Their passports sailed to the Bahamas, but they didn’t

Anne Newman’s holiday cruise from Baltimore to the Bahamas on the Carnival Pride got off to the worst start possible when two members of her party — her brother and father — were left standing at the dock because of a paperwork problem.

No, they didn’t bring the wrong birth certificate. Instead, they had inadvertently packed their travel documents in their bags and checked them.

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Newman wants to be compensated for their denied boarding, and she wants me to help her.

How did this happen? Well, Newman’s father and brother were new to cruising. “This was their first time on Carnival and both their first on a cruise,” she says. No one had explained the them how it worked — that your bags are sent to the ship while you check in.

“Upon checking in the luggage, my father immediately realized that he left his and my brother’s passport and birth certificate in his checked luggage,” she remembers.

The family began searching for the luggage frantically, with her brother and father waiting in the boarding area, and the rest of the family looking in the vicinity of their cabin for the bags with their paperwork. They asked Carnival for help, but even its employees couldn’t track down the luggage on time.

The ship departed without them.

She adds,

After the ship left the port, within 30 minutes, I found the missing luggage with vital documents on a trolley sitting idly on the cabin room floor by the elevators with other luggage.

It seemed that every cabin had luggage left outside their door while the luggage that was most needed was not located by staff but by myself shortly after departure.

My entire family was angry, frustrated, and incredibly sad for the family members that were left behind on what should have been an epic Christmas vacation. My father and brother were unable to board the ship to prove their legal status even though their luggage was held captive on board the ship with their passport and birth certificate inside the luggage.

There were many tears and angry words exchanged and the cruise was ruined.

But all was not lost. Newman’s family found a last-minute airfare from Baltimore to Orlando, the next port of call, and the two missing family members were able to rejoin them for the Christmas cruise. But fixing the mess cost more than the original cruise.

“It was a Christmas nightmare,” says Newman.

She wonders why Carnival couldn’t post signs in the luggage check-in areas, warning passengers not to pack their passport or birth certificate in their checked luggage? Why couldn’t the bags be found sooner? And why couldn’t the cruise ship allow them to board, and then show their documents after they were found?

Newman wants either a refund or some form of compensation for the “heartache and mental, emotional, and financial trouble which ensued on this trip,” but Carnival has refused. She sent the company an email, to which it hasn’t responded yet, and followed up with a phone call, in which she was told there were “no exceptions” to the company’s document requirement.

Carnival turned down her request for a refund or credit.

I feel for her, but I’m not sure if I can help. Her brother and father made the mistake of checking their passport and birth certificate with their luggage, and although Carnival could have made more of an effort to find their bags, it was under no obligation to find the luggage or let the family members without passports or birth certificates board the ship.

I agree with Newman that a cruise line should have special procedures in place for passengers who are temporarily separated from their passport. Problem is, how could Carnival have known that their documents were valid? Also, since her father and brother eventually boarded the ship and took the cruise, how would they be entitled to a refund?

I don’t know if this trip can be saved, but I’m not opposed to trying. If nothing else, it’s an important lesson learned for anyone who is about to set sail: Keep your passports close.

(Photo: cali4nia dreamn23/Flickr)

128 thoughts on “Their passports sailed to the Bahamas, but they didn’t

  1. Having flown many times before (domestic and international), I can’t think of any reason why I’d ever pack any kind of ID or travel documents in my luggage.  My photo ID goes right in my wallet.  I have a passport card, and that also goes in my wallet.  If I carry my passport on me, it goes in a neck wallet.  My wife prefers putting all her ID/documents in her purse, but it always remains with her.

    Nobody with a lick of sense should ever place travel documents in luggage.  It should always be on the person.  The first thing I do before I leave is check my travel documents and make sure I have the right ones.  Then I stash them in the assigned places on my person.

    I would also note that I like having both a passport and passport card.  The passport card is proof of citizenship should one need to enter a US embassy or consulate after losing a passport, and can be used to return to the US on a cruise.  I like keeping my passport in a separate place, because it might come in handy if my wallet is lost or stolen.

