Did I forget to mention I was born in Canada?

By | January 31st, 2012

Harry Kopy has a secret.

You can’t tell by looking at him, or even by talking to him, but if spend a little time with him, you’ll know that although he’s a U.S. citizen, he was born in Canada.

OK, maybe it’s not a secret — but it was an important detail when he booked his recent Celebrity cruise to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

An important detail that was overlooked.

Kopy explains:

A few weeks before our cruise, I realized that my passport had expired.

I called the cruise line to see if I had any options and was assured by one of the agents of the cruise line that I’d only needed a legal birth certificate and picture ID (driver’s license). With that I breathed a sigh of relief and figured, no problem!

But wait. The agent failed to mention that the birth certificate had to show that he was born in the United States.

As you might’ve guessed, when were about to board the ship, we were denied entry because of my Canadian birth certificate. They said I needed a passport and refused to let us board.

Celebrity refused to refund his cruise, saying the paperwork was his responsibility. But after mentioning that an agent had given him the information that led to his birth certificate problem, it agreed to offer him a 20 percent discount off his next cruise.

That hardly begins to address Kopy’s costs. He’s lost his cruise fare, his wife’s, $500 in nonrefundable shore excursions had to scramble to get a rental car and five nights in a hotel to rescue their vacation, which was a 20th anniversary present. He tried to make a claim on his travel insurance, but was denied.

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I suggested he contact someone at a higher level at the cruise line, and sent him the contact information for a few Celebrity executives.

In response, Celebrity upped its offer to a 75 percent discount.

“They are still saying that I was partially at fault for not telling the Celebrity agent that I was born in Canada,” he says. “Again, they are assuming that I knew that the birth certificate had to show that I was born in the U.S.”

This is a tough one. Yes, proper documentation is the passenger’s responsibility. But if a cruise line gives you inaccurate information, shouldn’t it be held responsible, too?

I receive far too many complaints from cruise passengers who were denied boarding because of birth certificate, passport or visa problems. If nothing else, this is yet another cautionary tale about relying on a cruise line for documentation requirements.

If cruise passengers had a valid passport, then 99 percent of these problems could be avoided. The average shore excursion will set you back by more than it costs to apply for a passport. That’s a small price to pay, isn’t it?

(Photo: Martin Cathrae/Flickr)

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