Did I forget to mention I was born in Canada?

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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group. Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

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.

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)

114 thoughts on “Did I forget to mention I was born in Canada?

  1. He’s lucky they offered anything.  First rule of traveling outside the country — make sure you have a passport.  Period.  End of discussion.  Don’t have one, the then whole mess is on you.  You let it expire with a cruise coming up?  Really?  This is 100% the OP’s fault.

    Next, be reasonable.  Yeah, they didn’t SAY U.S. birth certificate.  But come on, it’s inferred.  Oh, I need a drivers license.  You didn’t say it was to drive a car and not the Disney autopia. 

    He deserves nothing and should be thankful they offered anything.  Take their offer Harry and run.  It’s a gift.

    1. I agree. This cannot be the first time in his life that living in a country different to the one he was born in has meant different rules. This is in a bunch of aspects of everyday life – the OP will have had to jump through hoops in the past to prove his identity – I’m sure he has a bank account, or a driver’s licence. He will have had people squinting at that birth certificate before and known that foreigners have to provide ID in different ways to the natives.

      One does not simply forget their own nationality.

      I simply do not believe the OP was innocent here. It’s disappointing, for sure, but this screams of a denial of accountability on his part. And he knew he was leaving the USA, too (excursions were booked, so he was leaving the ship). Entering another country during your trip? Yep, people need passports for that.

    2. Agreed. Carnival went above and beyond here. I’m sure the agent asked him, “What’s your nationality?” to which he replied “American”. The agent can’t be expected to ask anything more than that. And I’m not sure I would say that the agent gave him “inaccurate information”. However, Carnival may want to revise their script to ask birthplace in addition to citizenship.

      However, since the OP says he discovered it “a few weeks” before the cruise, why didn’t he pay for expedited service (2-3 weeks) to renew his passport?

      Sounds like a rookie mistake made by an unfrequent traveler. Glad he overcame it and had a decent holiday anyway. Otherwise, he coulda stayed and let his wife go by herself. Reminds me of the old joke on one couple’s secret to a long and happy marriage. They go out to dinner every Saturday and Sunday. He goes on Saturday. She goes on Sunday… arh arh arh


      1. I assure you that Celebrity (not Carnival…see how easy it is to make the wrong assumption even though this was spelled out for you in a previous post?) did NOT ask what my nationality was!!!  If they did, I would’ve been on that boat! 
        Do you work for the National Enquirer??? Because that’s something they would make up without really knowing! You obviously know nothing about me, the job I have and the crazy (to say the least) hours I work!!!!! Having been a citizen of the USA for over 45 years and taken several trips to Canada, including one to Nova Scotia, where my wife was allowed entry with a “Sam’s Club” card…maybe then you could understand why I believed the Celebrity agent that I spoke with, and that I needed nothing more. 
        I didn’t pay for expedited service because I was assured that I didn’t need it….people need to stop “assuming” what happened if they weren’t there when it happened!

    3. I agree and would amend your sentence, if I may – “First rule of traveling outside your country — make sure you have a passport that is valid for at least SIX more months beyond your date of departure.” 

    4. I don’t think the cruise lines should be answering these types of passenger phone inquiries with any semblance of authority at all.

      If they just referred this passenger to the proper government authorities and told him he is ultimately solely responsible for determining the documents he needs, then there’s a good chance he would have figured out what he needed to do (express-renew his passport) and this whole mess could have been avoided.  

      This is not to absolve the OP from his responsibility, but once the cruise line puts itself in the travel document consultation business, then it does share a little bit of the blame when their advice is in error.  That said, I think that the 75% discount offer seems plenty fair.

      Part of the irony of this situation is that a Canadian birth certificate makes the OP a Canadian citizen by birthright– and it appears that in turn makes him eligible (unlike Americans w/o dual citizenship) to enter Grand Cayman and Jamaica without a passport.  Seems like the only issue with a Canadian birth certificate is that it wouldn’t meet the requirements for re-entry to the U.S. 



  2. I think minor responsibility lies on Carnival agent for not mentioning US Birth Certificate, and I’m sure they have nationality information on their reservations systems. However, 90%+ of the mishap is to blame on the passenger who didn’t check out the proper docummentations to leave the country.

  3. You can get a passport very quickly shoudl you need to do so, I am sorta on the fence but think he should take some of the pain. Americans don’t rely on passports as much as people from other countries, I accept this; but as it’s so widely accepted as proof of identity and also a handy travel document there is really no excuse not to using one when travelling and crossing borders.