    1. Just to add… (in the last decade) I haven’t stayed at a hotel overseas where they did not ask to see my passport. In Italy, I believe they even photocopy them. I remember taking a river boat cruise in Provence (within France only) where they required us to give them our passports. Why would anyone assume that you can go anywhere outside the country without showing one’s passport nowadays? 9/11 changed everything in travel.

      1. I won’t be giving anyone my passport and the hotel in London that wanted to photocopy mine was told that they were not allowed to.  I told them they could see it and that should certainly be good enough.  They accepted my argument fortunately.  This business of copying vital information is unacceptable.

          1. Have to agree with Bill.  That’s how my identity got stolen – allowed a doctor’s office to make a copy of my ID.  No one gets to copy my ID any more.  Not paranoid – burned.

          2. It can be required if you fill out an I-9.  An employer can require that a photocopy be made of any document submitted.  The photocopying of IDs has to be consistent company policy, but if they choose to do it, they have to do it for all hires.  When I got my kid a passport, my wife and I were required to submit photocopies (front and back) of the photo IDs that we showed to the acceptance agent.

            I’ve dealt with some government agencies, and photocopying of IDs is part of doing business.  Also try applying for a loan without submitting ID to be copied.

            Now the one thing that I’d never submit is an actual birth certificate unless it was for a passport.  Puerto Rico used to have a culture where every school or youth program (like ballet teachers) would collect birth certificates and keep them on file – even after the kids were gone.  They’ve suffered lots of thefts of the certificates, where they would be sold on the black market and used for identity fraud, that they’ve invalidated 100% of their older birth certificates and only ones issued after July 2010 are considered valid.  I don’t know how common it is, but I’ve also heard of some youth sports programs holding on to birth certificates, where some coaches might even casually carry around certified birth certificates on a clipboard without much thought to what happens if they’re misplaced or forgotten.

          3. Do you go online – #1 way to get your ID stolen.   When there are requirements for international travel, you just need to learn to deal with it.

          4. Actually I believe there was a story here last year that actually read that online was down the list of places wehere information gets stolen. the internet is relatively safe for people as compared to pretty much everywhere else.

          5. My brother constantly attends seminars on ID and data security as part of his job.  Online is pretty far down the list…”dumpster diving” is #1 so shred your docs at home and work.

      2. I have travelled a lot in Europe over the past 5 years. The only place I was ever asked to show my passport was in the Czech Republic at an out of the way village.  I have always expected to be asked for it, just like in the movies, but it never happens. 

      1. I got mine less than a year after they became available. I just got one for my kid.  They’ve made a few sensible changes.  They’ve got more security codes on the front and back now.  Mine actually had my name and several bits of information printed right where the hologram is located.  It’s a bit hard to read and doesn’t show up well on photocopies.  My kid’s passport card has all the name and other stuff offset a little to the right so that it’s not blocked by the hologram.

        The following is what the original layout looked like.  You can see where part of the given name, the M for male, place of birth, and issue date is obscured by that “USA” hologram.

        I really like using this for routine stuff where I need a photo ID. A few times I’ve had store clerks say it was cool, and one bank teller said that she’d never seen one before, although she knew what it was because tellers are trained on different types of IDs.

    2. I guess Carnival could have allowed them to board but, if they couldn’t produce the documents by the time they docked in Orlando, they would have to disembark.  It appears the first leg was Baltimore to Orlando, so no passport would be needed up to that point.

      1. TSA will not allow the ship to sail without all passengers having been properly processed including providing the necessary identification.  A passport was necessary identification for this cruise.

        1. Do you need a passport to catch the Staten Island ferry? I’m assuming not – in which case, what’s the legal difference between getting that boat, and getting this boat from Baltimore to Orlando?

          (update: ah, OK, Jones Act. Nothing to do with TSA, but since the ship is non-US registered, if the passports failed to show and Carnival had to put the boys ashore at Orlando, they’d be fined for illegally transporting passengers within the US on a foreign vessel.)

