that we would be able to refund the taxes and fees paid.

In multiple pages of our website, including “Travel Documentation”, states that:

It is the sole responsibility of the guest to identify and obtain all required travel documents and have them available when necessary. These appropriate valid travel documents such as passports, visas, inoculation certificate and family legal documents are required for boarding and re-entry into the United States and other countries.

Guests who do not possess the proper documentation may be prevented from boarding their flight or ship or from entering a country and may be subject to fines. No refunds will be given to individuals who fail to bring proper documentation.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Channaveer’s parents were denied boarding, and that he and his wife decided not to take their cruise. It is important for all travelers to remember that having the correct documentation, including visas, is an important part of the vacation planning process.

So I guess that’s a “no” on the refund, then?

I’m really bothered by these cases, because they seem to happen with such frequency. On Channaveer’s cruise, two other families from the Philippines were also denied boarding because of paperwork issues. There must be a better answer than, “Buy travel insurance.” And you’d think cruise lines would figure out a more efficient way of communicating these very important paperwork requirements, right?

I ran RCCL’s answer past Channaveer, who told me the company was “totally wrong” about its records. “I have the phone records from AT&T showing I called them right after I made the ticket purchase specially to ask about the visa question,” he told me. “And I was mislead and I dont know the name of the person I talked to, nor do I have any recording of it.”

Also, Channaveer checked in online and offered all of the passport numbers of his party. Wouldn’t that raise some kind of red flags with RCCL, prompting it to notify him of the problem?

Another sunk cruise. And sadly, another case dismissed.

(Photo: tiger houston/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Patsy

    My question is why did he rely on RCCL to give him the Visa requirements?  and did he even ask the right question?  The question as presented here was “do you have a problem with Indian passports?” and not “do Indian Citizens require a pre-entry Visa”?  The answer then was correct – they do not have a problem with Indian passports – it’s the visa that is the issue.

    One would think that RCCL would have this information handy since they regularly deal with international passports or they would be able to figure out what really was being asked – but it doesn’t alleviate personal responsibility to confirm the information – especially since it wasn’t in writing.

    Personally, when I’m traveling to Asia, I confirm with the country’s immigration directly (very easy to do on the Internet) if there are pre-entry Visa requirements.  It’s common in Asia.

  • Tom

    “I have the phone records from AT&T showing I called them right after I made the ticket purchase specially to ask about the visa question.”

    He lost me there. AT&T doesn’t track what people talk about.

    Why does this guy need a Canadian Visa anyway? That isn’t clear. Sounds like he has a beef with the Canadian government. They set the visa rules. I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if they bought tickets to go to Canada by boat, plane, train or car. These people happened to try getting into Canada without a visa by boat.

    I’m not sure how a cruise line can keep abreast of the changing visa rules amongst the hundreds of countries in the world. Perhaps, the Indian or Canadian consulates might be a better source for current restrictions.

  • Dream Passages

    This unfortunate issue could have been avoided if he used a thorough Travel Agent.

  • Christopher Elliott isn’t a travel agent?

  • Dream Passages

    Sure but, were they thorough?  I don’t believe the customer is completely to blame. I believe the agency also shares the responsibility. If the agent asked enough questions, this may have been avoided.

  • Raven Altosk

    This is a money maker for them. This party was denied boarding and that cabin was probably resold. Since they are sneaky and register their ships in countries that never side with the consumer, you’re sunk.

  • Raven Altosk

    And this is Raven…I finally decided to try linking my google account with Disqus. Can’t figure out how to make it show a picture, but whatever.

  • Absherlock

    This is a really unfortunate situation. I understand companies wanting to be as “customer service” oriented as possible, but maybe cruise line CSRs should be trained to NOT answer questions about passports and visas (other than directing people to the appropriate governmental sources). “Straight from the horse’s mouth” is always preferable to “whisper down the line”.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Raven, you might find the answer in the Disqus help section:

  • Michael

    In my mind, I think the better– and perhaps ‘safer’ way for everyone is for the cruise line, airline, etc, to simply say “for visas and the like, please check with the relevant government agency” and provide a phone contact.. That way, the passenger isn’t relying on 3rd party information– which might be right or might be wrong– but will be taken for fact (and understandably so) when received from a source like the cruise line or airline.

    To me, IF in fact the cruise line did say for FACT that no visa is needed, then I do hold the cruise line somewhat liable for the consequences– granted in the end, the cruise line isn’t the final say on such matters, but when you make a statement that is implied to be fact, then I think you do to a point ‘own’ it.

    This is why I’m a bigger fan of airlines and cruise lines, simply not making ANY comment on the matter– keep it clean and simple.. Go to the actual source who can and will speak for the actual government agency in play.

  • Pizo

    If I was a cruise line I wouldn’t want to take on the responsibility to maintain a constantly changing list with visa information for all nationalities.  RCL should have told Mr. Channaveer to check with the Canadian consulate for information.  He must have suspected his parents would need visas, why not double check? 

  • ouijesuis

    Unfortunately, travelers need to be responsible for verifying a list of required documents. As a US citizen who has moved abroad, I know all too well the run around particular agencies will give you. One person says you need this, another person says you need that…but ultimately, you cannot rely on customer service reps to give you accurate information. Apologies to Mr. Channaveer, but he has just learned a very expensive lesson in self-reliance. 

  • cjr001

    Is there a better way? Of course! But why give correct information when they can keep thousands of dollars as a result of their mistakes and lack of clarity?

  • cjr001

    Considering that they were denied boarding, which happens right as the ship is about to sail, I highly doubt the cabin was resold.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    The ongoing meme here is that contacting any company’s customer service by phone leaves no paper trail and no documentation.

