That Time I Foolishly Forgot Our Family Passports

Posted onLeave a commentCategoriesCaribbean, CRUISE TIPS
Forgotten Family Passports - photo of sad woman with bag sitting by wall with head in hands
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You may have seen the recent news stories about an elderly couple who packed their family passports in their luggage and were ultimately not allowed to board their Norwegian cruise.  

Left at the dock and looking for a refund from a cruise line

Norwegian Cruise Line changes course, offers couple apology, refund, and ‘dream’ trip

A few years ago, I faced a similar unfortunate circumstance while booked on a different cruise line and had a much better outcome.

I arrived at Port Canaveral with my party of four prepared to board our Disney cruise.  Our party included my 4-month old infant son, and a young adult cousin who had recently graduated from college.  Neither the baby nor my cousin had passports.  And, due to circumstances beyond our control, it was not possible to obtain passports for either of them before the cruise.  But, I felt confident that we had everything we needed.  I had fully researched the requirements for a closed loop cruise.  And, I had gathered all of the requisite paperwork in an organized folder ready to present.

Unfortunately, I had been so focused on making sure I had all of the right paperwork gathered for those of us who did not have passports – that I forgot to actually retrieve the passports for folks who did.

Related Post: How To Conquer Family Cruises Without Passports

I quickly developed an intensely sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when the guys taking luggage reminded us to keep our passports with us. I suddenly realized that I didn’t even have mine at all. Both my passport and my oldest son’s passport were still tucked away at home. One thousand miles away. In a lock box to which I had the only keys. And, those keys were on my person.   (In my partial defense, we had recently moved which is why the passports were in an actual lockbox in the first place.)

I proceeded to the cruise check-in desk to see what could be done.  It was a Saturday.  All government offices were closed. The prospects seemed bleak to me.  But, the cruise personnel did not seem particularly surprised or concerned about my predicament.  They conferred with a supervisor.  According to the supervisor,  I should find a copy of the missing family passports or of our birth certificates and have them faxed or emailed to me.  The desk agents could print them out there. And, I would be allowed to board.  

After a couple of hours of frantic emails and phone calls, I managed to get someone who was able to go to my house, retrieve the relevant birth certificates (which were not in a lock box) and scan and email them to me.  The cruise personnel deemed our documents adequate, and allowed us to board.  We were some of the very last guests to board, but at least we made it.

When it came time to reenter the U.S., I explained what happened to the customs agent and presented the “copy” of my certified birth certificates.  He shook his head and waved us through with a relatively mild “tut, tut, tut”.  Under the circumstances, I was happy to make that particular walk of shame.

Lessons learned from this particular mis-adventure:
  • Gatekeepers (whether cruise line supervisors or customs agents) have some discretion to help you work out problems – so stay optimistic.
  • If you have made a packing list or trip checklist, actually take a final look at it before walking out the door.
  • Keep digital copies of important documents readily available (e.g., Evernote, Google Docs, etc.).

Have you shown up at the pier missing family passports or something else important?  Share your experience in the comments.

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