When Holland America says “no problem” maybe there’s a problem

Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
Elmer Purkey suspected there might be trouble with his birth certificate on his planned seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s Eurodam. He’d been born at a U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, to an American father and a German mother, which made him a natural born U.S. citizen.

But what would the cruise ship employees say when he showed them his birth certificate? So Purkey tried to find out. He contacted Holland America. He got its response in writing.

It didn’t matter. The cruise line denied him boarding anyway, saying it wasn’t enough to board.

“I was left abandoned on the dock like discarded garbage as the ship sailed away,” he says. “It was a very disappointing and traumatic experience.”

Holland America’s paperwork requirements are crystal clear on its site. It states:

It is your sole responsibility to obtain and have available the proper travel documents that are necessary for your travel, including all costs related to arrangements to obtain entry to countries you visit and re-entry to your destination country. Boarding may be denied or fines may be levied against those guests without proper documentation.

Can I travel?

That’s exactly what Purkey says he tried to do.

“I was obviously concerned about the potentiality for confusion with my documentation,” he says. “That is why I contacted Holland America directly a month prior to our departure. After explaining in detail to them the exact nature of my documentation, and being reassured by a HAL representative, and her supervisor, that there would be no problem with going on this cruise with this birth certificate, any hesitation was relieved.”

He sent me the chat transcript.

Here’s an excerpt:

Purkey: I have the original birth certificate. Will this be OK?

HAL: YES, that is totally fine.

After Purkey was turned away when he tried to board — an event he describes as “humiliating” — he asked the cruise line to help him with a do-over.

No way, it replied. If he wanted to pay for another cruise, Holland America would offer him an upgrade. But it said that having the right birth certificate was his responsibility, and it’s sorry for the inconvenience.

“It only added insult to injury,” he says.

Holland America speaks

The cruise line’s rebuttal is interesting, and it suggests that we’re missing the full story. Here are the relevant parts of its response:

We empathize with everyone who faces denial of entry onto our ships and share in their disappointment. However, information regarding visas, passports, and immunization requirements is the responsibility of each and every passenger. Guests and their agents must familiarize themselves with current requirements in advance of boarding any cruise entering foreign ports of call.

Upon our review with both ship and port officials, it was discovered that Mr. Purkey had already been in dialogue with us and advised that his documentation was not sufficient.

He was directly told he would need to get a passport (Polar booking notation made on December 3, 2012). Further review was made with port officials regarding their dialogue with this guest. They responded that the guest was instructed to contact our Guest Relations office for review and possible compensation allowance under their unfortunate circumstance of being denied boarding.

The letter goes on to suggest that Purkey should have purchased Holland America’s cancellation protection plan, which is kind of funny, since I doubt it would have covered him in this situation.

Interesting that a travel company is now at a disadvantage because it failed to get a paper trail. At any rate, if what Holland America claims is true, then it suggests Purkey simply took the transcript and decided that if he were denied boarding, he’d use it as leverage to get a make-over cruise.

I find that difficult to believe. As a side note, you can follow a fascinating parallel conversation about this issue on Cruise Critic. I wonder how many commenters will tell him to get a passport before the thread dies?

I want to help Purkey, but I don’t know how. I’ve seen the “final” rejection letter from Holland America, and it looks pretty final. I wonder if any of the lawyers who frequent this site have any ideas about next steps?

Does he have a leg to stand on? Is there something he could say — or I could say — to fix this? Or is this case a lost cause?

Should I mediate Elmer Purkey's case?

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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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Bill___A

    Get a passport. Don’t waste time asking people if a birth certificate or your certificate of baptism, or a note from your childhood neighbor that they looked after your parents’ dog while you were being born is okay. Just get a passport. They are good for 10 years.

  • jpp42

    Chris already pointed out this would be the most likely comment. This is not terribly helpful advice, since the incident already happened when he didn’t have a passport – now he knows better, but the question is what did he know before? I think we need to know what Mr Purkey’s comment about the Dec 3 phone call is. Does he claim that the representative on that date lied about informing him of the passport requirement? Or is he admitting that the passport requirement was advised then, but he was hoping his previous, conflicting chat advice about no passport was actually correct? If he had conflicting advice and realized it was conflicting, why did he not seek to clarify this via another reputable source, such as a senior HAL rep, a government web site, his travel agent, etc.?

    For those of us in the know about travel, it should be clear that the passport is a good idea and absolutely required for international travel. But it’s not necessary for some purely domestic cruises so there are reasons that a cruise rep could think it wasn’t required, if they made a mistake and thought it was a different type of itinerary.

    I think this case could be mediated but there needs to be an outcome that assisgns some responsibility to both parties.

  • Trey

    First, encourage Purkey to get the passport.
    Second, do moderate because if the chat transcript is accurate, then someone at HA has a lot of explaining to do.

  • technomage1

    If he had his original birth certificate, what did they mean by the “right” one? And wouldn’t be a lot more simple – and less risky – for passengers on cruises to be required to have valid passports?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m sure we (the attorneys) would be happy to chime in once we see the entire transcript. Specifically, what representations did Purkey make to the rep.

    EDITTED. I tried to get the transcripts but to know avail. I did notice that the advise was generally useless, i.e. “get a passport”, which doesn’t help the OP with his current problem.

    What the OP needs to do is to contact the State Department and verify whether his birth certificate was indeed sufficient to take the cruise. If it was, then he is 100 percent entitled to whatever passes for denied boarding on a cruise line.

  • bodega3

    According to Holland American, the OP was advised that he needed to get a passport and it is is noted in his reservation. As a travel consultant, I would like the cruise lines to do away with any ID that isn’t a current passport.

  • $16635417

    Having read the thread here and on cruise critic, I can’t help but wonder…had the OP had a passport would this have all been avoided??? ;)

  • TonyA_says

    The US Dept of Homeland Security says you only need the ff to REENTER the USA for closed loop cruises:

    U.S. Citizens on closed-loop cruises will be able to enter or depart the country on the cruise with proof of citizenship, such as an original or copy of his or her birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where he or she was born) and, if 16 or older, a government issued photo ID. If the child is a newborn and the actual birth certificate has not arrived from the Vital Records Department, we will accept a Hospital issued birth certificate. The United States does not require you to have a passport. (A Consular report of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State or a Certificate of Naturalization is also acceptable.)

    As far as I know Grand Turk and Bahamas does not require a passport for Americans to enter their countries while on a cruise.

    Okay, so what exactly did the OP do wrong? Bear in mind a recommendation is NOT A REQUIREMENT. So you can scream he should have gotten a passport all the day and that does not make it an absolute requirement.

  • bodega3

    He didn’t get a passport, that is what he did wrong. Why take chances? He knew there might be an issue, or he wouldn’t have called. I tell all clients that they need a passport…period!

  • Bill___A

    I think that the advice is for all of the other “Mr. Purkeys” out there. Whatever compensation he might get comes out of the company’s profits, which in turn can cause them to increase their rates in order for their shareholders to get a return on their investment.
    I think the Mr. Purkeys out there should bear the cost this issue rather than spread it across the fares of those who did do their homework.
    We’ve seen cases like this for years. “I didn’t know my parents who are from India and carry an Indian passport while they were visiting me in the United States would need a visa to go on a cruise that stops in Canada”. “I didn’t know I needed a passport to leave the United States.”
    The article is on the website. Hopefully others will get it through their heads to get a passport. I don’t think the cruise line should have to waste their time on this issue. That’s my opinion, right or wrong.

  • dourdan

    true. especially in this case —

    clearly “Eastern Caribbean cruise”= leaving USA

    I think the OP thought he would be cleaver and save a few bucks by not getting a passport.

    so for that reason i voted no.