  4. I voted he had received enough compensation. Travelers need to take responsibility for making sure their passports aren’t expired or due to expire. 

    A few years ago, I had to stand in line behind a woman who didn’t want to understand that to fly to France, she had to have a passport. (REALLY? ARE YOU THAT DENSE???)

    She decided that crying and screaming at the ticket agent handling check in was the way to handle this problem. She kept saying that since she was a US citizen she didn’t need a passport to go to Europe. (uhh…whut?)

    Sooo classy.

  5. Yet another “tough” case that really isn’t. The cruise line gave him accurate information based upon the information he supplied to them. The one place the cruise line is wrong is in suggesting that he’s partially at fault – he’s 100% at fault.

    Situations like this are what’s going to cause the cruise lines to stop answering these questions for fear of liability.

    1. …which would be a good thing. The cruise line should have said “the safest approach for any travel outside the USA is to ensure you have a valid passport; there are several options the passport service offers for expedited renewal that should allow you to get a new one in time for the trip – contact them direct for more details”. That’d be far better than offering inaccurate advice based on partial information.

      1. I agree that the cruise lines shouldn’t answer the question and should direct travelers to the proper governmental sites. That being said, the information they offered actually was accurate based on the partial information. You ask the wrong question, you’re going to get the wrong answer.

        1. You ask the wrong question, you’re going to get the wrong answer.


          What is wrong with the question (“Do I have any options other than a passport?”)?

          The OP asked an open-ended question and the agent made some assumptions (which apply to most passengers but not this one).

          1. The agent didn’t assume, his reservation said he was a US citizen.  Did the OP mention he was a naturalized citizen?  Or did the OP assume something he shouldn’t have?

          2. A US citizen does not necessarily have a US birth certificate.  

            And you’re making further assumptions yourself: it’s entirely possible that the OP is NOT a naturalized citizen either.  

            Children born abroad to US-citizen parents do not generally need to go through the naturalization process.

          3. They never have to go through the naturalization process.  They DO have to register the birth.  And the VAST MAJORITY of countries do NOT recognize citizenship based on place of birth.  Citizenship is based on the citizenship of the parents, so if he was born to American parents living in Canada, he may not even be a Canadian citizen.

          4. I wrote “generally” to account for possible esoteric cases such as not registering (though I believe that’s no longer necessary per the Child Citizen Act of 2000 that TonyA referenced).

            Canada is not part of that “vast majority of countries.”   If the OP was born in Canada after 1947, then he’s automatically a  Canadian citizen.

          5. Michael when you book a cruise, certain information has to be provided.  He provided it.  I am not making assumptions, I know what is in a reservation. It is my job. He screwed up by not telling the agent his type of birth certificate as he told them he was a US citizen, which he is, but not on his birth certificate. Every person should have a b/c. You now need one to register for public school and for a driver’s license.

          6. I’ve booked cruises and plenty of other international travel and I’ve never been asked for my location of birth.  

            When people don’t know better they answer the question you ask them.

          7. No, they don’t ask that, but then he probably said he was a US citizen or had a US passport. When the passport wasn’t good to use, then the birth certificate came into play.

          8. The document for a US citizen born as such abroad is currently titled the “Consular Report of Birth Abroad”.  It’s $50 and typically issued at a US foreign embassy or consulate. There were older titles too, shich as “Certified Report of Birth Abroad”.  Right now one can order multiple copies, although previously the State Dept limited it to a single copy.  Replacements were issued only if the previous document was reported lost of stolen.

            That (or previous versions) are specifically allowed in place of a birth certificate on closed-loop cruises.

          9. What’s wrong with the question is that the OP withheld crucial information. You fault the cruise line for assuming his nationality, yet don’t think it his fault for assuming they’d think to ask his nationality. He’s the one traveling, not them, so the onus of providing the information is on him.

          10. It’s likely that the OP is not a sophisticated traveler (to put it mildly) and did not understand that he was withholding “crucial information.”   He relied (wrongly) on the supposed expertise of others.  

          11. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t make a mistake. I’m not suggesting that he did what he did maliciously (if that’s the way it came across, I apologize), but the responsibility is still his. 

            Consider this – he goes into a restaurant and asks for something without pork. Is the server responsible to clarify if it’s because he’s vegetarian/kosher/halal observant so that he doesn’t order the wrong dish? Or is it up to the diner to clarify his specific situation?