    Lesson to learn is to always get the CSR’s name or ID number when contacting a company for any reason.

    Of course, companies can always then turn around and say that they have no such CSR. When that becomes a common way that companies are screwing consumers, I guess that those of us who live in one-party states will have to start recording their phone calls.

    Having said all that, I agree — it’s the consumer’s responsibility to know all the legal requirements for international travel. You cannot rely on the travel agency for that.

  • Mel

    While I have sympathy for the family, I also agree with those who say “why are you asking a VISA/Passport question of a travel agency?”  All the cruiseline can respond with is THEIR policy, and they surely don’t speak for any govt. agency with any authority.  If he called to check, then he knew there might be a problem and probably should have taken that extra-careful step and dug deeper.  Having said all that, would it have killed the cruiseline to offer him SOMETHING? Maybe even 50% toward their next cruise.  Ah well, another reason I will stay a landlubber I guess! 

  • Alan

    Instead of trying to maintain a constantly-changing list of foreign visa requirements, why not have cruise companies maintain a list of “guaranteed to be official and authoritative” contact information for each country the cruise visits? All the line would have to keep rechecking is whether each set of contact information in the list led to an official who could give the traveler a final word on documentation.

  • sirwired

    As a side note, travel insurance is good for a lot of things, but they don’t cover paperwork issues.  (Probably because they are almost never unexpected with the right preparation.)

  • sirwired

    Come on.  When he says he has phone records, he means he has a record that the call was placed.  Of course he isn’t implying AT&T knows what was discussed.

  • You Don’t Say

    Well, since RCCL said:

    “The first contact with Customer Service was on July 29, when Mr.
    Channaveer called to see what we could do for him since his parents were
    denied boarding”

    and his AT&T records show that he called them before then — right after he booked his cruise, we do know that RCCL is either lying about the date he first contacted them or they keep sloppy records of their customer service calls.

  • cjr001

    In defense of the family, this stuff can be a mess to sort out.

    On our Baltic Sea cruise last summer, we thought we would need a visa to get off the boat at all at St. Petersburg, Russia. It turned out that since we booked tours through the cruise line, we didn’t need one after all. If we had booked a private tour, we would have needed the visa.

    But even after going through the cruise line & US government websites, I was still wondering whether we would have all the paperwork we needed when we arrived.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    No…they are an online booking site.  There is a value to using a traditional brick & mortar travel agent in a situation like this.

  • Dave

    Hey Chris:  Don’t know if you write your own headlines, but shouldn’t that be “sank their cruise”?  Intended constructively, of course!

  • Mark K

    Either is correct.

  • Anne88

    Sounds like his parents reside in Canada and didn’t have visas.  If so, if the parents had booked through a Canadian travel agent they would have known.  

  • Dream Passages

    Well, I guess they’re so huge they don’t have the time or inclination to pay attention to detail after they complete their sales.  

  • RHOmea

    I travel approx 20x a year and rack up crazy miles on land, air and sea and one of the things that is a self-evident truth is that personal responsibility is dropping like an anchor. I have seen more people lie to evade the effects of their own failure to do what is obviously their own homework at check-in desks around the world than I care to remember.

    A. If there are 1000s of $$ on the line, you DO NOT ever depend on the opinion of some scrub on the end of a telephone line at a cruise company. Would you attempt to show up at the Russian border without having checked with the Russian embassy what docs you need to enter? Of course not. But thats what they did here and they expect someone else to pay for their laxity.

    B. It is spelled out clearly on all cruise/airline sites that it is the TRAVELERS responsibility to have the proper documentation.

    C. Almost every country in the world has a an easy and clear website that spells out the documents required to enter their borders. Canada is no exception and I found the below clear and unequivocal information in under 30 seconds: So why didn’t Mr Channaveer?

    “1.  Do I need a visa?
    Citizens of India, Nepal, and Bhutan require a visa to enter Canada.”

  • ChrisY

    I’m bothered by these cases too – because there’s too many people doing a “but they told me.”  Unless it is in writing – email or live chat transcript perhaps – then how can a he said/she said scenario ever be reconciled?

  • Mark K

    If the OP already thought there was going to be an issue, why didn’t he ask the Canadian government directly?  Also, why did he wait until AFTER buying the tickets to ask the question?  If I was spending that type of money on something, I would want my questions answered before I handed the money over.  Could it be that they were denied visas (I don’t know how difficult it is to get a Canadian visa since I have never had to do so or for what reasons they might deny you) and he thought the cruise line wouldn’t notice?

    I would have verified the answer given me by the cruise line by checking with the Canadian consulate or embassy.  Cruise lines aren’t known for giving the most accurate information when they are trying to take your money.

  • Mark K

    Why would a Canadian resident need a visa to enter Canada?  

    Re-reading the article, it states they were in the US and were denied boarding because they did not have the proper Canadian visa to enter Canada.

  • Doctor K.

    Royal Carribean: A company I will not forget. He could show them the call records.  They’d deny.   Chris,  you are doing super-human work and getting great results. Who bats 1.000.  I believe Ted Williams was the last (or only) to bat over 400. You are 650+.       Alan

  • Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Something smells fishy here…  It seems to me, in any customer service issue, that the company says, “We have no record of them calling.”  Really? He has a phone bill that says he did…  What about that Sparky?

    The OP made the call, was told he didn’t need it, they were dock blocked and ended up losing over $7000.  That’s quite a scheme the cruise lines have going on, isn’t it?  I wish I could take money from people and do nothing, and THEN be able to tell them afterwards, “You should have known already”.