  • Travelnut

    I read the entire thread on Cruise Critic. If you have the time and patience I highly recommend it. There was a lot of disagreement and misinformation, but after reading it all I truly believe HAL owes this guy a cruise. He had never traveled outside the US. Being a newbie, he called HAL to make sure he did not need a passport. Where I believe HAL dropped the ball is attempting to advise him in the first place. The fine print of their contract absolves them of any responsibility for not having the necessary travel documents. Well then – don’t tell him he’s okay when it might not be. I’m not an attorney but this sounds like textbook negligence: having a duty (to provide accurate information); a breach of that duty; damages as a result of relying on the misinformation; and proximate cause. HAL should have advised him to contact the State Department. They have generated way more bad press in the 18 pages of comments on CC than if they’d just given him a free substitute cruise.

  • Travelnut

    It was a German birth certificate. It appears HAL may have misunderstood this when they told him he was fine with a birth certificate. There is a form that will take care of not having the US certificate but I don’t feel like wading through that massive thread to get the exact name of the form.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    So you want to make it harder to cruise? The cruise line should accept any document that is appropriate and train their people not to offer advice.

  • Grant

    WINNER, drama queen of the month award…

    From Mr. Purkey’s Cruise Critic letter: “grueling hours of waiting,” “abandoned on the dock like discarded garbage,” “disappointing and traumatic experience,” “humiliation and disappointment,” “hardships,” “gouged,” “shocked, and highly offended,” “inconsiderate disrespect,” “insult to injury,”

    My God! Is this poor man even still alive? Ya know, somebody oughta suggest that he get a passport.

  • Robert Karpel

    For any cruise that leaves the waters of the United States – yes, absolutely, require a valid passport. It is the ambiguity of “well, maybe a birth certificate will work” that gets people into trouble. Require a passport, or the passport card. If the cruise is solely within US waters then a passport would not be needed (a cruse along the coast or up the Mississippi I guess).

  • $16635417


    It doesn’t sound like a birth certificate is enough, if not issued by a US state. He needed one issued by the State Dept if born abroad. Not quite sure what he had in his possession.

  • sirwired

    Yes, without the full transcripts, the whole discussion is pointless. HAL says they told him to get a passport back in December, the customer says he wasn’t told that.

    I’m wondering if he told them he had a German birth certificate. The proper document to provide would be the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (which I thought would have sufficed.)

  • Dymaio

    Children born overseas to military families are issued Certificates of Birth Abroad by the US State Department. No other birth certificate is issued. The problem often lies with other agencies or individuals who refuse to accept that this is a valid document because it is slightly different than a birth certificate issued by a US municipality. Having had numerous individuals question the validity of my Certificate of Birth Abroad, I suspect that this might have played a role in the OPs situation.

  • technomage1

    If this is the case he has a valid gripe. If he brought the proper documentation but the employees failed to recognize it, then I’d say he’s owed a do over cruise.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Wait, wait…where is the “senior on a fixed income” or “single parent” card? Then we’d have the goldmine of fail.

  • BillCCC

    I will not suggest that he obtain a passport. What I will suggest is that travelers needing advice on documentation should not use the cruise company call center in place of a government department. I know it has been said often but cruise companies really mean it when they say it is the responsibility of the traveler to have the appropriate documentation prior to sailing.

  • Michelle

    Somewhere along the lines I imagine that the OP had run into this type of problem with his birth certificate. Therefore, he should have obtained a passport at some point. I vote don’t mediate.

  • john4868

    To me this is a “penny wise pound foolish” situation. He reasonably knew that might have an issue sailing. Otherwise, he isn’t saving all of the chat notes. He was told by someone at HAL at some point that he needed to get a passport. The portion of the chat that Chris shared is deceptive to me. Saying that I’m an American citizen and I have my original birth certificate without adding all of the exceptions, leads me to believe that he was trying to get a “yes” on the record so he didn’t have to buy a passport. It looks like “venue” shopping to me.

    Sadly, a passport is $165 and good for 10 years. To me, that’s pretty cheap insurance over a minimum wage call center functionary telling you the wrong thing or someone in the same pay grade turning you around at the dock, especially, if you know that your case is not the norm.

    And yes, I followed my own advice and paid for passport for my entire family on our latest cruise. There are so many reasons to have one beyond just the single cruise (like missing the ship or having a medical emergency that requires you to fly home).

  • Bob Davis

    ANYONE not having a passport when boarding a ship is not being very prudent. It’s about the only problem-free ID there is.

  • cjr001

    I hate to have to jump on the “get a passport” bandwagon, but I agree with bodega and Robert: the differing rules depending on where a cruise makes port, and the fact that nobody can seem to keep it straight, whether the passenger or the cruise line itself, is making things far more difficult than they need to be.

    As we see in this situation, the cruise lines simply prefer to pass the buck, taking no responsibility for their own confusing policies and requirements.

    Worse, IIRC, some of these cruises are going to foreign ports. You may be able to get off the boat via the cruise ship without a passport, but if something happens and you miss the boat, now you’re in another country without a passport.

    So, yeah, if the passenger was required to have a passport, then you eliminate the vast majority of these situations. And if you can afford to take a cruise YOU CAN AFFORD TO GET A PASSPORT!

  • James Orth

    I have had a passport since 1996. Even when you could go to countries like Mexico and Canada on a birth certificate, it just made it easier to have a passport. He was told what he needed to have and did not get it. So “NO SOUP FOR YOU”

  • Bil Brierley

    THIS is precisely why I RECORD ALL CALLS in an effort to assure that I
    receive the customer service they promise or THEY receive the training
    they need when they record me! :-)

  • MarkKelling

    Requiring a passport to get on a cruise ship traveling to a foreign country is not making it “harder” to cruise any more than requiring a passport to drive into Canada or Mexico makes it “harder” to travel. I take my passport when I go to Hawaii (OK, it’s not required, and there is no possibility the plane is going to land in a foreign country along the way, but why not?).

    Requiring all cruise ship passengers to have a passport would just make all of these type of issues for the travelers go away.

  • $16635417

    ….he probably had an “emotional support snake” as well. ;)

  • cjr001

    The cruise lines have set up the system to where they try and make it so as many people can cruise as possible, and yet as a result the system is not only as confusing as possible, but the cruise lines take as little responsibility as possible (yet benefit financially in the process).

    That said, I still think this guy (and the numerous cases like it) should get another shot as his cruise, because the cruise lines have set themselves up for this ongoing problem by not requiring a passport.

  • adventurebaby

    I voted no. Holland America told him to get a passport and he didn’t. I don’t understand all these people who travel internationally and refuse to get a passport. Just get a gosh darn passport and you won’t have any of these issues. BTW – I was also born in Germany at a US base (and my father is German born) and though I carry dual citizenship, my birth certificate is a US document, as his would be. There should be no issues with that. He anticipated issues, which means we’re not getting the full story. His story is full of gaping holes and I wouldn’t trust one word of it.

  • SAK

    If he was questioning whether the documentation would be sufficent why not just get a passport and be sure?

  • $16635417

    I like the don’t offer advice statement.

  • TiaMa

    I was going to say – some of the posters have said he had a German birth certificate. I don’t see that in the post. I see he was born to a German mother in a U.S. Army hospital, which would make me think that any documentation would be American, not German.

    That being said, I think it would be prudent of any traveler, experienced or not, to get a passport if they are traveling outside the U.S. just to be on the safe side.

  • $16635417

    Yes! The transcript excerpt does not state, “I was born in Germany, so I don’t have a birth certificate issued by a US State…could that be an issue?” rather he just says he has an original birth certificate. Big detail left out by the OP.

  • Jayne Bailey Holland

    Who in their right mind travels nowdays to another country- without a passport? Before 9-11, travel into the Bahamas from the US only required a birth certificate, and proof of a return ticket. Now- I would never try travel to any other country without a passport. This guy suspected he might have trouble with his B/C — But he did have- in writing that a B/C was enough. When traveling it is up to the traveler to check every countries visa or entry requirements.