          12. But when they said he could bring a birth certificate HE knew he wasn’t born here, and should have verified the situation

  6. Perhaps explaining a caveat to the agent such as…”I am a US citizen, but my birth certificate is Canadian,…blah, blah, blah” would have been in order.

    If you know you are an exception to the norm, mention it.

    Give as much information to the agent as possible and you will increase your odds of getting a more accurate response. Better yet, take responsibility for your OWN life and keep your docs up to date.

    Enough compensation. (Perhaps MORE than enough.)

  7. I agree with those taking the traveler to task for not knowing or at least not asking in detail about proper proof of citizenship.
    That said, it is incumbent on the travel seller, whether a retailer or the supplier, to be certain that the traveler KNOWS what is required by asking specifically what the traveler’s country of citizenship is because they have superior knowledge (or should have).

    1. Charlie –

      I think you missed that his country of citizenship (USA) was DIFFERENT than his country of birth (Canada).  This is the crux here.  I think it’s a tough edge case that was handled pretty well, but +1 to all the comments about having/bringing a passport.

    2. Actually that online advance check below is something *every* carrier that leaves US territory should provide… it would save a lot of grief at ticket counters (“oh you can’t transit LHR without a visa due to your passport” or “I’m a ticket agent and know my stuff and this Irish passport won’t get you into France”) and a lot more grief with missing anniversaries… of course I can dream

    3. When I go to the hardware store/grocery/bookstore, they’re not responsible for making sure I’m walking away with the right tool/ingredient/book even though they (should) have superior knowledge. If I ask the wrong question, I get the wrong answer. Easy peasy.

  8. Things he coulda/shoulda done:
    1. Check passport when tickes were booked.
    2. Pay the extra $$ for expedited passport renenwal.
    3. Accept responsibility for his own problems.

    1. Thank you! Number 3 especially! The other passengers who packed their PP in their luggage on the Carnival cruise should take a gander at that one. 

      So often on here I see people voting with their hearts and not their mind. Everything is the big bad evil travel insurance company, airline or hotel’s fault and they should ante up.

    1. Most likely, he’s not a naturalised former Canadian, but a US citizen born to US parents in Canada (otherwise, the way the story is phrased would be weird).

  9. Most people will do an online advance check in to expedite boarding and getting your cruise card for onboard purchases. This does ask your place of birth and you fill in your details in advance so you are cleared fro any TSA watch lists before.   Surprised that was not used.

    No, he got a good deal and learned a good lesson.  Nothing more is needed.

    Oh and this is Celebrity, not Carnival.

  10. Unfortunately, the OP messed up here.  Not seeking accurate information about required travel documents is a mistake that is often reported on this blog.  We should look at this process as an essential part of making travel arrangements.  It should not be an afterthought.  This information is readily available online and takes just a few minutes to find. 
    I hope Celebrity comes through with its 75% offer for believe me, this is as good as the OP is going to get.
    It is easy to become complacent when one is enjoying living in a foreign country and lose sight of the fact that one is a foreigner there.  Rule #1 is – never find yourself without a valid passport while living in a foreign country.  A passport is not only proof of identity and citizenship, but ensures that one’s country will provide emergency assistance if required.  In some countries it is illegal not to have a valid passport during one’s stay.  Does anyone remember the days when on arrival at a hotel in certain European countries, your passport details were recorded and reported to the local constabulary? 
    Canada maintains at least 15 consulates in the U.S. at which passport applications can be made.  It is also possible to obtain a passport on an urgent or expedited basis (within days) for the payment of an extra fee. 

        1. You are indeed correct.  In fact, it is possible that the OP has dual citizenship.  He could have travelled on a U.S. or a Canadian passport.  In some individual circumstances, though, a U.S. passport could facilitate his re-entry to the U.S. more so than a Canadian passport.  In the short space of time he had after discovering the expiry date of his passport, he had the option of choosing to obtain the passport of the country that could provide the document in the shortest possible period of time.  Over the years, I have encountered people who have established their claim to the citizenship of three or more countries.  They hold several passports and travel using the one that is most appropriate for the destination.

      1. The Celebrity agent was looking at his reservation which states he is a US citizen.  They aren’t mind readers, so did the OP mention his siutation?  The OP screwed up on his passport, so is that the cruise line’s fault? 