    Chris, this really needs to go further than it did.  I don’t know the OP shouldn’t consider suing the cruise line in small claims court for the money… What the cruise line did was unconscionable.

    At the very least, they should have allowed the OP and his family another cruise on their nickel.

  • Brooklyn

    “I ran RCCL’s answer past Channaveer, who told me the company was ‘totally
    wrong’about its records. ‘I have the phone records from AT&T
    showing I called them right after I made the ticket purchase specially
    to ask about the visa question,'”

    Chris, I think you gave up too soon.  You learned that the OP had phone records after you got the negative answer from the cruise line, right?  Then why not go back and try again?  Also, you should share the RCCL reply to you with the OP; since he has his own phone records, he should be able to take RCCL to court.

  • Clare

    We can go back-and-forth all day about whether the cruise-line should give pax info regarding visa requirements, or whether pax should research it for themselves.  But instead of reinventing the wheel here, why not look at what the airlines do?  Not that they’re so almighty-wonderful, of course… but they have clearly stated policies on these very issues.  Maybe we can draw some comparisons, both for legal reasons (such as this case), and for business reasons in general.  We don’t run into these same sorts of problems on airline flights with such frequency as we do on cruises, do we?  If we do, I guess I don’t hear about it…

  • DavidS

    They may be registered as a travel agent, but they do not provide the same level of services of a face to face meeting with an experienced agent. They are a self serve agency….aka “travel vending machine”. 

    By looking at their website, they do offer this: Every country has its own laws regarding entrance by non-citizens. Please check the specific laws governing the country you are visiting. It is your sole responsibility to obtain all necessary documentation prior to your departure. Regardless of the ticket you purchase, applicable immigration laws apply. So, yes, cruise(dot)com advised the travelers that it was their responsibility to research the visa requirement. Did the travelers then contact an experienced company who specializes in processing visas? No, they did not. An experienced professional would have asked the pertinent question: “Are they US residents?”. If so, no visa was required…otherwise, yes, they need a visa.

  • JR

    In this case RCCL has no options regarding the paperwork required. He should have checked with USA or Canadian officials if there was a question regarding his parents. We have had higher level of security for the last 10 years now and the documentation needed to travel has increased. This is another case of someone who should have used a Travel Agent. A good agent would have had pointed out what paperwork his parents would be required to have.

  • Barfeld2

    Based on the story, the cruise line made a material misrepresentation that Channaveer reasonably relied on to his detriment. For $7000, he should sue in small claims court.

    The law contains no requirement of “personal responsibiity” that requires a person to rely at his peril on the representations of merchants with whom he deals.

  • Fishplate

    I’m guessing that the little bit of extra profit they gain is not worth the adverse publicity, and the cruise lines know this.  Do you really think that deliberately misleading consumers is their business model?

  • Fishplate

    “I don’t know how difficult it is to get a Canadian visa since I have
    never had to do so or for what reasons they might deny you”

    I have a friend – an American citizen – who was denied entry into Canada at the border crossing (pre-9/11) because he truthfully answered that he had once had a DUI, 20 years earlier. 

  • Jc Too

    At some point people MUST take responsbility! We have travelled the world & before we go anywhere we check with our government, any travel agency we use (if we use one) & the carriers. If possible we check with the government agency of where we intend to go to. We also ALWAYS check with our Travel Health Dept. for any shots etc.,
    We have travelled by car,ship, train & air of course. Our rule Check & double check BEFORE making any bookings.

  • Bodega

    Why did the OP make the cruise purchase BEFORE checking on the immigration issue?  He obviously knew there were immigration concerns.

  • ChrisY

    Or he didn’t wait for a representative to answer the phone.  He could have been on hold for 30 minutes listening to muzak, and hung up in disgust.  Who hasn’t done that?

  • ChrisY

    I noted this above but mention it again here too: a phone record doesn’t mean anything in this case.  He could have been on hold for 30 minutes and it would show up on a phone record.  Unless he has the CSR name or some material evidence that he spoke to an individual, I’m not sure a phone record will do much good.

  • Michael K

    Exactly.  Especially if they claim: It is the sole responsibility of the guest to identify and obtain all required travel documents…

    …then it seems to me they violate their own policy by making representations over the phone on these matters.

  • sirwired

    It’s also entirely possible that for some general inquiries, they don’t collect the booking number.

  • Ames

    I find it very interesting that the cruise could not tell the passengers what was needed in advance but was able to tell the passengers what they lacked when it was time to board the ship.  Even in the ever changing world of travel requirements, doesn’t this seem odd?

    I do agree that passengers should depend upon no one but themselves to research the information and should carry printouts of the websites they consult in case they run into a bureaucratic snafu, but there really does need to be some responsibility on the part of the cruise ship (or airline) to provide guidance for at least the countries that will be visited on that cruise.  Even if it is only the caveat that one needs to consult the visa requirements for those countries. 

    What would have happened if the passengers had opted not to leave the ship in Canada, assuming it was a round trip starting and ending in the US?

  • ChrisY

    Unfortunately (and I agree with your statement) unless it was written down in a chat transcript or email, or recorded, then they didn’t make a representation over the phone as far as anyone knows.  At least, the caller can’t prove it happened. 

    What would separate this case from one where a traveler simply did no due diligence and simply said “well the cruise line said it was ok”.  BTW the “phone record” from AT&T could be anything – a general query or the person waiting on hold.  Unfortunate, definitely, but all too true.

    And it’s not easy either.  I attempted to speak to Hotwire about an existing reservation, and they do so ONLY over the phone, not through any live chat or email.  I was sans any means of recording it, which means that I knew the result would be he said/she said if it ever came down to misinformation.  Fortunately it didn’t.