  • mytimetotravel

    Why is it that Americans are so resistent to getting a passport? I grew up in England, where it is not a big deal, but here there is a surprisingly small percentage of people with passports, and situations like this kewep cropping up.

  • Raven_Altosk


    Though, last week, I saw someone bringing an “emotional support bird” through security. They kept telling her she had to take it out of the carrier she had it in (kind of looked like a cat carrier), but she was arguing that it would fly away.

    Not too supportive then, eh?

    Fortunately that bit of crazy was not on my flight.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    When American children are born overseas (like mine) you go to the embassy and get a US Birth certificate issued its just like you were still in the states & can be used to get a passport etc. Not sure how he got into the US initially without documentation or with only a German BC.

  • m11_9

    relatively speaking no, but the freedom to travel is severely diminished when one has to purchase a $150 license to travel that expires in ten years. A lot of people can’t afford that, so they can never leave the country anymore, even if they live near Canada or Mexico.

    This stuff has to be holding down travel growth. We shouldn’t need a passport to re-enter the country of our birth.

  • $16635417

    Interesting how he didn’t clarify the response in his chat transcript that the birth certificate indicated he was born in Germany, yet he was detail oriented enough to copy the transcript and ask about birth certificates.

  • Jim

    If they clearly told him to get a passport, I doubt he would have shown up without one.
    i agree he SHOULD have gotten a passport, but as long as the rules are ambiguous, I can see many inexperienced travelers being confused.
    When will the cruise line industry get the message that continuing bad press hurts their long term business?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    What I find irritating is that logically there should be only two possible stances the cruise line would take:
    A) We’ll tell you what papers are required and we’ll be correct about it (and if that advice ends up being “you need a passport”, so be it)
    B) Here is the official office(s) you can contact.

    Instead, they’re in this useless in-between stance where they’re telling the OP “YES, that is totally fine” while according to their story at some other point they’re telling him it’s not at all fine.

  • LadySiren

    No, you’d have a winning BINGO!

  • ctbarron

    I feel for the gentlemen, but this seems like a lost cause at this point. I can’t tell if he got a response from HAL in writing (see 2nd paragraph) or over the phone. If he has written documentation from HAL that his birth certificate is acceptable, then I believe he has a case for a refund. Perhaps he could challenge it on a credit card? I can’t think of any other approaches. The fact that HAL will not refund makes me think there are some missing details here.
    Obviously there are things he should change for future trips.

  • Ian Parrish

    There’s a few missing details here that leave me a bit uncomfortable about the OP’s story:

    1) Where was he going? Was it a closed loop cruise? Was he visiting any islands that require a passport for admission?

    2) What birth certificate does he actually have? Is it German or American, a report of a consular birth abroad, etc? The fact that it was not a simple birth certificate issued by a US state did not seem to be disclosed in the web transcript.

    3) It appears from Holland America’s story that he had additional contacts that the OP has not shared the details of.

    It sounds like the OP had some major doubts about his travel documents, so there really was no reason not to get a passport. It’s even needed these days for land crossings to Canada/Mexico, so there’s less excuse for ignorance of the rules.

    I have to vote that you don’t mediate this one. Sorry to sound mean, but I think this is a lesson learned.

  • pryncesshmm

    My brother in law was able to travel with a birth certificate only, also from Landstuhl Germany. I think it should be mediated due to the fact that others have boarded SUCCESSFULLY with only the same documentation that he was denied boarding on.

  • S E Tammela

    I don’t believe for a second that a grown adult, not born in the country they now call home, would be unaware that “being born elsewhere” causes problems no matter where you need to show ID. This guy knew it was dicey and he rolled anyway. And lost.

  • S E Tammela

    Doesn’t this guy drive? Or hasn’t he ever had to show ID before? Bought beer… opened a bank account… anything? He would have been well aware that people are not familiar with the bit of foreign paper he held in his hand and yet he didn’t think he needed a passport? Unlikely.

  • S E Tammela

    Or the guy was very careful and intentionally didn’t tell them it was a foreign birth certificate. Something smells amiss.

  • Linda Jett_Joanie_IRL_Joanie

    What he, Mr. Purkey says is only partially correct, he leaves out one VERY VERY IMPORTANT WORD. I Quote: ” Purkey: I have the original birth certificate. Will this be OK?”

    The IMPORTANT WORD is GERMAN, He has the Original German Birth Certificate and NOT an American one!!! His omission of the word German leaves all he talks to to believe that he has been badly wronged by Holland America Lines and in all fairness, it is he, Mr. Purkey who has wronged and maligned Holland America Line and the US Government officials at Port Everglades for making sure “The Letter of the Law” was followed.

    Sorry, but no sympathy here. If he’d only added the German to his conversations he’d have been on that cruise…

  • john4868

    @m11_9:disqus Umm welcome to what the entire rest of the world has to do. We’re spoiled because we can travel days without needing a passport. For most of my friends in the UK, getting a passport is considered a necessary document just like getting a driver’s lic in the US.

  • Michael__K

    That’s probably the advice that HA should be giving out when passengers like Mr. Purkey contact them with questions.

    As this story demonstrates, they DON’T give that advice. Maybe it has to do with the cost of a passport (over $200 for expedited delivery of a first-time passport) and their fear that giving the advice you recommend would in fact adversely impact their sales and profits….

  • LFH0

    What I see as the problem in this case–and it is not restricted just to cruises but a problem related to all forms of international common carrier travel–is that while the carrier properly places the responsibility for complying with government immigration requirements on the passenger, it is then the carrier itself which preliminarily inspects the passenger’s documents and it–not government immigration officials–determines whether those documents are sufficient. The carrier’s document inspectors are typically not lawyers, nor can the carrier’s inspectors be expected to be able to properly exercise the duties (and to the extent that it might exist, the discretion) of immigration officials. Yet the carriers are put into this uncomfortable position by countries which impose upon the carriers responsibility to send back any inadmissible passengers (and perhaps even impose fines against the carriers for attempting to bring in inadmissible passengers).

    I think that the typical passenger contract terms probably require that passengers have immigration documents acceptable to governmental immigration officials. That is, if the carrier makes a mistake and states that a certain country will not accept the tendered immigration documents for admission, but in fact that country’s immigration officials would accept those documents for admission, then the carrier might be liable to the passenger for breach of contract. But I don’t recall having ever read any cases in this regard. Of course, this does not represent legal advice to anyone as each situation depends on its specific facts.

    If Holland America has given its “final” response, then really the only recourse remaining is for Mr. Purkey to take Holland America to court. I believe that the contract requires bringing suit in Seattle, Washington (where the limit on small claims is $5,000).

  • Dutchess

    I stopped reading at “I was left abandoned on the dock like discarded garbage as the ship sailed away,” he says. “It was a very disappointing and traumatic experience.”

    Hyperbole much?

    It’s every passenger’s responsibility to have proper documentation. Your excerpt of his chat transcript doesn’t prove anything. Especially if he left out the pertinent information about being born in a foreign country to US citizens.

    I don’t understand how people will spend thousands for a cruise and then cheap out on getting a Passport. The idea of not having a valid passport in my possession is foreign to me.

  • Dutchess

    I think it’s wonderfully helpful advice, since there’s nothing that can be done about this lost cruise. Elmer messed up and didn’t have proper documentation, he obviously suspected there would be an issue used chat to clarify and left out pertinent information (at least from the chat log that Chris shared). Best we can hope for others to learn from his mistake.

  • Dutchess

    This isn’t the cruise lines “confusing policies and requirements” these are international laws that the cruise line must follow. It’s hardly their fault.

  • MarkKelling

    What proof do you have, other than the passport, that you are born in any specific country? How is the border agent going to know who you are or where you were born unless you are personal friends?

    A birth certificate is a worthless piece of paper on its own. All it states that someone was born on a specific date. It doesn’t say that person was actually you. A driver license or any other similar picture ID is also fairly worthless since most do not indicate anything related to where you are born.