      2. You are also in violation of the law if you boarded in the US and disembarked in the US without making a foreign port of call in between — and no cruise line should have to pay for a fool’s error!

  2. Is it the cruise line’s document policy, or the State Department’s? I just don’t see what is accomplished in blaming the cruise line for not locating a checked bag prior to departure when there were 2,000+ other passengers also checking bags and boarding. The OP isn’t saying the cruise line didn’t try, just that the cruise should be responsible? And then saying:

    No one had explained the them how it worked — that your bags are sent to the ship while you check in.

     Really? When you’re voluntarily separated from your bag you should expect to see it again before you’re on board? And would a sign reminding passengers not to check their passports in the check-in area have helped when she says this:

    Upon checking in the luggage, my father immediately realized that he left his and my brother’s passport and birth certificate in his checked luggage

    I just don’t see what’s to mediate. A passenger made a mistake, the cruise line was not able to help resolve the issue prior to departure, the passenger corrected the mistake by meeting the ship at the next port. Why shouldn’t the passenger pay the cost the getting to the next port, and why should the cruise line?

  3. I’ve never been on a cruise, but I’m not sure I’d have known not to put my passport in my bag before boarding – my assumption before reading this piece was that a cruise worked like being a foot passenger on an international ferry, where you bring your own luggage on board and aren’t ever separated from it.

    When you board an international aircraft, you have to present your passport *at the same time as* you’re separated from your hold luggage, at the check-in desk, making it impossible to check it in by mistake. This strikes me as something that cruise lines would be sensible to adopt.

    1. Cruiselines offer a baggage check right at drop off, as you typically need to wait in long lines to actually check-in and no one wants to haul suitcases thru that long, trust me. I would venture that these people aren’t only new to cruising, but infrequent travelers as well. The fact that angry words were exchanged is telling. Angry at who? For what? Check-in is one of the busiest times on a cruise. All personnel are in hyper-mode making sure everything is ready. And even though they say your baggage may not make it to your room until the evening, you bet people will complain if it’s not there within the hour. And to find ONE piece of luggage amongst THOUSANDS is akin to needle in a haystack. Yes, it’s really disappointing. But where did the OP’s family expect the luggage to go once they turned it over? If they couldn’t find it (and they knew what it looked like), how could they expect the porters to? 

      I recently got a new passport but the visa I needed to exit the country was in my old passport. I realized I needed it when I got to the airport. I missed my flight and had to pay for another one, but the only I had to blame was me… (OK, and also my housekeeper who tried to rush to the airport with my old passport but got there 7 minutes too late…)

    2. You’d think that affixing big paper tags to your bags and handing them to burly guys at the curb would have been a clue that you are about to be separated from your luggage.

      Unlike on a flight, thousands of passengers (with LOTS of luggage) need to be checked in VERY fast, many of which cannot handle their own luggage.  Combining luggage hand-off and passenger checkin would be untenable because of the complete chaos of well over a thousand people trying to shuffle their bags through lines in a space that is often cramped.  (Especially if you arrive early… where would you PUT all the people if they still had their bags?  Unlike a flight, checkin can’t even begin until the ship has been completely unloaded from the last trip.  It’s a lot easier to pile the bags in the warehouse while the passengers wait separately in the waiting room for things to start.)

      1. I’m assuming that if you turn up at a place of dockish mayhem, and burly guys more or less immediately walk off with your luggage, it’ll be a few seconds before the alarm bells start ringing. 

        Yes, of course they shouldn’t have packed the documents in their luggage – all I’m saying is that the system airlines use makes it impossible for naive/novice travellers to make this mistake, and failsafe systems are better than ones which aren’t.

        I’m confused on your final point – why can’t checkin even begin until the ship has been completely unloaded? Air passengers can be checked in, security cleared, and waiting at the gate before the incoming flight has even landed – I don’t see why the status of the vessel would have any relevance here. If you’ve got a waiting room, it makes no odds whether the people in it are checked in, security cleared and awaiting boarding or not.