  11. He should have looked up the requirements himself. The requirements specifically state that the birth certificate must list birth in the US. However, he implied that he’s a naturalized US citizen, and an original (the feds don’t issue copies unless reported lost or stolen) Certificate of Naturalization is also considered valid proof of US citizenship for closed-loop cruises. If he’d looked it up himself, I’m guessing he would have probably dug out the naturalization certificate instead of relying on what the operator said.


    “Traveling By SeaHow will the final WHTI requirements affect passengers going on cruises?

    U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the U.S.) will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID. A U.S. citizen under the age of 16 will be able to present either an original or a copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by DOS, or a Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport when you dock at a foreign port, depending on the islands or countries that your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruiseline to ensure you have the appropriate documents for the stops you’ll be making on your cruise.”

    Or what Celebrity Cruises says:


    “U.S. Citizens

    Option 1: U.S. citizens that board a cruise ship at a port within the U.S., travel within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship will require a valid Passport, U.S. Passport Card, Enhanced Driver’s License or Trusted Traveler Program Card such as Nexus, Sentri or Fast.

    Option 2: In the absence of any of the documents listed above, U.S. citizens will need to present BOTH an identification and citizenship document from each of the lists below in order to board the ship.

    Identification Document

    Government Issued photo identification cardCitizenship Documents

    *U.S. Government Issued Birth Certificate (original)
    *U.S. Certificate of Naturalization (original)
    *U.S. Consular Birth Abroad Certificate (original)”

  12. As a Canadian, I’m embarrassed by this former Canadian’s actions combined with his inactions.  It’s so un-Canadian to be so senseless and then complain about it.

    1. He had other options, but just took the word of the operator without clarifying what that meant.  He could have gotten an expedited renewal of his passport or maybe even just a passport card.  It’s possible to bring in an expired passport book and get just a passport card as a “renewal”.

      I also mentioned that an original US Certificate of Naturalization also suffices.

  13. Customs also has the following info:


    “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.) ”

    OF course simply having a birth certificate or Certificate of Naturalization doesn’t necessarily mean that one is a citizen. People can renounce their citizenship or get naturalized and lose birth or previous naturalized citizenship. However, it’s still generally considered to be proof of citizenship if there’s not evidence to the contrary.

    1. Before the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative it used to be common for people to cross the US/Canada border freely with just a birth certificate from the US or Canada or sometimes just a driver license.

      A birth certificate is still valid for closed-loop cruises if it shows birth in the US.  A Canadian birth certificate is still valid if it’s a Canadian citizen under 16.  They also have few means to check for renouncement of citizenship with a birth certificate.  I would thinking someone who renounced US citizenship would probably be found out once Customs scans a passport.

      For the most part Americans and Canadians can travel freely, and using birth certificates was a common way to “prove” status. The border agents didn’t particular care to check if anyone still maintained citizenship in that country.

  14. It is mostly his fault, but I think we often look through this from the prism of an experienced travel.  I think most inexperienced travelers would NOT know the proper questions to ask and WOULD take at face value something their carrier said. 

    With that said, this isn’t the 1980s.  You can very easily look up anything on the internet, and he surely should have done that.  It would have taken a few minutes and he would have he realized that he did in fact need a passport. 

    I still voted no on the “enough compensation” question, but for a reason that was not mentioned here.  Had Celebrity Cruises given him even 20% not to mention 75% of his money back, I would have voted yes.  But they actually offered him a discount on a future booking.  While that is something, it will actually require him to spend even more money just to use the compensation (book another cruise). 

    1. But stating you are a US citizen with an expired passport doen’t get the problem across correctly – when he was told he’d need a birth certificate, it should have begged the question as to whether a US or Canadian one.  HE clearly dropped the ball here.  My husband was born in Canada – believe me, it did NOT just slip his mind when enquiring as to what neccessary documents he needed.

  15. I fully agree with most comments.  The cruise line didn’t have to offer anything since it’s clearly Harry’s fault and I can’t understand how he can travel outside the US without a passport and had time to get one.

  16. When you are your own travel agent, you get no travel! Harry would never have had a problem using any ASTA travel agent. We keep up with our client needs. I have renewed a passport in 4 days when necessary and 1 day for the truest emergency. Celebrity made a huge error in offering  Harry anything at all. Documentation is the resposibity of the traveler “alone”! Make life easy, use an ASTA travel Agent. quit thinking that you can do it yourselves.