  • Barfeld2

    Yes, “people MUST take responsbility.” But the cruise line is “people” too, and they must take responsibility for their own statements if they can reasonably expect their customers to rely on them.

    As I stated before, based on the story, the cruise line made a material misrepresentation that Channaveer reasonably relied on to his detriment. With that much money at stake, he should sue.The law contains no requirement of “personal responsibiity” that says a person relies at his peril on the representations of merchants with whom he deals. On the contrary, the law says that sellers are responsible for the statements they make.

  • Dillonyork

    I travel a lot and use to determine what entry requirements I need to enter and leave a country.  Since they are going from a USA port to a Canadian port  using a non-USA/CA passport then THEY are responsible to make sure they need a visa or not.  that website tells me a Visa is required.  People need to take responsiblity for their own actions.  RCCL is not the Visa authority.

  • Michael K

    If this wasn’t a rare isolated mistake by RCCL, the OP might be able to collect evidence by calling again and posing as a new customer.

  • Dillonyork

    First small claims court is under $5,000 in most states.  Second there is personal responsiblity.  RCCL is not resonsible, as stated in it’s contracts for the the visa/passport requirements of it’s customers.

  • David

    Why doesn’t RCCL have a link, on their page, where you put in your booking number, then the country of issue and passport number.  It could easily then flag, “Please confirm you have a Canadian visa” and enter the visa number.  Would also expedite check-in.

  • BlondieDC

    It is not up to the cruise line to babysit its customers, nor to get inside their heads and figure what they may or may not need.  As I am filling out my online documents for a cruise, I always see the cruise lines’ warning/disclaimer about documentation to enter other countries.  This is a case of personal responsibility.  

    I’d be interested in the AT&T bill to see how long the call lasted-but, still hold the travelers responsible for their own documentation.   

  • bc

    Every single trip I’ve ever taken, I go to the the US Department of State website and read about the travel restrictions and warnings. PERIOD. This includes entry/exit requirements and documentation. In this case, you go to the Canadian equivalent and read entry requirements for Indian citizens. I’m sorry but I’ve learned to have a healthy skepticism of any information provided by customer service agents that are also selling me something (okay, any CS Agent).

    My guess this type of thing happens so often for Cruise travelers because they tend to be more casual vacationers (not as travel savvy) or do the “trip of a lifetime” type passenger where they take that one big trip they’ve been “dreaming of for years”. This is still no excuse for doing some reasearch on their destination and being prepared.

    Would Travel insurance even have covered something like this? Sometimes they cover losing a passport but I doubt you would have ever been covered for simply failing to get the correct travel documents.

  • Yampu Tours

    It is a problem with big companies when they do not take the time to inform their clients and look at each individual booking as a unique case.  In the future when you book travel find a great specialist agent who will make sure to inform you of everything you need including paperwork and documentation.  It can be a specialty travel agent or a tour agent.  Book with someone who sees you as a person and not a number.

  • bc

    Canada is notoriously picky on who it allows to enter/exit. A DUI is instant grounds for denied entry. This has been the case for a long time. 

  • john4868

    And the burden of proof is on him. RCCL can show that they told him, in writing, that he was responsible for finding out. He might have a phone bill but has no proof that he actually spoke to someone or what was discussed.

    RCCL can also make the argument that leaving him at the dock cost them money and bad PR. If you have ever taken a cruise, you know that the bill just keeps going up. Since he was denied dockside, its not like they didn’t order food etc for them.

    This screams of yet another person that doesn’t want to take responsiblity for their own actions.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Correct.  Not only that, the cruise line lost the on-board revenue they would have received…no booze purchases, no t-shirt sales, no specialty-restaurant up-charges.  The cruise lines do not want to leave people on the dock.  Unfortunately it is truly up to the passenger to research their own documentation needs for all the countries they are visiting on their cruise.

  • LeeAnneClark

    You are not making sense.  The cruise lines do not benefit when they leave someone on the dock.  At that late stage they cannot resell the cabin – do you know anyone who goes to a cruiseship on the day of boarding hoping to buy a ticket?  The cruise line also loses out on all of the ancillary funds they would have received from the passenger – expensive foo-foo drinks, t-shirts, gold-by-the-inch.  On-board sales are one of the biggest money-makers for the cruise lines. What good does it do them to leave their cash cows on the dock and sail with an empty cabin?

  • LeeAnneClark

    @ef3e8d75651a7b6dcaf5025a7487558a:disqus  – the Russian Visa issue is a sticky wicket, and a unique situation in the world of cruising. St. Petersburg tours are a huge profit-maker for the cruise lines, and it’s a well-known tactic of the cruise lines that they deceive their customers about the Visa situation in order to scare their passengers into buying their tours.

    The FACT is that if you book a tour with a licensed tour operator, you do not need a Visa.  But the cruise lines will do anything and everything to get you to buy THEIR over-priced, too-crowded tours, including lying to you ON PAPER that if you do not tour with the cruise line, you must buy an expensive Visa using a complicated process through the Russian embassy…when in fact you do not.  Provided your private tour operator has a license, your tour ticket (which they email you in advance) acts as your Visa, and nobody has EVER been prevented from leaving the ship to tour with a private tour op.

    Sadly, this tactic works – they scare large percentages of their passengers into avoiding the WAY-better private tour operators, who will take you in small groups in a private vehicle all day to the sites of your choice, bypass the long lines, and give you the tour of your life.  All this for a fraction of the price of the crowded bus tours the cruise lines offer.