        1. Many cruise terminals use the same floor space for checkin as they use for arrivals/customs/baggage claim.  Space at many ports is at a premium, and with one “flight” a day, it’s wasteful to have separate pre-checkin waiting, checkin, post-checkin waiting, customs, and luggage claim.

          Even if that weren’t the case, trying to get 3,000+ impatient people to board down two (slow) gangways in an orderly fashion after they’ve been stewing in a waiting area would be pretty much impossible.  It’s a lot easier to sort them into a couple dozen checkin lines and then stream them right on to the ship as they finish that process.  As a result, checking doesn’t start until the ship is ready to board.

    3. Since your luggage is dropped off with handlers BEFORE you check in, clearly you don’t have your luggage with you when boarding.  And would you have put your ID in your checked luggage when flying?  Don’t think so.  This was just an instance of foolishness, and no one else needs pay for his mistake.

  4. This is a difficult one….carnival is a cruise line that tends to cater toward first time cruisers so they really should should much more courtesy to first time travelers with regards to documents.  This really isnt hard in this day and age.  Im thinking when you book your cruise they could send an email memo regarding what you should have with you..not pack.  There should be other controls on this when you are about to check bags either with signage or people telling you.

    1. They do.

      As you prepare for your “Fun Ship” vacation, please keep in mind that proper travel documentation is required at embarkation and throughout the cruise. Even though our guests may have completed registration using FUNPASS, it is still necessary to bring all required travel documents. Please check with your travel agent and/or government authority to determine the travel documents needed for each port of call. Any guest without proper documents will not be allowed to board the vessel and no refund of the cruise fare will be issued. Carnival assumes no responsibility for advising guests of immigration requirements.

      1. None of the information in there makes it obvious that you can’t put the documents in your luggage – just that you have to bring then.

        1. ALL guests need proper proof of citizenship in order to travel and failure to present a valid document at check in will result in denied boarding and no refund will be issued.

          1. Yes, he has proper documents. But he was not smart enough to read the Carnival website and keep the documents on him. And the people cruising with him that had experience didn’t tell him to keep them with him. So the OP has no case to whine about this at all. I feel bad they had to spend extra money but really? Take some responsibility for pete’s sake.

          2. Then read the contract of carriage…

            (c) Proper travel documentation and eligibility to travel is required
            at the embarkation and throughout the cruise. In addition to
            immigration and customs requirements, the U.S. government and others
            place restrictions on the carriage of guests whose names appear on
            government watch lists or who are deemed legally ineligible to travel.
            It is the guest’s sole responsibility to ensure his/her legal
            eligibility to travel and to bring and have available at all times all
            required travel documents. Guests are advised to check with their
            travel agent or the appropriate government authority to determine the
            necessary documents and travel eligibility requirements. Carnival may
            cancel the booking of any guest who is or becomes ineligible to travel
            for any reason, or who is traveling without proper documentation. Under
            these circumstances  the guest will not be allowed to board the vessel
            and no refund of the cruise fare will be issued. Under no
            circumstances shall Carnival be liable for any costs, damages or
            expenses whatsoever incurred by any guest as a result of such
            cancellation or denial of boarding.  

    2. As TonyA wrote, it is disclosed on the Carnival website.  It is my guess that they purchased the cruise directly from Carnival than buying it from a travel agent.  A professional travel agent would have mentioned the documents to the members to in the party.  They could have spent the same amount of money for the cruise.

    3. Right, so now Carnival should be responsible because they should predict the actions of every noob traveler who makes a mistake?? Seriously?? 

      How about, every time a noob traveler forgets something important at home, Carnival  just hand out stuff from the shipboard shops? How about every traveler who doesn’t bring enough money, should they be entitled to free drinks? No, because everything I just said is as equally ridiculous as what you suggested. 