    1. Sorry travelagentman, blindly saying a travel agent solves all the travel problems of the world is wrong and self-serving. 

      There are times when a travel agency is a good idea, I’ve used them when I wanted an agency that was a subject matter expert on country. I had impeccable service and an amazing trip (even saved my ass a couple times) because of the agency. But, I’ve also taken many trips all complicated trips, some involving multiple continents, that I’ve booked myself. I educated myself, knew what to expect ahead of time and planned accordingly. Perhaps your statement is true for the average or novice traveler but it isn’t always true.

      Seriously though, a cruise is perhaps one of the easiest most novice traveler friendly vacation possible. I mean you’re on a floating hotel and your only responsibility is to have the proper documentation for entering and exiting. It isn’t that difficult. 

      1. As another travel agent, I can tell you that my clients find me most useful not just for when they travel rarely, but for when they need more difficult itineraries.  And booking a cruise without an agent is not a good idea for a first timer.  After all, the most important part of CHOOSING the cruise is to match the cruiseline with the passenger to ensure a good fit.

        1. Right, this was a DIY mistake, but before you respond with “any good TA” comments, who’s to say the Carnival rep is any better or worse than a TA. This is clearly a fault where the OP withheld pertinent information about his country of birth that could have been easily missed by even the best TA. 

          As I said in my comment, there are times when a TA is great, just don’t sell them as the be-all end-all of the travel experience. 

          1. Problems can arise in any point of sale, but with the internet many think they know more than the professional and that they will save by booking directly. The OP lost out by doing it himself.

          2. Keep beating the TA drum but I stand by my statement that this could have just as easily happened with or without a TA. 

            The fact that millions of people travel successfully every year without the aid of a TA proves this is true. 

          3. I’m curious about this, bodega, and I’m only picking on you because you’re knowledgeable.  As a travel agent, would you have asked old Harry here verbally at the time of reservation, “Is your passport valid?”  Or would you have given him written information as to what the paperwork requirements are?  I suspect even a reputable travel agent could not have helped Harry out of his own ignorance.  He doesn’t read his own passport until too late, doesn’t bother to check online for information and doesn’t advise the travel supplier he doesn’t have an American birth certificate when he is an American citizen.  Frankly, he just can’t help himself and I don’t think a TA could unless he demanded to personally check all of his travel documentation.  Is that really reasonable for even a good bricks-and-mortar TA to do?

          4. I usually ask for a copy of a passport, by fax, scan or bring it by and I’ll copy it.  That way we see the name, expiration date, place of birth and date of birth. If there are any questions regarding the information it is dealt with before a payment is made. His place of birth would have been caught at that point.

      2. The main reason to use a competent agent is to make your travel easier and better; and to avoid problems. A good TA would have caught this one. Besides, most TAs can sell cruises at the same price as online. The OP had nothing to lose using a TA.

  17. a) If Mr. Kopy had an expired passport and a “few weeks”, he would have qualified for an expedited passport renewal.  
    b) If you are an American citizen born in another country, then you need to make sure your travel documents are up to date.

    Celebrity went above and beyond.

  18. I wish the cruise lines that depart from the US on ‘closed loop’ itineraries would just changed the requirement to needing a current passport for each passenger.  Their policies cause a lot of problems and this would just simplify things for passengers, res agents and travel consultants.

    1. A lot of people like using birth certificates.  They’re cheap and there isn’t as much hassle in getting them save some states’ requirements for a notarized mail-in application.

      I also don’t know about passport books only. The passport card was designed for this. Then there’s the trusted traveler documents (SENTRI/NEXUS/etc) and enhanced driver license/ID that meets the WHTI standards since they require a status check. All WHTI compliant documents are accepted for cruise travel. The exception made for birth certificates only applies to closed-loop cruises.

      I personally wouldn’t risk losing a birth certificate with the possibility of identity theft.  They don’t have a photo, and I’ve heard of people using birth certificates of others to start a new life.

        1. Certainly it’s useful.  I don’t know why anyone would want to use a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or consular report of birth abroad (or other similar documents).  If a passport gets stonlen, it’s got a photo that needs to be matched to the holder and can easily be replaced.

          Still – there are a host of other travel documents that can be used on a cruise.  You’re going to need a WHTI-compliant travel document to exit at certain ports of call (depends on the country), and a birth certificate isn’t one.