    A passport is simply a required piece of travel gear, like it or not. If you can’t afford the cost of a passport (or on of the lesser expensive equivalents) then maybe you can’t afford the cost of the trip either.

  • Dutchess

    I’m sorry, if you can’t afford an additional $150 passport when you book a $3000 cruise, quite frankly you shouldn’t be traveling or should choose an alternate destination.

  • Dutchess

    I agree, the hyperbole in his statements was off the charts! I was expecting this comment from Raven. ;-)

  • Tanya

    After reading the whole transcript, I think that HAL is in the right. I personally would not leave my travel documentation needs up to an unknown individual, but there are those that will. I think the OP was given the wrong advice, but I also think asked the wrong question wrong or at least inadequately explained the entire situation and at the end of the day, the OP was responsible for any and all necessary travel documents. HAL does not make the decision on who can board and who cannot, that is left up to the authorities clearing the ship. HAL wants people on board, they spend money there. They don’t spend money when left at the port.

    I can guess at what happened, the OP told the HAL rep the story about being born in Germany and having the birth certificate, the rep goes to ask the supervisor and leaves out the part about being born in Germany and having that original birth certificate, or neither the rep nor the supervisor understanding the difference in birth certificates issued out of country. Supervisor says it should be fine.

    I will also point out that the HAL rep did say to check on each port and that one port could change the need for a passport. This is something the OP is glossing over in the entirety of the conversation. The contract of carriage also states that it is up to the OP to determine proper travel documents. The contract negates any duty on HAL’s part for any employee giving bad advice.

    Life lesson, read the contract that you signed and agreed to. If you are signing your name to something, read it. If you don’t understand part of it, ask questions. If you do not like what you are signing, then you have the choice to walk away or accept it as is.

    I think the advice was muddled in conversation. I think that the OP relied on the statement of someone without the entire facts. I am wondering if the OP ever went to the state department to check what the necessary documentation was.

    One caveat here, if the OP goes to the state department website and checks for required documents, what does it say? Did he have the appropriate documentation to board the ship? If so, I would go back to HAL since in that case, HAL would have made the wrong decision to the detriment of the OP. If the state department shows that he did not have the appropriate documentation at the time of boarding, then HAL is in the right and the OP did not have sufficient documentation.

  • Tanya

    I don’t think the rules are ambiguous. I think each country has their own set of rules and it is up to us as travelers to see what each country requires. That is not ambiguous, that is just each country having their own set of rules. If country A says you must have passport or US birth certificate, then that is what you have to have.

  • Joe Farrell

    Stupid is as stupid does. Get a passport. you need a passport. You cannot travel by air to or from the US without one. You cannot travel by land or sea without a passport card. I don’t care if you are elderly and on a fixed income and can’t afford to lose the money on the cruise and blah blah blah the usual whine of old people caught doing something stupid.

    I have no sympathy any longer for this – its been common knowledge for a decade that the US has cracked down on documentation to travel. Just because you are old or a veteran or whatever does not give you the ability to not possess proper documents to travel internationally.

  • Joe Farrell

    Carver – c’mon, a birth certificate is no longer acceptable for a citizen to enter the US. So the ONLY two proper documents for US Citizens on a cruise are a passport card or a passport. And what about the Island nations – none of them allow you to enter with a passport card – but they allow it tacitly because a) cruisers leave that day and b) cruisers spend money.

  • bodega3

    In part it is the cruise line issue if their employees can’t tell what is a legal birth certificate.

  • Michael__K

    It’s worth noting that the Cruise Lines International Association — of which Holland America is a member — lobbied the U.S. Congress to create the passport exemption for closed-loop cruises in the first place.


  • bodega3

    I don’t buy the ‘maker is harder to cruise’ argument. If you can afford to travel, you can afford a passport that is good for 10 years.

  • bodega3

    That doesn’t hold water. If you can’t afford a passport, then you can’t afford to travel. The cost is $110 and this Saturday is Passport Day. Get one!

  • Erin

    I agree. I got my passport when I planned a trip to Ireland, but now carry it in my purse where ever I go. I have used it as ID numerous times (last time was to take the notary public test) and have never had a problem with it. Even though a birth certificate is still an acceptable form of ID for a cruise, ever since there was a push to change that, I have always relied on a passport. I think the expense to keep it valid (once every 10 years) is worth it .

  • James Orth

    If $15.00 per year is too costly then perhaps you SHOULD STAY HOME, also when my wife and I renewed our passports in 2006 it was less $$ than when we applied for the original passport

  • $16635417

    And even then there is no guarantee he’d win. Not indicating his birth certificate stated he was born in Germany could be looked on as an error of omission. While Chris states in the narrative that the OP stated the “exact nature” of his documentation, that is not indicated in the portion of the transcript posted.

    In addition, HAL indicates he WAS advised of a passport requirement, and could still have gotten one in time for his cruise. So even with conflicting information he should have been even MORE vigilant in determining his requirements.

    Now, if he DID have the proper documentation for travel at the port, but HAL decided (incorrectly) that it wasn’t…whole different scenario!

  • bodega3

    And look at the mess they created! Just streamline it and be done!!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Read the story closer. He knows that his paperwork is unusual that’s why he took the proactive but ultimately unwise step of asking advice from the cruiseline

  • James Orth

    Dear Joe you are correct! My wife and got our 1st passport in 1996 when you could go most places without one. The reason we got our passport was because it just simply made traveling much easier. It eliminated the questions of our Birth Certificate being original and could the border agent feel the embossed seal on it etc.

  • $16635417

    I agree with not giving out any advice rather than general advice.

    Me: “Do I need a passport to go on this cruise?”

    HAL response: “While not all cruises require a passport, there are many factors determining what documentation is required and each customer may have slight differences in those requirements. These are set by the individual countries we serve and not by us. We require each customer do their own research as this is not a question that can not be easily or accurately answered over the phone.”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The problem is that if you offer advice then you have to ensure that the advice is sound. If cruise ships were willing to properly train the salespeople and be responsible if the advice is wrong then offering advice is fine. Otherwise you have the situation where naïve passengers rely on the cruise ship employee’s advice to their determent.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Like you said, passport cards…

    The point that I am attempting to make is that if someone has proper documentation, whatever it may be, passport card, etc. there is no good reason to deny that person his travel.

    For example, when I fly home to the Virgin Islands, a US birth certificate is sufficient to gain re-entry to the mainland. The Virgin Islands is one of the few places in the Caribbean that you can fly to/from without a passport. It is one of our marketing positions to differentiate us from other Caribbean Islands. It would make no sense for the airline to deny you a flight for lack of a passport.

  • Charles Owen

    You should read the nonsense over on Cruise Critic: “Since I obtained my Eagle Scout Award, served in the U.S. Navy Presidential Honor Guard, obtained a White House and a Top Secret Security Clearance, was Honorably Discharged, and have never traveled outside of the U.S. since arriving here at 8 months old, my citizenship issue has never been questioned before now.” He even brought his Eagle Scout award to the cruise because “Try and get one of those without U.S. citizenship!”. He should know that there is no citizenship requirement for Eagle Scout.

  • bodega3

    Of course that would make sense, but it doesn’t happen with most businesses. A question I have is why did he wait until one month prior to the trip to start wondering about his ID issue? Wouldn’t you make sure you have it clear before making a final payment?

  • Guest

    a birth certificate is no longer acceptable for a citizen to enter the US.

    Except that isn’t completely true. The cruise industry lobbied for — and got — an exemption for closed loop cruises.


  • $16635417

    Agreed. I get better advice from my family owned local hardware store than the stoner at Walmart. I hate to play the “good travel agent” card, but sounds like it may have helped in this case.

  • m11_9

    You all know what a poll tax is? Sure I can afford to pay $15 a year to vote, but its wrong. If less documents could get you back in from Canada or Mexico just a few years ago, it must not have been that big of threat. I say its security theater just as much as the TSA stations.