      1. Airlines do this…why can’t cruise lines. They send you an email remind you of your trip. In nice large letters you tell them please make sure you have I’d and passport with you.

        1. This wouldn’t have helped in this case, if you’re dumb enough to PACK your passport and ID then no amount of nurse-maiding is going to help you. 

          “There’s no accounting for stupid”

  5. Just the fact that the father and brother were the only ones whose passport were packed in their checked luggage while the rest of the family didn’t, proved that the family themselves didn’t bother to help and inform each other about the necessity of having one’s passport with them for checkin and boarding. Why should anyone else care more about them when they themselves apparently didn’t? I voted NO.

    1. Exactly! Why didn’t the family provide a “sign warning passengers not to pack their passport or birth certificate in their checked luggage” to their own brother and father?

      Sheesh, it’s a crummy turn of events.  I would be absolutely ticked — at myself — if it happened to me.  But never let your passport go anywhere that you don’t!  Ever!

  6. I have to say no. I was a first time cruiser myself, and I researched everything I could about what documents I needed and how the procedures at the port worked. The information is out there. The “first time” excuse doesn’t work. And it sounds like only dad and bro were first time cruisers. Why didn’t the rest of the party, who I assume have cruised before, tell them what to expect?

    1. Probably because they, like us, wouldn’t believe anybody could be so stupid as to keep their passports in their checked luggage.

  7. Maybe the cruise line should have a sign reminding you to keep your travel documents with you.  And I do hope that Carnival actually did try to look for the luggage.  But in the end it’s the passengers responsibility, not Carnivals.  The best I could see Carnival offering is a one night credit towards a future cruise for the time they missed. 

  8. I feel for these people, but it’s no different than traveling abroad by air.  It’s the cardinal rule of international travel in any form to keep your passports on your body!  

  9. Since I have become leary of letting anything I absolutely need or cannot easily replace out of my hands when I travel, I would have had my tote bag with my camera, passport, wallet, prescriptions and a change of clothes with me even if I was assured my bag would be at my room within a few hours.  Better to plan to cope with a problem than to have one.  I assume everyone is honest but leaving bags outside a cabin door is not secure, why trust anything critical to that sort of care. I have often wondered if my approach did not make me more vulnerable to theft since anything of value would obviously be in the bag I carry closest to me!

  10. If you can’t remember to keep your passport on you at all times, you’re too stupid to leave the country.

    That said, I was ALMOST sympathetic until I read this: “heartache and mental, emotional, and financial trouble which ensued on this trip,”

    Cry me a river, lady. Your party screwed up. You’re lucky they were able to join the ship later. Sheesh. Enough with the “mental and emotional trouble.” 

    People, if you are this fragile, don’t travel. Do the rest of us a favor and stay home.

    1. Raven, I have to admit, your wonderful comments are better than drinking coffee in the morning. They give me a stronger jolt. Thanks.

    2. Seriously. “heartache and mental, emotional, and financial trouble which ensued on this trip,”

      I rolled my eyes so hard at this I almost sprained them. I mean yea, it undoubtedly cost them money. Expensive lesson to learn to make sure you read everything and use your common sense.

    3. I couldn’t agree more. Having your travel documents on your person is such a FUNDAMENTAL rule of travel it’s rather hard to believe they didn’t know better but to then turn this around and blame it all on Carnival is just wrong on so many levels. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS!

      The “our [Christmas] cruise was ruined” hyperbole as well as the “heartache and mental” anguish is such a pathetic attempt at an emotional ploy it makes me even less sympathetic. 

  11. Sometimes the steps people will go through to not accept responsibility for their own actions amazes me.
    Most of your group knew you needed your passports. You either didn’t tell your dad or he forgot. Either way that’s not Carnival’s fault. They then did the good customer service thing and attempted to find the bag among the thousands waiting to be delivered but couldn’t.
    Now you blame Carnival and want them to pay for your mistake. Sorry but I don’t see where Carnival had any of the blame on this one.
    Accept responsibility for your own failures and move on. Don’t waste Chris’s time.