          I’m still waiting for California to issue enhanced driver licenses.  I’m not quite sure why they haven’t done so yet.

  19. Seriously, barring a heavy foreign accent, if you’re calling from a country it’s a perfectly reasonable assumption that your country of residence is your country of origin/birth. Would you expect the agent to mention every law about every country of origin during your brief call??

    Mr Kopy was obviously lax in his attention to detail when he booked the trip, he didn’t even know when his PP expired! Why would you expect the cruise line to take responsibility for something that was essentially a problem of his own making. 

  20. It all comes down to what HE said – if he said his passport was expired to a US agent, and did NOT state he was born in Canada and not the US, it is not something they would have asked, and assuming he was a US citizen, the information was correct.  That is why he should have either given ALL the necessary info, or called the consulate for accurate inforamation.  OR – JUST HAVE A VALID PASSPORT!!!

  21. If you are going to have a passport keep it up to date. If you have a gun keep it loaded. A gun is no good unloaded. A passport out of date is no good. To bad a voter registration card might have helped him proove US citizenship, if he had one. You really don’t want to go out of the US if you can’t get back in. How come 11 million Mexicans can get in and stay.

  22. Got to love the comments!!!

    1.  I’m curious to know how he booked his cruise; i.e., directly from Celebrity; travel agent; or internet site.  It DOES make a difference, in the “customer service” you get.
    2.  Celebrity owed him nothing; plain and simple!  He had more than ample time to get a passport.  This guy was super lucky that Celebrity was so generous!
    3.  Did he NOT read and/or understand his cruise documents?  Yes, there’s a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo; however, the info is there and sadly, it indemnifies the cruise line.
    4.  Not using a passport creates a HUGE problem, if you need to return home early.  You MUST have a passport to fly, drive, train or whatever, from one country to/from the U.S.  A birth certificate at a foreign airport will do you no good.  Even if you can “buy” your way onto the plane, guess what happens when you land in the U.S. at customs and immigration?

    When you read all the comments, it’s pretty clear that everyone agrees that the passenger was at fault.  Further, as most have said, he should have known better.  Traveling can be a great vacation; just don’t forget the details, details, details!!!

    Bottom line: get a passport!!!  Never rely on an “agent” to read your mind to know that you have a Canadian birth certificate.

    1. While it may not be completely by the book, if you can arrive in the US and show evidence of US citizenship that isn’t a regular passport book, CBP at an airport will probably let you in.  They might get pissy about it and maybe detain you, but their job isn’t to keep US citizens from reentering the US just on a technicality.

      I could imagine someone who can’t find a passport (maybe accidentally dropped at an airport terminal) but has other evidence of US citizenship like a passport card or an enhanced driver license/ID.

      1. You won’t be able to board the plane to get to the US without proper paper work.  The carrier gets fined and the are very careful about not following the rules. 

        1. I’ve traveled internationally several times. The only points where I was asked for my passport on a flight back to the US was at the airline checkin counter and when I got to Customs in the US.  That’s the limit of an airlines liability for checking proper paperwork.

          I was just giving a hypothetical situation where the passport is lost somewhere between checkin and Customs. If I have a passport card in my wallet, are they really going to be complete sticklers at Customs that I can’t leave the airport even if I have prima facie evidence of being a US citizen?

          I’m pretty sure that if I lost my passport on a flight to Australia, Australia Immigration is probably not going to let me in without a proper passport book with a valid visa.  However, there has got to be a way to get back when one loses a travel document.

        2. I have a relative who used to be a primarily international travel agent.

          I think he handled plenty of cases where clients lost their documents.

          Here’s an interesting discussion on the subject of possibly losing a passport on the flight back to the US:


          Several responses seem to be that they’ll let you back in if you can really establish your bona fides.  Nobody mentioned passport cards or trusted travelers cards (I think they were pretty new in 2008) but I would think that a passport card, an enhanced driver license (only WA, NY, VT, and MI issue them), or a trusted traveler card would do the trick.  Maybe they’re not used to them at airport Customs, but I’d expect CBP officers to be well versed on different types of ID even if they don’t necessarily work land or sea points of entry where they’re likely to see almost everything at least once.

        1. All the documents I hinted (passport card, enhanced DL/ID, trusted traveler card) are specifically considered proper paperwork for cruise travel.  I believe they’re valid even if it’s not a closed-loop cruise.

          A birth certificate itself would only be good as a travel document for a closed-loop cruise.