    Its 135 new and 110 renewal (w/o expedited services), I was wrong.

    What are Euro prices then? I just looked up a few and many are roughly half the price, although UK is nearly the same. But it appears that the EU right of free movement reduces the requirement to an identity card and not a passport. That would surely be cheaper. We lost that when the states balked at REAL ID.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Joe, you are making an assumption that he did not have proper documentation. That part has not been established.

  • Michael__K

    Why would the Cruise Lines International Association lobby for a passport exemption for closed loop cruises if they didn’t believe that passport requirements make it harder to cruise and hurt their members’ bottom lines?

  • y_p_w

    The US government doesn’t issue birth certificates per se with the exception of those born in the former Panama Canal Zone.

    There is currently a document called the “Consular Report of Birth Abroad” (FS-240) issued by the State Department, and there were several previous versions/titles for documents with the same effect. It was rather tough a few years ago because nobody was supposed to have more than one copy at a time. Another copy could only be obtained if one was lost/stolen. They do allow one to have as many copies as desired (beginning Dec 31, 2010) but previously one was the limit. They also charge $50 per copy, when most cities/counties/states are less.

    This document is sort of like a birth certificate. It is one of the documents that are supposedly acceptable as proof of citizenship for a closed-loop cruise.


    U.S. Citizens on closed-loop cruises will be able to enter or depart the country on the cruise with proof of citizenship, such as an original or copy of his or her birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where he or she was born) and, if 16 or older, a government issued photo ID. If the child is a newborn and the actual birth certificate has not arrived from the Vital Records Department, we will accept a Hospital issued birth certificate. The United States does not require you to have a passport. (A Consular report of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State or a Certificate of Naturalization is also acceptable.)”

    Also – “Vital Records Department” is a nebulous thing. My kid was born in a city in California that issues its own birth certificates, and that document is very much valid. Just for kicks I got copies from the county then the state. They’re all scanned images of the same original document, and they’re all equally valid for any purpose. The original passed through 3 levels on the way to the final archive in Sacramento.

  • LFH0

    That Holland America might have “advised” the passenger of a passport “requirement” is the very issue. It is not up to Holland America to specify what the admission requirements are; that is the role of governments. It appears here that Holland America was simply wrong.

    At most it is up to Holland America to deny carriage if the admission requirement of governments are not met. If Holland America wanted to protect itself it might have put in its contract a term to the effect that, “Holland America reserves the right to determine, in its sole discretion, what immigration documents shall be sufficient for passage.”

    So the question to be decided is whether or not the government’s admission requirement was actually met by the passenger with his birth certificate. If the basis for Holland America’s denial was failure to comply with U.S. immigration requirements, and the passenger were able to prove that he did in fact have satisfactory documents meeting U.S. immigration requirements, then it may well be found that Holland America acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in denying passage.

    My suspicion is that the birth certificate was adequate under U.S. law (recall that the cruise lines pushed hard to allow closed-loop voyage passengers to have only a birth certificate), and that the person at Holland America who made the decision to deny passage simply was not sufficiently trained in legal matters to have made a competent decision, and that subsequent events have simply amounted to a “circling of the wagons.” But again, not all the facts are here, and I won’t give any definitive legal advice here.

  • $16635417

    Leaving the USVI I usually present a passport as photo ID, knowing it is more than what is required, but do you even need a US birth certificate at a minimum? I thought just a photo ID was sufficient for travel from the USVI back to the US mainland or territory? (Puerto Rico for example.)

  • y_p_w

    Getting a passport photo (and sometimes the photo gets rejected). In addition to that, actual passport agencies directly handle applications only for rush jobs (which require a steep expedited fee) or on special “passport days”. Otherwise, new applications can only be accepted at a “passport acceptance facility” such as a US Post Office or certain municipal offices that are authorized to accept the documentation. If you search, you’ll find that a lot of people have had bad experiences with the competence of people working at places that do it.

    I got mine from the San Francisco Passport Agency back when they accepted normal applications. Now that I have it, I can use it indefinitely to renew by mail provided I don’t let it lapse for more than five years.

    My child is another story. A child passport (up to 16) is only valid for five years. All applications must be in person at a passport acceptance facility or Passport Agency office. The child must be present and unless certain reasons are provided, both parents must be present. We were lucky enough to have a place open on Saturdays that didn’t require an appointment. However, it was a big hassle where both of us had to produce ID along with photocopies of the front/back of those IDs to send with the application.

  • y_p_w

    Technically there are cities and counties that issue legal birth certificates. My kid was born in a city in California that issues its own birth certificates. We also have copies of the same document from the county and the state. In some states, only counties issue birth certificates. New York City has its own vital records office, and they don’t send their birth certificates to the state.

  • Michael__K

    To be accurate, for first time applicants who want to travel within 7 weeks, it’s actually $207.85 (not including photo costs) for expedited delivery.

    Plus an additional $150 in this case for the OP assuming he didn’t have his Consular Report of Birth Abroad (if he had it, he probably would have been fine to cruise without a passport)


  • Joe Farrell

    Carver, he said he had a birth certificate – thats what he had when he appeared to travel. End of story. If he had a passport and did not bring it? How stupid is that?

  • y_p_w

    He’d probably still have a birth certificate issued by the local authorities.

    In the whole Obama birth certificate free-for-all, there was an image of a birth certificate floating around of someone born at a US Army hospital in Oahu. It was issued by the State of Hawaii, although there were some interesting differences (the “local registrar” was an administrator at the Army hospital and not an employee of the State of Hawaii Dept of Health like on Obama’s birth certificate).

  • Joe Farrell

    Technically, the Virgin Islands is part of the United States – one does not need to go through immigration to fly to the mainland from the USVI – only customs.

  • y_p_w

    Passports are a little bit bulky for guys, unless carrying a “man purse”. For just that purpose, I’ve got a US passport card. It was only $20 when I got mine ($30 now), and if you’ve already got a regular passport it doesn’t require an acceptance fee since it’s handled as a mail-in renewal.

  • y_p_w

    A US passport card would work well. The only issue would be if an emergency flight back to the US is needed. In that case the passport card would serve as proof of citizenship, and a local embassy or consulate could issue emergency travel documents.

  • y_p_w

    Passport card.

    In addition, once you’ve got one of these things, there’s no longer a need to pay the $25 charged for a new application. I’ve renewed indefinitely for years by mail.

  • Daddydo

    You have always said, that if you are not sure, use a TRAVEL AGENT!” I would have instantly said no way. You have to go through a long process to convert the military birth certificate to a legal mainland birth certificate. And there is absolutely no reason to ignore having a Passport when leaving the country. NO REASON!

    Holland America’s policy as is every international tour company in that I have ever dealt with – the traveler is responsible for having proper documentation or boarding / participation will be denied.

    Don’t beg for the customer’s error. I would bet there is more of the conversation that you don’t have.

  • y_p_w

    Well – almost always the birth is recorded by the local authorities, so there still is a valid birth certificate. What this is useful for is another matter (I think Little League Baseball only asks for a birth certificate as proof of age and schools might only need one as proof of age).

    You might try getting the latest document – the “Consular Report of Birth Abroad” or FS-240. It’s legal now to order multiple copies, when previously you could only order a single replacement if your previous one was lost/stolen. Some of the older documents are a little bit odd looking. Maybe the newer ones will look familiar.

    For the most part the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (or any of the predecessor documents) is valid as proof of US citizenship. I don’t know of any agencies that don’t specifically accept it, but finding a municipal employee who has actually seen one is another matter.

  • Daddydo

    CLIA is an organization of the past that has absolutely no power except for the lines. They say no passports, but will offer no assistance if you are removed from the ship in a foreign country for any reason. The traveler is responsible.

  • y_p_w

    If he was born in Germany, then he has traveled outside the US. Just sayin’.