  • Jenny

    I would not expect all 6,000+ of Royal Caribbean’s shoreside employees to know visa requirements for the over 100 possible passports guests could be using to enter each country to which the cruise line sails.

  • DavidS

    Cruises(dot)com is a travel agent.. like McDonalds is a restaurant. Cruises(dot)com did advise the OP that visa was their responsibility via their website. The cruise line did not give 100% incorrect information…nor 100% accurate information. That being said, both the agency and cruise line maintain in writing that the ultimate responsibility for entry requirements lies with the traveler.

    Most traditional, reputable brick and mortar travel agenices have access to Timatic, which will give you the most up to date entry rquirements based on citizenship, residency and intended destination countries. I usually access it for my personal use via Delta’s site at:

    If one were to use that, you would see there are two different responses for a citizen of India to travel to Canada. One shows you need a visa and one doesn’t. The difference lies in the residency. If one were to assume US residency, then no visa is required for a citizen of India. Looking at cruises(dot)com homepage you input your zipcode to price your cruise. If RCCL were to have that information as well, it is not unreasonable to assume that all travelers are US residents, hence no visa is required.

  • judiroques

    I cruise 2-3 times every year and I book every cruise online. I always see the page that says visas are my sole responsibility and that the cruise line holds no responsibility in providing info for this. I am leaving soon on a 21 day cruise, visiting several countries. I checked every country’s web site for visa information. It’s not really difficult, these things are available online.

  • Phil from London

    In my own Business if someone tells me that they spoke to someone but does not know who I have to assume that the  call never happened.
    I am still astounded with the number of people who talked to “someone” but cannot say who.
    The good news is that this will be an important life lesson for Mr Channaveer to take a name as the person who advised might have been carrying a broom at the time they passed and happened to  answe  the phone.

  • cjr001

    Ancillary sales are very likely not going to be anything near the original booking cost that the cruise line kept anyways.

    Having just gotten off a week-long cruise a couple of days ago, I have a pretty good idea of what a cruise costs, and how much you can spend on one.

  • Ames

    Then perhaps they should be very clear in conversation that they are truly ignorant and direct passengers to other sources.

    It seems that by trying to be helpful, but wrong, the CSR made a situation worse than it had to be.

  • Wrona

    “What would have happened if the passengers had opted not to leave the ship in Canada, assuming it was a round trip starting and ending in the US?”

    That’s not an option.  To board a cruiseship, you have to be able to visit all the ports on the itinerary, or you are denied boarding.  In many places, if there is even one person on the ship that is not eligible to enter the port, the entire ship can be denied access to the port, so the cruiselines don’t risk it. 

  • LFH

    The irony here is that most carriers place the burden on the passenger to ascertain visa requirements, and claim that they cannot be responsible for knowing what requirements apply to any particular passenger. But it is the carrier who then, at the point of departure, assesses whether or not the passenger is in fact in compliance with visa requirements, possibly making the decision not to carry.

    It seems to me that the proper solution would be for the contract of carriage to include a provision to the effect that the carrier will provide notice to the passenger of the immigration requirements it believes are necessary for the journey. If the passenger does not comply with these noticed requirements then the carrier may deny boarding; if the passenger does comply with these noticed requirements then the carrier may not deny boarding.

    If the carrier makes a mistake about the immigration requirements, then it will be liable either to the foreign government (for having improperly transported a passenger there) or the passenger (for having improperly specified an immigration requirement that does not actually exist). Such liability could be resolved in court at an earlier or later date, but it would avoid the uncertainty and anxiety about leaving passengers behind and stranded at the dock on the day of departure.

    (The one aspect that might be difficult to address is where a foreign government changes its immigration rules on short notice, and it becomes impossible for the carrier to notify the passenger in advance, or for the passenger himself or herself to independently learn of the changed rule in advance.)

  • cjr001

    I don’t know whether it’s a scare tactic or not. I did talk to people who went off on outside-the-cruise-tours, and they said they needed a visa as well.

  • cjr001

    But I would expect those employees to have access to computers that can, at the very least, lead them in the CORRECT direction.

  • web/gadget guru

    Hmmm, is it any wonder I have yet to take a cruise?

  • Christopher Elliott

    All fixed. Sometimes I write the headlines in my sleep.

  • Barfeld2

    They might not be responsible for visa and passport requirements, but they are responsible for their own statements.

    As for the “small claims” limits, if somebody owed me $7000, I’d rather recover $5000 without a lawyer than recover $7000 and then have to deduct a big lawyer fee.

  • Barfeld2

    >>> “This screams of yet another person that doesn’t want to take responsiblity for their own actions. ”

    Indeed, it appears that the cruise line does not want to take responsibility for its own misrepresentation of fact. If the they didn’t know what the requirements were, they never should have made the representations to their customer.

  • Livanonymous

    It seems like a critical fact is missing here:  he says, “I specifically asked the Royal Caribbean customer service, once I booked the ticket, if my parents needed Canadian visas and I was told they were not needed.” 

    Yes, but did he tell Royal Carribbean that the parents were Indian citizens traveling on Indian passports?  That fact, which only comes from Chris and not Mr. Channaveer in the description above, sounds like the disconnect here.  If someone called Royal Caribbean from San Francisco and just said, “Hey, do my parents need a visa to enter Canada?” the CSR might  (reasonably, in my opinion) assume they are American, and (correctly, given that assumption) say no.  

    And, as another poster noted, it only takes about 30 seconds to find the answer from the actual authorities:  the Canadian government. 

  • DavidS

    This poster chose to use the internet to book a cruise, so they should have been able to find out the correct travel documentation needed on his own as well.