  23. It’s a bunch of strange little rules on a closed-loop cruise starting from a US port.

    For a US citizen, the preferred document would be a US passport (in case there is an emergency and a need to fly out). In addition to that, a WHTI-compliant travel document like a NEXUS/SENTRI card, an enhanced driver license, or a passport card is allowed.  Other than that, a document that prima facie demonstrates US citizenship (US birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, etc) would be acceptable.

    For a Canadian citizen, a passport is probably ideal, although there are other documents that prima facie demonstrate Canadian citizenship or at least the right to enter the US (like a green card).  Apparently a birth certificate showing birth in a Canadian province is also acceptable if under 16.

    The whole thing about prima facie evidence of citizenship does ignore that citizenship can be renounced.  Someone born in the US can still order their birth certificate even if naturalized as a citizen in another country (remember the movie French Kiss?).  In that movie the main character went to France on a US passport that was soon to expire, but couldn’t get a replacement in France because she’d already informed US consular officials that she was about to be naturalized as a Canadian citizen and was going to renounce her US citizenship.

  24. It’s a great ID for proving US citizenship.

    I personally recommend getting a passport card.  It’s proof of citizenship that you can stash in your wallet.  I’ve never used it for anything more than ID.  I’ve never used it for any kind of international travel.

  25. You would think that anyone with anything out of the ordinary (being a naturalized citizen would be an example) would always keep that in mind and raise it whenever discussing travel plans. Your story about the Indian citizen in transit was an even more glaring example. That the cruise line offered a 75% refund was as good as could be expected. Of course, the rep who told the fellow that all he needed was a birth certificate needs to be remined that not everyone is a native born citizen.

    1. There was a time when a Canadian birth certificate was good enough to pass through US border crossings and to take a closed-loop cruise from the US.

      I still don’t know why anyone would want to do so.  Some ports of call won’t accept a birth certificate, so the passenger would need to stay on the ship.

      By the way, it’s not unusual for a Canadian provincial birth certificate to be accepted in the US. Most DMVs in the US will accept such a document as proof of legal status.

  26. Stupid is a stupid does.  Dude- you are 100% responsible for ensuring that you possess any necessary documents to travel internationally – you do realize that with your current documents you are NOT allowed into the United States now, correct?  MEaning if you travel home to Canada and attempt to re-enter the US you will be denied entry, correct? 

  27. I’d say this is mostly the OP’s fault, but obviously the cruise company also needs to explain a little better.  Why should he have to assume they mean a US birth certificate?  He’s a US citizen now, not Canadian.

    And let’s not forget the US government, who put together such an “interesting” requirement in the first place.  Let’s just require a passport and be done with it!

    1. The reason for the birth certificate allowance is that people complained it was too expensive to require a passport.  I roll my eyes at that one.  It’s good for 10 years for chrissake.  If you can afford to take a cruise, you can afford a passport! 

  28. WOW! This brings to mind we are planing a cruise with a 2year old. Asked (of Disney) if he would need a passport. The reply was no, just birth certificate if traveling with parents and the info links them all together (I assume meaning parent has right to take child out of the country). Who should I make a definitive inquiry abou this to?

    1. GET


      For crying out loud, if you lived in any other country in the world your child would need a passport.  Just get him one, would ya?  It is unassailable identification in every nation in the world.  

      Only in the US is there this ignorance that the rest of the world is just a ‘land’ at Disney and that every nation in the world needs to simply accept the fact that ‘we are American’s and why can’t I use my drivers license?  

      Get the kid a passport.  It will cost you $75 and save you ALOT of heartache and worry.  

    2. Legally that’s correct. Even a Canadian citizen under the age of 16 can use a Canadian birth certificate for a closed-loop cruise from a US port.  That doesn’t apply to adults.


      Still – getting a passport is a good idea. I just got my kid one (and a passport card too). Very few kids have government-issued photo IDs, which can come in very handly. I’m actually thinking of getting my kid a California ID from the DMV.

      The cruise lines do warn that a birth certificate might not work to exit at a port of call. A passport is the gold standard for travel. Other than that, a WHTI-complaint travel document should also work at any port that Disney serves.

  29. I believe he was luck to be offered an compensation at all. Its always the passengers responsibility to have their paperwork in order. I agree the cruise line should have given him the correct information but they are not the ones who are going to suffer when an incident such as this occurs.

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