    On the other hand, previously a child was allowed to be on a parent’s passport. I’m guessing he probably traveled to the US on his father’s passport.

  • y_p_w

    Technically it’s an insular area. I thought originally this might have been a reference to the British Virgin Islands, but that’s different (let’s just say Mr Farrow has several bios on the web that indicate place of birth is USVI). They (BVI) actually allow Americans to enter by air with any WHTI-compliant travel document that doesn’t have to be a passport book. They still allow Canadians to enter by air with a photo ID and Canadian issued birth certificate.

  • y_p_w

    The whole idea of a birth certificate as an identity document is that it has to be backed up with a photo ID that matches the name.

    Using a birth certificate issued in the US gets interesting for married women with name changes. I believe they might also want a copy of the marriage license if a married name is on the photo ID.

  • $16635417

    Mine too, but by a California county. Some states defer their birth certificate issuing authority to county and local governments. The main difference is that a state (or county or municipally) issued birth certificate will guarantee proof of US citizenship at birth based on the location of the birth, while a foreign issued certificate “may” not guarantee US citizenship. That’s all contained in a link posted somewhere in the comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/judyserie.nagy Judy Serie Nagy

    If it’s my resonsbility to produce correct documentation and I check with my carrier to be sure I have said docs, I have fulfilled my responsibility. This is a quite ridiculous.situation and he should not have had to suffer the consequences of the carrier not knowing what it is doing. I hope he gets a triple refund.

  • etetet

    If you are a US citizen and leaving the US, do not do so without a passport. Good example is Carnival Triumph passengers. Had the ship gone to MExico instead of Mobile, there would have been a mess flying home travelers without passports! I’ve been a travel agent 30 years and tell all my clients “Passports, don’t leave home without it!”.

  • john4868

    Yes but in this case… He failed to disclose all of the pertinent information and knowingly allowed HAL to make assumptions that weren’t valid. In addition, HAL has documented that they told him to get a passport. He didn’t and couldn’t sail.

  • DavidYoung2

    Part of the confusion is with the understanding of what makes a person a citizen at birth. Chris got it wrong, so the OP may have as well.

    Being born overseas to an American MOTHER makes you a citizen at birth (like Obama, regardless of where he was born.)

    Having an American father and a non-citizen mother does NOT make you automatically a citizen. In short, they must be (1) married at the time of birth or (2) the father must certify he’s the father at a consular office BEFORE the birth. Otherwise, the child basically has to become naturalized

    So if the OP’s birth certificate simply named the father as an American citizen and the mother as a non-citizen, that’s not clear proof the OP is an American citizen. And no, being born on an American military base overseas is not considered born on American soil (it’s leased from the host country.)

  • sunshipballoons

    I’m really sick of people complaining that a cruise line doesn’t give them the right info about passports, birth certificates, etc. If you were getting divorced, would you go to your soon-to-be-ex-spouse for legal advice? No, you’d go to a lawyer. If you wanted legal advice about a contract you were entering into, would you aks the other party to the contract? No, you’d go to a lawyer. Hint: don’t get legal advice from somebody you are doing business with. Either figure it out for yourself or, if that’s not realistic, hire a lawyer.

  • JenniferFinger

    If you’re not sure about what documents you’ll need to go anywhere outside the US, call the State Department and find out-not the airline or cruise line. And get extra copies to play it safe.

  • TFB

    This cruise was traveling to two US territories (Puerto Rico and St. Thomas) where a passport would not have been required. The other stops were in the Bahamas at Holland America’s private island and Grand Turk at the Cruise Center built by Carnival.
    I saw the dialog between Mr. Purkey and the HAL rep and given that dialog, I would have thought that it would have been sufficient for boarding.
    On the Cruise Critic Boards he even explains that at one point the Customs officers came and told him all was okay but the Captain refused to let him board. I think that HAL needs to stand by what what told to him, especially since he had documentation. Secondly, if HAL is going to discredit those who give advice on the phone or by chat, then they should not allow those representatives to offer advice in these matters.
    I think in the interest of good customer service and good will, it behooves HAL to make this right.

  • john4868

    1. HAL claims that they told him he needed a passport. Since nothing that occurred at the dock is in writing and HAL claims it didn’t happen, I go back to the one thing they documented. They say they told him to get a passport over a month before they sailed.
    2. The Eurodam is flagged in the Netherlands so it doesn’t matter where it’s cruising to. He’s legally in the Netherlands the minute they enter international waters and would require proof of citizenship to re-enter the US.

  • wiseword

    Who wanders around with a birth certificate? Or a marriage certificate? GET A PASSPORT!

  • Michael__K

    That’s not quite right. If EITHER parent is a US citizen — and meets certain minimal prior US-residency requirements — then US citizenship is transmitted to the child at birth. Some children born abroad between 1/13/1941 and 10/10/1952 needed to meet subsequent US- residency requirements of their own to retain citizenship.

    See: http://www.greencardlawyers.com/citizenship/citizenbybirth.html#Chart%20to%20Determine%20Citizenship%20Rules

    Granted that if the parents were not married, a German birth certificate, by itself, doesn’t prove that the US-citizen parent met the prior residency requirements.

  • bodega3

    To be accurate, the passport book cost is $110. Then there are additonal fees and depending on where you obtain the passport can affect the final cost. In our area the main post office’s passport ofice is less expensive to obtain your passport than getting it through the county or at a regional post office.

  • Michael__K

    How did such a powerless organization get Homeland Security legislation modified to suit it’s preferences? And why would they fight for rules that result in this kind of documentation confusion?

  • DavidYoung2

    Hmmmm… seems complicated. I can see why the OP was confused. From the USCIS website:

    I am claiming U.S. citizenship through my father. My parents were
    not married at the time of my birth. Does this affect whether I automatically
    acquired citizenship?

    It may. If you were born out of wedlock, are claiming that you acquired U.S.
    citizenship at the time of your birth, and you were born after November 14,
    1986, you must demonstrate:

    That your father was physically present in the United States for 5 years, at
    least 2 of which were after 14 years of age;

    A blood relationship with your father by clear and convincing evidence;

    That your father was a U.S. citizen at the time of your birth;

    That your father (unless deceased) has agreed in writing to provide
    financial support for you until you reach 18 years of age;

    While you are under 18 years of age

    You are legitimated under the law of your residence or domicile;

    Your father acknowledges paternity of you in writing under oath;

    Your paternity is established by a court.

  • Michael__K

    No, the fees I’m referring to are set by the US Department of State. And they aren’t optional if you don’t have an old passport and if you are traveling in a month.

  • elconleyjr

    There is a lot more to this story as a few have noted. Calling HA and saying “I have a birth certificate” may have started the problem. He did have a BC probably from the U.S. Army Hospital at Lanstuhl, Germany and he is a naturalized U.S. citizen. BUT, that BC may not be recognized as an authorized document for International travel. It was HIS responsibility to check with U.S. travel authorities NOT HA. As many have said he should have gotten a passport or passport card. HA would be going well above and beyond by giving him a do over.

  • y_p_w

    It’s up to the State Department to adjudicate citizenship via the laws in place at the time of a child’s birth.

    Some of the rules on how one parent passes on US citizenship to a child are complicated.

  • bodega3

    I don’t quote fees as the full cost varies depending where you get it and that is what I tell cilents who need to apply for their first passport book. The book costs $110 plus fees.

  • Joe Farrell

    TONY – read every single word. The birth certificate is valid as ID to re-enter if issued by the Vital Records Department in a STATE in which he or she was born. THERE is your problem. This is not a BC issued by a state. End of story – exception does not apply.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    $150 passport for 10 years = $15 per year.
    Most people spend more on coffee per month.

  • ChBot

    Not different in Europe : some paperwork is needed !

  • ChBot

    Good luck in case of a true emergency !