  • Michael K

    A very good point.  RC’s “CruiseCare” explicitly offers NOTHING in the OP’s situation (travel documents were not stolen).
    Which makes it incredibly cynical and disingenuous that they close their letter to the OP with I kindly advise, for future reference, that you consider purchasing CruiseCare insurance, which can assist in these types of situations.

  • Joe Farrell

    It seems like a pretty simple thing for the cruise company to simply not let the parents off in Canada.  You need to swipe your stupid cruise ID card for everything these days, on the boat, off the boat, for a drink and anything extra – so how hard is it to simply bar the woman from leaving the ship in Canada?  

    “Dear Mr. And Mrs. Chanaveer – thank you for cruising with RCCL.  We note that you lack the proper documentation to enter Canada.  Therefore, you will not be allowed the leave the ship at any Canadian port.  Your key cards will be noted and staff will on alert to make certain that only cleared passengers can debark at each port.  Please cooperate with these restrictions and please do not attempt to leave the ship in any Canadian port as the Canadian customs and immigration officers may take into custody if they ascertain you are attempting entry illegally into Canada. 

    If you have any questions, please see the Purser.”

    Then, since you scan your card to get off the ship, they can easily stop you from getting off – given modern technology – this really is the easiest way to handle this. . . . not denied boarding and loss of money.  But that would require the travel company to see you as something other than passenger Q1238745678U3 . . . .

  • LarryB

    Honestly, the fig-leaf stop in Canada is just ridiculous and the cause of too much grief for too many people. It’s not as if you can actually get on or off the boat. The only people who do are Canadian immigration officials and a random number of people enjoy the added fun of a customs inspection.

  • LarryB

    They don’t let anyone off in Canada. If you’ve ever taken that cruise, it’s a customs stop only so they can pretend it’s an international cruise and avoid US taxes on all commerce aboard ship.

  • naoma

    My husband handles our travel and he is very precise in getting all the answers to all the questions he may have.  He doesn’t rely on just one person who may not be totally informed.  When you get one of those “form letters” we used to call them “bedbug letters.”  It was simply a “sorry, we cannot do anything for you.”  Unfortunately, a secretary (so the story goes) sent out a form letter that had the writing on the back from her boss to “send a bedbug letter to this customer” and she accidentally left that page attached.

  • L2y2

    I strongly agree that RCCL cannot keep up with the specific visa requirements on their website for every single situation. That is why they tell you, very clearly, to make sure you have all the required documents in order. And to add a link for every single unique situation? There is no way. There must be millions of unique situations they could not possiblly anticipate…

  • Linda Bator

    But he may just have asked someone the general “do you need a Visa to enter Canada” with no booking number given and no further information – so the CALL would have been meaningless in the scheme of things.  And it would not have been noted at that time.

  • Linda Bator

    Trust me, as a former airline employee, and now travel agent – OH YES YOU DO!  You just don’t hear about it as much.  And that’s true on both sides of the pond!

  • Linda Bator

    Again – we don’t really know HOW he asked the question, and if he just asked a general “will you need a visa to go to Canada” then he got the general answer.  We don’t know if he said they were of Indian nationality, so assuming RCCL told him the wrong info is the same as assuming they can read minds and discern the real facts of the matter.  NOT their responsibility!

  • Linda Bator

    A reservation agent is NOT a boarding agent – the jobs are very different, as are the responsibilities.  And in the case of the res agent, if asked a general “do you need a visa to travel to Canada” then they gave the general “no” that was correct.  We are only assuming he explained the entire situation, in which case, they would have told him they don’t have such information and he would need to ascertain it for himself.

  • Linda Bator

    You are correct – insurance does NOT cover lack of proper documentation.  Stupidity and lack of responsibility is still not a covered reason for refund.  :)

  • Linda Bator

    That is simply not an option.  The Canadian government will check the documents of ALL passengers before allowing the ship to disembark any guests, and there are STEEP fines and even the ability to disallow the ship to disembark ANY passengers.  It is not up to RCCL to decide this, but the incoming government.  So they have no choice but to not allow them to board.

  • Bodega

    Guess you need to go to the RCCL website and check out the itinearies.  You will see a stop for passengers to get off the ship in Canada.

    Now for some cruises from Hawaii to CA the do just stop in Mexico, with no getting off the ship to meet the requirement for the Jones Act.

  • Christophe

    Come on ! A 7 days cruise might go to what , 5 countries max : each conutry will have an internet web page about tourism and immigration that the site could point to …
    And no, there are not millions of situations : just 5 countries  multiplied by approx 200 different possible passport nationalities !

  • Barfeld2

    You’re right. If the facts are different, the result may be different, too.

    I was just commenting on the legal effect of the events as described, not trying to guess what different facts may have actually transpired.

  • Bill

    You check with the consulate or embassy of the country concerned about that, not the cruise line, airline, etc.

    People who come from these countries that have visa issues know very well that in most places which are not overpopulated and do not wish to have 50 million people from their home country piling in are going to require a visa.

    He should know better.  I’m sorry for his loss, but really….you need to know these things.

  • Patsy

    Because links are easily broken and that causes you more problems.  With the number of countries and ever changing visa rules, I don’t blame them.

  • Patsy

    My rule as well.  I just got back from Ireland and even though I knew a pre-entry visa was not required, I double checked. Habit

  • Patsy

    RCCL cannot control that.  Cruises leaving from an American port MUST by law stop in a foreign country.  That’s why (with the exception of NCL due to a separate agreement) Hawaiian cruises usually stop at the Republic of Kiribati…and the cruise line has absolutely no control as to whether or not you leave the ship.