  12. 1) Who EVER puts travel documents in checked luggage?  They go in my wife’s purse, my pocket, or what we have come to refer to as The Sacred Silver Folder; a plastic folder that holds our plane itinerary, trip insurance documents, hotel reservations, cruise reservation, etc.  It never leaves our person until we plop down in the cabin.
    2) You can’t blame Carnival for not finding the bags in time.  There are literally thousands of bags to be sorted.  And even after sorting, until they are unloaded from the cages, they simply CAN’T be sorted through. The bags were found near the elevator not because somebody found them and set them aside, but rather likely because that is where they were going to end up as the next step in luggage distribution.
    3) A Refund?  As was pointed out in the article, except for the fun-filled Baltimore to Florida slog, nothing was missed.
    4) What did they think was going to happen when big paper tags were affixed to their luggage and it got handed to some big burly guys at the curb?
    5) No, some sort of “provisional” boarding wasn’t going to work.  If the documents never showed up, they’d have to be ejected from the ship in Florida, causing “Jones Act” problems.

  13. Her brother & dad made the error. It was not Carnival’s responsibilty.
    Having said that Carnival could have let her dad & brother aboard WITH A SECURITY OFFICER to confirm their papers were in their luggage. With that no harm no foulup

    1. The problem with escorting them aboard is that oftentimes the luggage doesn’t complete sorting until hours after sailing.  During initial loading, the bags just go into gigantic piles (sorted by deck, which can be HUNDREDS of stacked bags in a cramped place) in back hallways and compartments.  The bags are shuttled to the decks one elevator-load at the time, where the bags in that particular batch (which could be any cabin on the deck) get sent to rooms.  If their bags were at the bottom of the pile and turned out not to have the passports, they’d be on the ship with no documentation and they would need to be ejected in Florida, which causes expensive legal hassles for the cruise line.

      1. Someone mentioned that fines can be issued to the cruise lines for allowing people on board without proper travel documents.

  14. Wow are they lucky the first port was Orlando and Dad and Brother had the opportunity to catch up! Be grateful. 

    Lesson learned. Don’t ruin the memories of the entire trip with such anger. “It was a Christmas nightmare”…Stop it. It was NOT. You were all together.  It may have cost more than planned, but they were together for their “epic Christmas” celebration. 

    And next time, help your family BEFORE the trip, so you aren’t so crabby AFTER.

  15. Sorry folks, personal responsibility.  To bad, so sad!  It’s unfortunate but everyone should know to keep their IDs on their person. 

    Carnival can’t be held accountable for the cruiser not knowing a well published requirement.

  16. Okay, I’ve never been on a cruise. But why would someone need to show a passport to travel from Baltimore to Orlando?

    1. Also, I assume that no one will be allowed to disembark in Orlando since that ship is registered in Panama. IMO, allowing passengers to board in Baltimore and disembark in Orlando would violate the Jones Act (cabotage rules).

    2. I know the article says that the next port of call was Orlando, but that’s just not possible.  It could have been Tampa (2 hours away) or Port Canaveral (1 hour away), but not Orlando, which is landlocked.

  17. We went on our 1st cruise last year, and even though we are frequent fliers, the whole checking in process was confounding and confusing. I honestly never expected to be separated from my luggage since I’m used to always carry-on on flights. We tagged all of our bags and backpacks because it looked like we were supposed to, but weren’t 100% sure why since we figured we had to haul them to the cabin ourselves. Then once we figured out they haul them we decided to let them haul everything (which would have included our passports), but then we learned we would board but not be able to get into our rooms for 2 hours so we kept our backpacks, which had our passports.

    I can see in the confusion of which line do we stand in, what do we do, that you could easily send your passport in your “checked” luggage. However, saying that, it seems like the cruise line did attempt to help before sailing and that it really can’t be held responsible.

  18. It does not seem correct to mediate somebodies stupid actions. Oops happen and you pay for it! A good ASTA travel agent would have told them not to pack their documents. You do it yourself, you pay dearly for your actions.