  • kenish

    Some random comments:

    A passport really greases the skids…Immigration agents worldwide are government, police, or even military employees. They are often younger people in training, and errors can have severe career consequences in their bureaucratic, chain-of-command organizations (not criticizing, it’s just how they roll worldwide). Unorthodox documentation will get unwanted scrutiny. Who would you rather have sort it out? The agent and his supervisors while you sit for an hour or overnight in an airport “rubber room” far from home (possibly with no access to travel assistance lines), or the passport agency of your home country before you travel?

    There can be a hidden downside with Passport card. Let’s say you’re taking a closed-loop cruise out of Miami that visits the Bahamas as the first port. A PC will be fine…unless a flight delay causes you to miss the ship in Miami. You will not be able to catch a flight to Nassau, because the airline requires a full passport. They have no knowledge or assurance you will actually board the ship in Nassau and must assume you will re-enter the US by air. This actually happened to someone on the Cruise Critic forums…they found out the hard way that flights through the cruiseline and passport cards were not the bargains they seemed.

    By international treaty if you’re denied entry to a foreign country, the carrier who brought you there must return you at their expense. That’s why airlines, cruiselines, etc. check so carefully.

    My son has lived in the same county all his life….when I went to get his first passport, the US Passport Service was very specific that the copy of his birth certificate had to have a raised, embossed County seal. Foreign countries probably have similar if not more stringent requirements.

  • TonyA_says

    Yeah. Remember more than 900 of the 3,000 or so passengers of the cruise ship that lost its engine due to a fire and was towed back to Mobile, had NO PASSPORTS. Such an incovenient truth for many folks here who say the OP needed one.

  • $16635417

    Exactly, obviously he knew his situation was one of those that was a bit more complicated.

  • TonyA_says

    You’re not quite right.
    John McCain was born in Coco Solo Naval Air Station, Panama Canal Zone.
    Obama was born in Hawaii. The citizenship of his parents are irrelevant.
    Clinton signed the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=1080
    A lot of kids were deemed American even if they were not born here in the USA.
    I’m now in the Philippines on the way back to JFK tomorrow (hopefully since there is an impending snow storm). There are tons of Americans born here.
    Many in US bases.

  • $16635417

    If the chat transcript is accurate, I see the OP left out a very important point…an error by omission. He did not mention or press the point that he was born in Germany….at least not in the portion of the transcript posted here.

  • y_p_w

    It’s possible to get a SSN card or DL without a birth certificate. Once someone has some form of photo ID and an SSN card, that’s all that’s needed to do all those things.

    I’m guessing he or his parents have (or at least had) a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or a predecessor document somewhere, even if he’s never seen it since he needed it to get an ID and SSN card.

  • y_p_w

    There are different laws depending on the time of birth for a child born outside the US. The current law only requires one parent to be a US citizen to pass on citizenship. In 1961, an unmarried woman could pass on US citizenship at birth, but not one married to a foreign national. It would be trivial to bring that child to the US and apply for naturalization.

    The law also differed for mothers and fathers.

  • $16635417

    But what do you need to get back to Puerto Rico (air) or St. Thomas (ferry)?

  • DavidYoung2

    Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think John McCain was a natural born citizen because his mother was a citizen. A military base in the Canal Zone is not the United States. It was at that time a leased property. Nor is a military base anywhere considered part of the US unless, well, it’s actually in the US.

    Volume 7, US Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, Section 1113(c)(1) reads, word for word, as follows:

    “Despite widespread popular belief, U.S. military installations abroad and U.S. diplomatic or consular facilities abroad are not part of the United States within the meaning of the 14th Amendment. A child born on the premises of such a facility is not born in the United States and does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth.”

    This would mean that McCain acquired his citizenship through his parents and not based on his place of birth.

  • y_p_w

    The Canal Zone was an outlying case. At the time of McCain’s birth, being born there automatically granted non-citizen US nationality unless at least one parent was a US citizen. In addition to that, there were specific laws granting citizenship at birth for those born in Panama whose parent(s) were employed by the US government.



    Apparently one also lost US non-citizen nationality via birth in the Panama Canal Zone when it was turned over to Panama in 1979.

    Non-citizen US nationality is still possible for someone born in either American Samoa or Swains Island.

  • y_p_w
  • Dutchess

    I haven’t seen any evidence that the cruise line knew it was a foreign birth certificate or not. The excerpt of the chat doesn’t specify whether the agent knew this or not. You can’t exactly expect the agent to read his mind and know it was issued from another country. It’s also a relatively rare circumstance so I wouldn’t expect the agent to ask those kinds of questions.

  • Elmer Purkey

    Gosh, wish you had been there to let us on board then Linda. Actually, I used the G word TWICE in the complete version of my question; “i was born in a u.s. army hospital, in landsthuhl, germany. My father was in the army, my mother is german.i have the original birth certificate which indicates this. will this be ok?” Please also note it was the HAL rep and her “experienced” supervisor who offered the advice that I would not need a passport for this cruise. My original question to her was “would i need a passport, or would a passport card be sufficient?” The complete transcript can be found on the CC post #183 in this thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=37171785#post37171785

  • bodega3

    Yes, there are details left out for us to know what was or wasn’t mentioned. I would expect questions to be asked by the sales rep IF they are going to give out information. Sadly, they shouldn’t give it out and this isn’t the first, or probably the last time a situation like this will come up for a passenger.

  • Elmer Purkey

    Yes! What Joe said!
    P.S.They never told me I needed a passport! They did send me a list of additional questions concerning my birth history, which I answered, presumably to their satisfaction, because shortly after that our travel agent called us saying everything was taken care of, and she was mailing us our boarding passes. I never heard another word from the cruise line until we got to the port.

  • y_p_w

    You guys know what the real irony is. A birth certificate isn’t necessarily proof of citizenship even if born in the US, even though it’s accepted as such. It’s possible for someone to renounce their citizenship, but could theoretically reestablish a life back in the US with simply a birth certificate indicating birth in the US.

  • Elmer Purkey

    Before you vote, perhaps you would like to read the entire screenshot of the convo here:

  • TonyA_says

    Simple Question David – Was Elmer Purkey born an American citizen?

  • TonyA_says

    But your example shows how NOT IMPORTANT it is to have a passport. 900+ of them did not have a passport and they were not stranded in Mexico.

  • TonyA_says

    Tell that to John McCain.

  • TonyA_says

    Maybe this is clearer:

    If You Were Born Abroad, or on a Military Base Abroad
    Your parents should have registered your birth with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that country, and received a Consular Report of a Birth Abroad. You can get a copy of this report from the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Depending on the country, a vital records office in the nation may list the birth.

    If you were born on a military base, and your parents did not register your birth with the U.S. Embassy for some reason, you may have to contact the hospital where the birth took place. You may also try contacting the base operator or public affairs office for the appropriate military branch.

    A Consular Report of a Birth Abroad, also known as Form FS-240, is primary proof of American citizenship for a child born abroad to a U.S. Citizen.

    Good Info Source: http://answers.usa.gov/system/selfservice.controller?CONFIGURATION=1000&PARTITION_ID=1&CMD=VIEW_ARTICLE&ARTICLE_ID=12337&USERTYPE=1&LANGUAGE=en&COUNTRY=US and this http://answers.usa.gov/system/selfservice.controller?CONFIGURATION=1000&PARTITION_ID=1&CMD=VIEW_ARTICLE&USERTYPE=1&LANGUAGE=en&COUNTRY=US&ARTICLE_ID=9694

  • TonyA_says

    What percent of closed-loop cruise passengers do NOT have passports?
    How come there are not that many horror stories?

  • bodega3

    Your travel agent should have told you that you need a passport and insist on you getting one or advise you to go to the nearest passport office with your certiificate and ask them about the validity of it BEFORE you paid your final payment.

  • Joe Reynolds

    Of course the proper answer would be he should have gotten a passport, but if he can prove that HAL representatives misled him then they should give him another cruise. Why was his birth certificate not valid?