  • Patsy

    Great post.  You don’t find that in airlines. Nothing told me when I booked my trip to India last year that I needed a pre-entry Visa.  I did something weird like checked India’s website.

  • Patsy

    I equate believing customer service reps up there with salesmen.

  • Patsy

    Separate group of people.  The people who are responsible for boarding are well versed in immigration law.  Reservation agents are not – nor quite frankly, should they be.

  • MichelleLV

    He said that he felt there might be a problem with his parents entry to Canada but then relied on RCCL to answer correctly. Ironically he probably talked to someone in an overseas calling center.  Not the best decision….   Unfortunately this was a 8 grand mistake.  

    Yes it would be helpful if RCCL had some guidance with documentation needs based on passport origin and travel companies.  I would never trust what RCCL says unless I see it in writing and have proof of what was discussed.   That is why they have disclaimers on the website that says the traveler must verify needed documentation.  

  • Patsy

    I think you can blame the US government for that.  Jones Act

  • Patsy

    I’m going to have to remember that one!

  • Molly8061

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, Channaveer should have dug deeper, and/or gotten the name of the RCCL cust svc person.  However, I think that RCCL could have been a little more kindly and given them the $7000. credit to use on another cruise.
    Also, why not let them on and tell the parents that they cannot get off the ship in any of the ports?  That might have solved the problem.

  • Penelope

    Not only did RCCL lose 4 customers for life, RCCL has lost hundreds, if not thousands of people who will NEVER sail with them, EVER.  For each dissatisfied customer, the old accepted business axiom was that at least 10 people would not do business with that company after hearing the dissatisfied customer’s story.  That, however, was BEFORE the internet, and, more importantly, BEFORE Christopher Elliott.  So, RCCL, you now join United Airlines as a travel company that will never get another dime of my money.

  • wrona

    Incorrect.  I’ve cruised on RCCL’s Rhapsody of the Seas out of Seattle.  Had a wonderful day in Canada on our port stop.

  • Wrona

    You are completely wrong.   The stops in Canada are not just short stops.  Most people get off the ship and most people really enjoy the stops. 

  • DavidS

    And thank you RCCL for illustrating the importance of using a well qualified travel agent. Even though it is very easy to book your own travel on the interent, you bring to light the importance of using a full service agency. Especially if your agency neglects to provide something more than a “fast food” approach to customer service. I have always used a travel agent for booking cruises and look forward to my next RCCL cruise! And I hope Chris continues to put out stories like this, where someone does the travel equivalent of using a self serve gas station and then complains because no one checked his oil and now has a blown engine.

  • cjr001

    I wanted to add some additional stuff that I didn’t have time to add earlier:

    I’ve studied Russian a bit, so I know how difficult a language it is. We had thought about going with outside tour companies, but in the end, decided it was safest, most convenient, and least likely to have problems to stick with what the cruise line offered. No, it probably wasn’t the cheapest.

    Also, on one of the two tours I took, the guide was greatly struggling with her English. Considering the websites I went to in investigating private tour operators, and the poor English some of those sites had, I was concerned that this would be a wide-spread problem among tour operators. The last thing you want to deal with is a language barrier, more so if you’re on your own, rather than something cruise-sponsored.

  • cjr001

    Don’t fly either then, I assume?

  • cjr001

    And which cruise did you take?

    Cruises out of Seattle will stop at Vancouver or Victoria… and, surprise! People get off the ship because *gasp* it’s a port of call!

  • cjr001

    Not to mention, requirements such as visas to visit certain countries are often in place directly in response to what your own government has done.

  • JB

     I’m sorry, but if he has the means and resources to prove he called them, even if he doesn’t have the recordings it’s enough evidence to bring a suit and try to get your money back through the justice system. The fact that he’s gone to Elliot means he doesn’t have anything and he wants the fear of bad press to force them into action.

    In general the most you should do when it comes to Visas is do a quick clarifying bit of research so they can know what to expect and what they may need but then put it in the passenger’s hands to get the actual visa. There are too many legal and procedural issues that it would be impossible for an agent to get it 100% right every time. Especially over the phone.

  • Chris in NC

    Tis is true. A DUI conviction, regardless of when it occurred can make a visitor inadmissible to Canada. The bottom line is that many people “forget” that Canada is a foreign country and take admission into Canada for granted.

  • Pkabatek

    A fraudulent rip-off.

  • DavidS

    I agree. I read this story expecting to find that a traveler had been wronged, only to find out he didn’t thoroughly check entry requirements and now wants compensation for his own mistake. Why is he trying to fraudulently rip off RCCL? 

  • Sadie Cee

    It really hurts me when people lose their hard earned money.   My sympathies are with the OP over the loss of his money and his cruise.  However, as much as it pains me to say it, he must accept responsibility for his failure to act in his own best interest.s

    Since he suspected there might be a passport problem with his parents’ Indian passports, it was his duty to go online or make a call to the Canadian consulate to verify the requirements for himself.  Should he have relied totally on 
    As committed travellers, we must pay attention and respect visa requirements where they exist.  It took me only 30 seconds to search for and find the applicable information on a Canadian government Web site – Department of Citizenship and Immigration.   (Citizens of India are listed amongst those requiring visas to visit and transit Canada.)

    Canada is not alone in requiring visas of certain nationals to visit or be in transit.  All sovereign states are entitled to pass citizenship and immigration laws.  For instance, 15 European states that are signatories to the Schengen Agreement require certain nationals (which include Indian nationals) to have visas to visit and transit those states.

    Besides, India is NOT one of the countries that participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and as such Indian nationals are required to have visas to visit/transit the U.S.

