Passport problems, a missed cruise and an unsolvable case

I can’t help Eve Weinbaum. Our forum advocates can’t help her. Her cruise line won’t help her.

But you need to know what happened to her because you don’t want to be the next Eve Weinbaum.

Yes, you. Probably because you don’t think it could happen to you. And that’s a problem.

Weinbaum and her family booked a five-day tour of the Galapagos Islands on a Nemo catamaran. Looks like fun, doesn’t it? Total cost: $7,250, not including a $115 charge for using a credit card. (I’ll save my rant about that fee for another day.)

They booked the cruise three months in advance through a travel agent, and communicated with the agent extensively, including sharing their passport information and expiration dates.

“They said we were all set to travel,” she says.

They were not.

“When we arrived at the Medellin, Colombia airport to fly to the Galapagos, we were told that we could not fly because our passports were only valid for four months,” she says, “Not the required six months.”

Indeed, the six-month requirement is prominently mentioned on the State Department’s Ecuador page. There’s no missing it.

“The people who booked our tour had copies of our passports, including expiration dates, for three months and never told us we were not able to go on this trip,” says Weinbaum. “When I contacted them, they said they knew this rule but had not told us, which we consider fraud. The consulate told us the company never should have accepted our money, knowing that our passports were not valid for this particular trip. Now the travel agent is refusing to give us any refund at all.”

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The terms she agreed to seem pretty clear:

11) Latintour Cia Ltda will not be responsible for refunds under the following circumstances:

Changes to itinerary before or after departure.
Adverse weather conditions.
Mechanical issues affecting any form of transport on the trip.
Late arrival or NO-SHOW of the guest.
If the guest decides to leave the tour early or miss any activities / meals / accommodations during the tour.
The guest is travelling without the necessary documentation to be abroad including passport, visas, or immigration papers.
g. Different prices paid by passengers aboard including special offers.
h. Any other incidents that occur on your tour that beyond Latintour Cia Ltda control.

But as I reviewed her case, I thought I might have overlooked something. We have resident cruise experts and travel agents in our help forum. So I thought it might be worth referring the case to them.

You have to read the thread. It turns out the Weinbaums had booked their airfare separately through United Airlines and that the carrier offered them a full refund. At the time she contacted me, the family’s trip had terminated in Colombia. Talk about drama!

Here’s the postscript:

We did not resolve anything. Your readers were sympathetic but suggested that I contact the company and try to work something out with them.

I did that, and I failed. I also tried to resolve it through the credit card company (I paid most of the cost with a credit card — $5,800 out of $7,500).

That failed as well.

I’m sharing Weinbaum’s case with you because this merits repeating: Your travel documents are your responsibility. Yours — and yours alone.

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It’s not enough to look at your passport to make sure it’s valid. Many countries have additional validity requirements, and you have to be aware of those, too.

I feel terrible for Weinbaum, but I don’t know if there’s anything more I can do. I’m sure you’ll let me know if there is.

Should the Weinbaum's have received a refund for their cruise?

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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 check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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