  • y_p_w

    It was probably issued by a German issuing authority. A foreign birth certificate is not adequate evidence of US citizenship even if it notes the father is a US citizen. It certainly wouldn’t be acceptable to the State Dept to issue a passport.

    I’d note that neither my info nor my wife’s was verified when that info was listed on our child’s birth certificates. Not sure about Germany. However, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad does require verification of parental citizenship.

    However, the supposed transcript of the conversation includes specific mention of the birth certificate from Germany. If the custom service agent said it was OK then maybe a do-over is warranted. He probably should have taken the original advice to obtain a passport card, but some people want to see what they can get away with. I don’t know why anyone would spend thousands on a cruise and skimp on getting a passport or passport card, but it happens.

  • Elmer Purkey

    Would you mind emailing Chris Elliott the specific details of you brother’s SUCCESSFUL boarding? Thank you.

  • Jenn

    I feel for the guy. Yes, he should get a passport, but he was apparently told the birth certificate would be acceptable, so I think they should live up to that mistake.

    I, too, was born outside the country, but am a US citizen since birth because my parents were both US citizens. Back when I was born (and I suspect possibly when the guy was born) they didn’t do consular reports of birth or all the paperwork to establish citizenship at birth. I had my foreign birth certificate that stated my parents’ nationalities and supposedly that was fine for showing my citizenship.

    However, I when I was around middle school age I started having some trouble using the birth certificate when traveling to Mexico – never anything too bad, but you could tell that the border people weren’t used to this documentation and didn’t like it because it wasn’t “standard.”

    When I was 30 I planned a cruise in French Polynesia and needed a passport for that. You’d think it’d be easy, since my birth certificate clearly stated my parents were Americans. But I had to submit my birth certificates, and both my parents’ original birth certificates, plus a whole lot of other documentation. Then my application was very delayed and I had to get my senator involved in pushing it through, as well as paying an additional $100 on top of the regular passport fee because I’d never been “documented” although I had lived in the US for 27 years, paid taxes, worked, gotten a drivers’ license, etc, all as a US Citizen.

    I guess my points are that it’s not necessarily a simple thing to get a passport (extra time, extra cost, have to get a lot of original documentation that you might not have) if you have this situation. I’m glad I did it, but I might not have if I’d been told that my birth certificate was acceptable.

  • Faoi Run

    I agree with you bodega3. Also consider what might happen if someone doesn’t make it back to the cruise ship and must fly either to the next port or back to the US. From a foreign country, if you don’t have your passport this will be quite difficult. I advise all my clients to have & carry their passports on shore for this reason alone.

  • TFB

    I have no Idea why you are even asking if you should try to fix this. HAL took his money, HAL’s REPRESENTATIVES gave him misinformation, and then denied him boarding. Now HAL refuses to refund his money. To me this is nothing short of stealing. What is the problem here? What am I missing? Holland America has no paper trail of what they told him, yet Elmer does. HAL should make him whole.

  • john4868

    Ummm you mean like one of their excuses to not going to Mexico being that they had 900 people who they were going to have issues repatriotating?

  • Tracy

    I don’t think there is enough information in the story to really make a determination. I was born overseas and I have two birth certificates. One from the country I was born in and one from the US State Dept – which birth certificate was he trying to use? If his parents failed to register his birth with the State Dept/Consulates office at the local Embassy when he was born then I believe he would not legally have citizenship even if one of his parents is a citizen (which was the case with me, only my Father was a US citizen).

  • GK

    I have been researching Europe cruises and was ready to book with Holland America tomorrow to the tune of over $5k. I was googling the company to see what kind of reviews were out there and found this. I think I’ll go with another company. Bottom line is Holland America does not stand behind the mistakes their employees make. Seriously, the loss of the money this man is experiencing is something he will regret for the rest of his life. Yet it’s a drop in the bucket for a large company. Shame on them.

  • PsyGuy

    What bothers me is why someone would take the legal advice of a customer service rep involving immigration, and international travel, that was likey staffed in a call center in another country by local agents who just read from te same database the traveler has access too. We have agencies and actual authorities such as the department of state to answer these questions, and when in doubt, they would have advised he get a passport.
    I would really like to see a law that makes a passport mandatory.

  • TFB

    HAL’s call center is based in Seattle and is not outsourced.

  • http://www.JourneysBySteve.com/ Steve Cousino

    I really wish people would stop considering the Passport Card. It was INTENDED for those living along the Canadian & Mexican borders to have a better alternative for frequent border crossings (like for work), not for general travel outside the U.S. It’s why it’s valid for border crossings -except- for airline border crossings.

    Anyone who takes a cruise without a Passport, which allows re-entry by ANY means, is just asking for a problem to occur and not being able to fly home, which can’t be done with just a birth certificate or a Passport Card (unless, of course, you happen to be starting in an US Territory like Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands).

    And, to put this out there, if anyone hasn’t already, travel insurance provides NO coverage for lack of proper documentation.

    Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA
    http://www.JourneysBySteve.com | http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com

  • http://www.JourneysBySteve.com/ Steve Cousino

    The heck are you talking about, “too bulky”? Mine fits just fine in my front jeans pocket, or or in my under-garment holder.

    Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA
    http://www.JourneysBySteve.com | http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com

  • y_p_w

    I’ve actually tried putting a passport in my front jeans pocket and it promptly started to bend the moment I sat down, especially since that’s where I keep my wallet. If I carry one on my person, it’s going into something that hangs from my neck.

  • y_p_w

    It’s been an ideal document for any number of purposes. I recently mine as ID on a domestic flight. Sometimes I just don’t want security to know my address given the stories of what some have done when presented with an opportunity to steal something. We also have one for our child, which had come in handy when traveling as a lap infant. The main alternative would have been a birth certificate.

  • Meeksworth

    This is simple. A. The cruise line should require passports for boarding. There is not reason not do this, and the cost is minimal compared to the cruise itself; also, it make the whole process easier for the cruise line because there would never be any confusion about the required paperwork.
    B. If you want to travel, get a passport. Averaged over ten years, a passport is less than $20 a year. There’s no excuse not to have one if you plan on leaving the U.S. at any time.

  • Meeksworth

    In my opinion the main party responsible is the cruise line. Even if they don’t want to discourage cruisers by requiring everyone to have a passport, they could give better advice about the paperwork. For example, I recently booked a Carnival cruise and nowhere in the entire process did it advise that I may need a passport or visa EXCEPT buried in the terms and conditions that required clicking and opening a new window to find.

    Cruise lines could save themselves and their customers a lot of trouble by making a highly visible disclaimer such as “Boarding is fastest and easiest with a passport. Lack of the proper documents will result in DENIAL OF BOARDING. If you are uncertain about your documents please obtain a passport to prevent denial of boarding. Non U.S. citizen likely require a visa to visit many non U.S. ports and obtaining these documents are the sole responsibility of the passenger, if you do not have the proper visas, you will not be allowed to board the ship. ”

    The bottom line is really this: the cruise line intentionally hides its boarding documents policy and gives really bad advice to it’s passengers. The cruise line stated that the passenger would be fine with his birth certificate in writing and they should have to stand by that advice by giving a refund or a do over cruise to the customer who did his due diligence. The cruise line should train their employees and change their websites to more clearly state that only certain kinds of documents will be accepted and that if you don’t posses those or are unsure, you should obtain a passport.

  • Michael__K

    There is not reason not do this

    Actually, there is a very obvious reason why cruise companies lobbied Congress to preserve some of the loopholes that allow passengers to cruise without a Passport: if you are a cruise company, and most of your historical passengers and a huge segment of your target market (including last minute deal seekers) don’t have Passports — only 39% of Americans have Passports — then requiring Passports for boarding will deter some passengers and result in fewer bookings and lower profits.

    [And for the OP in this case — assuming he needed a Consular Report of Birth Abroad and expedited processing — the cost of a Passport would have been over $350 (over $35 a year averaged over ten years)].