    If the OP could prove that he was provided with the incorrect information by the travel agency, perhaps he would have a claim.  Without proof it becomes a matter of his word against theirs.
    Anyway, I suggest that we begin recording our customer service calls and inform CSRs when we call that the call is being recorded for the purposes of future litigation.  Maybe then they will either start admitting that they don’t know the answer, will undertake to find out or refer us to someone who will know.

  • Brooklyn

    It sounds as if he left enough time to get visas if they turned out to be necessary, but the cruise line said they weren’t. India and Canada are both Commonwealth countries and maybe that’s why the cruise line representative thought that no visa would be required, but the company still needs to take responsibility for the misinformation.

  • AirlineEmployee

    Sorry, no sympathy for the guy….. People just don’t cover all bases before they leave, regardless of ONE person giving “wrong” information, passengers need to still research and phone several times if necessary to get confirmation of the right information.  He’s blaming the cruise line for his stupid lazy mistake.   Foreigners have no clue.

  • GeorgeG

    “..and they have no record of Mr. Channaveer or anyone else contacting
    Royal Caribbean about this issue until after they were denied boarding.”

    Of course they didn’t.  Even if one of their reps told them so they would still deny it. 

  • GeorgeG didn’t check this and neither would a travel agent.  The only difference would be with you don’t pay a commission to get screwed.

  • GeorgeG

    “And he suspected there might be a passport problem with his parents, who carry Indian passports.”

    Then why ask a cruise line, why not check with Canada????

  • Linda Bator

    Actually, not true!  I am a travel agent, and ALWAYS inquire as to proper documentation.  I book world cruisers regularly as well, and make it a policy to keep a copy of the passport on file, regulary check to see they have the appropriate time limit on the passport, have enough pages for an necessary visas, and that the visa applications are all turned in correctly, so no hold up on the documents.  And YES – DOES make a commission – they aren’t in it for free either!

  • DavidS

    Except when the visa requirements change between the time you book and time you sail.

  • Crissy

    Most travel companies stay out of the business to Passport/Visa rules because they change constantly.  It is quite possible (even if unlikely) that the rule changed between when he booked the trip and when he sailed.  In the end the research you do on these things is insurance against your investment.  

  • S E Tammela

    Or when they differ depending on the nationalities of the people concerned.

    I feel bad for him, but he had a gut feeling. And then he took the company at their word. Personally I would have been double-checking. I think a 50/50 split of the blame is appropriate here (and same goes for the cash).

  • S E Tammela

    Why did he need the visa? His PARENTS, not being US citizens, need a visa to enter Canada. It’s not that surprising. :(

  • S E Tammela

    So… every cruise website should maintain 1000 different web pages about visa requirements?

    Or they could just say it’s the passengers’ responsibilities to find out for themselves…

  • DavidS

    Not all Indian passport holders require a visa. It’s possible he may have inadvertently represented a scenario in which a visa is not required to the RCCL rep. Sorry to say, I think he is owed nothing.

  • LarryB

    I guess my own experience was different. Our stop was customs only at about 4 AM, supposedly at some hamlet on one of the strait islands. We never even docked.

  • Vivi

    For several years I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean–love the ships, hate their horrible customer service.  On any given topic you can call RCI customer service or even their Crown & Anchor desk (for frequent cruisers) and be given bad information.  Call twice and you will be given two completely different answers.  RCI can post what the requirements for identification, necessary visas, etc. as part of your booking information which is available online.  At the very least it should be noted when you register online and provide your passport number and the name of the country that issued it.

    I feel sorry for this family and all the first time cruisers (and there are many) who have been duped because the cruise lines (and it isn’t just RCI, the others have the same problem) can’t provide basic/correct information to their customers.  Especially in light of the fact that cruise lines know this happens so often–every cruise I’ve taken has had at least one person/family denied boarding b/c of identification/visa issues.  Providing the necessary and correct information is part of their customer service obligation.

    I hope this family sues in Small Claims Court.  They will most likely win because RCI won’t send a rep to the hearing but then they will have to collect the judgment which can be another long hassle.

    And I don’t think trip insurance would cover a situation like this but I could be mistaken about that.

  • Vivi

    No, it shouldn’t all be posted on the general website but it can and should be posted as part of your online booking record.   

  • ViVi

    You are right not to trust the information obtained from cruise lines and it is a money maker for them in they keep the original fare.  But they can no longer sell cabins at the dock (day of sailing).  The only way they can make additional money on those cabins is to sell them as an upgrade to confirmed passengers who want a larger cabin or different location. 

  • Guest

    Even if the trip insurance had covered the parents, it would not cover refusing to board without your entire party.

  • A4kittyc

    Given the cost of the cruise and he thought enough to question RCCL, why did he not ask for it in writing? But of course, I think he was mistaken in the source to which he went to get an answer to his quesion in the first place. RCCL should not be the end all in VISA requirements….

  • Kitty

    Why are you making it out that RCCL was out to get this guy’s money? Proper documents are the responsibility of the passenger and it is clearly stated as such several places within the cruise information. Perhaps he is being 100% honest in stating he called and the answer he got, but seriously, do you know that actually happened?

  • PauletteB

    No, AT&T has no record of what was discussed, and neither do we.  All we have is the man’s claim as to what that conversation was about. I find the fact that he can’t provide the name of the person he supposedly spoke with at the cruise line very suspicious. I write down the name and, if possible, employee number of everyone I do business with over the phone.

  • sirwired

    Please read what I wrote.  I didn’t say we (or AT&T) knows what was discussed… I was just mentioning that the OP was not implying that AT&T knew either; he was simply stating that he had a record that a call of some sort to Customer Service was made.