  19. So why didn’t their Travel Agent tell them to keep their important papers in their carry-on luggage? Oh, they probably didn’t use a travel agent. “Without a Travel Agent you are on your own!” No mediation to save stupid passengers is necessary.

  20. “heartache and mental, emotional…trouble”
    Really?  They made it to Orlando in time to go to Bermuda with the rest of them and the rest of the gang anguished over it?

    Rule number 1 as a traveler – never pack your identification and/or travel documents in your suitcase.  And given these two were new to the cruising life, why didn’t someone else in the group make sure their loved ones knew what should be done?

  21. I was shaking my head throughout reading this story.  I don’t travel much but I’ve known since I was a kid to keep important things such as ID, boarding passes, medication, etc. on you at all times.  With me being a purse carrying woman, its a no brainer…. just toss it into my purse.  My husband either gives me his stuff to carry or puts it in his pant pocket.  The part where she asked why they couldn’t post warning signs to not leave important papers in checked baggage made me laugh out loud.  I thought that was common knowledge but apparently not.

    If she and her family took responsibility for their obvious mistakes which were in no way Carnival’s fault (Carnival didn’t pack their luggage; they did) I may be more sympathetic.  Reading these kinds of stories makes me so angry as I see the sense of entitlement and coddling go up and up.  To the people who voted yes, I would like to see the reasoning behind it.

    1.  To the people who voted yes, I would like to see the reasoning behind it. 

      They might be the same people who think a Carnival Cruise to Bahamas is an epic vacation.

    2. The OP’s father and brother clearly didn’t purposely separate themselves from their documents.  They are human and they made a mistake which they quickly realized on their own and sought desperately to correct.  Sure, the mistake was their “fault.”  And I’m sure that none of the posters here would ever have a brain cramp like that even once in a million unfamiliar situations in unfamiliar places.

      I do place a little blame on Carnival for having what appears to be a problematic boarding process.  Just from a security standpoint, I don’t understand how they can agree to take anyone’s bags onto the ship without even verifying that they are on the cruise.  From the standpoint of passengers separated from their documentation, I’m willing to bet that these passengers aren’t the first.  And without any process changes I’m sure they won’t be the last.

      1. They have TAGS on the luggage which are cross-referenced to the guests onboard.  No tag, you’ll never see that luggage.  That’s why you NEVER put your travel ID in your CHECKED baggage — on a ship OR a plane!

        1. How does one get a luggage tag and where does the guest information on the tag come from?  Is it potentially handwritten at the baggage drop-off point?

          If the luggage is successfully cross-referenced, but the passenger never boards (and there are no relatives to take custody of it), what happens to the luggage?

          If the luggage is not cross-referenced, where does it go?

          At an airport, how would you leave your travel ID in checked baggage even if you wanted to?  I suppose it could happen with a gate checked bag or with the bag of a travel companion who checked in separately.  The point is it would be pretty hard to do.  It helps to have an idiot-proof process in a setting where you have thousands of often sleep-deprived, distracted people going through an unfamiliar routine.

          1. For those that haven’t cruised on Carnival, the luggage tags are printed and mailed to you along with your cruise tickets.

            And it’s impossible to make anything idiot proof because idiots can be so ingenious.

          2. Just did a search and found this:

            Q. What if I do not print luggage tags?

            A. You have the option to carry your luggage onboard with you if it fits our carry on requirements.  Otherwise, a luggage tag will be provided at the pier to check in your luggage.


            [Edit–>] So I still have much the same questions as above, including: what travel documents (if any) do you need to show to get one of these luggage tags at the pier?

  22. Cruise lines can be faulted for many things but they can not be faulted for not explaining the rules for boarding. I can not think of any other mode of travel where you do not keep your documents close at hand.

    Chances are that if you pursue the case they will receive a credit of some sort.

  23. It is unfortunate this happened, and even more unfortunate that the cruise line was unable to find the checked bags.  However, you cannot legislate common sense.  Expecting someone to put up a sign saying not to put your passport and tickets in checked baggage is kind of like asking someone to put a sign up by the exit to the bathroom saying “please do up your pants before leaving the bathroom”.  Despite best efforts, people do make mistakes. Fortunately, the two family members were able to join the cruise later on. Should Carnival pay for this mistake?  NO.  We all know who made the mistake and therefore they are the ones who should pay.  They have no one to blame except themselves.

  24. When you fly anywhere do you pack your ID in your luggage? Somebody wasn’t thinking straight. But it’s not the cruise lines fault, so I think this family needs to shoulder the blame like good little travelers and consider it a valuable lesson. Maybe that’s what happens when it’s left up to ‘the men’ to do their own packing? Just a thought…

    1. How would you pack your ID in checked luggage when you fly?  The baggage check process makes that practically impossible.

  25. I’ve been far more careful about this kind of thing since I’ve been burned.

    I visted a foreign country with a friend who was a native of that country.  This friend didn’t need a visa and was a fairly recent green card holder.  Well at one point in the trip I asked to see the green card just in case, because I didn’t want there to be any issues when we returned.  Once I saw the document, I noticed that it wasn’t a green card but rather a temporary work authorization document (clearly said “NOT VALID FOR TRAVEL”).  USCIS had also issued a couple of reentry letters that hadn’t expired yet and would have been valid in lieu of a green card, but those were also left at home.

    Back then the green card looked pretty basic and looked almost identical to the work authorization card.  These days they prettied up the green card, with an image of the Statue of Liberty and some microprinting of the 50 state flags on the back.

    My friend had to wait a bit (and the change fees were ridiculous) for the green card to arrive via FedEx.  A friend had the keys and was told where to find the green card.  That was a costly lesson.

    The basic problem was that when we left the US, there was no check by the airline that we had the documents needed to return to the US.  I’m a US citizen, so they checked for my visa.  As a native of the country, my friend didn’t need a visa, but the counter agent didn’t ask to see a valid re-entry document.  At least the cruise lines are pretty thorough and ask to see the travel documents needed to re-enter the US.

    1. I’m confused. The way I understood it, brand new “green card” recipients will get the “residency status” stamped on their foreign passports. Then the real green card is suppose to follow in the mail. The work permit is a temporary document so that the resident alien can work here. Am I correct?

      1. Not in this case.  I think the foreign passport was renewed once while in the US, but it didn’t contain the original entry or work visas, and they didn’t stamp anything in there.  I remember seeing the work authorization card (which was almost identical to the green card), two re-entry authorization letters, and a previous work authorization letter.  Once the green card arrived, the work authorization card theoretically was no longer needed, but nobody from USCIS asked for any of the documents back.

        It sort of looked this this from Freddie Mac (it’s a photo of what loan proof of eligibility documents they’ll accept for non-citizens):

        They look similar to some degree, but the USCIS got rid of their 3/4 profile photo requirement by that time.  It actually said “NOT VALID FOR REENTRY TO U.S.”.  I was thinking, “Holy crap, that was really stupid” once I saw it.  My friend had a temporary green card with a two year expiration, and later received a standard 10 year expiration green card with the new design.

        Besides that, once you land in the US, they’re very specific about what documents will be accepted for re-entry. I think they’ll accept one of those re-entry letters, an I-551, or a Pemit to Reenter the United States. Any older visas were long expired and/or invalidated.

        1. ypw, the way I understand it a foreigner is either a PERMANENT RESIDENT (Green Card Holder) or NOT in the USA. Some people in the process of immigration in the USA cannot simply leave and be allowed entry back, so they need a re-entry authorization.

          Those who pass the final immigration interview get their foreign passport stamped US Resident. They can go in and out the USA while they wait for their “permanent” green card.

          I sell tickets to resident and non-resident aliens all the time this issue gets discussed very often. It can get quite complicated so most of these folks have lawyers.

          1. This friend was being sponsored for permanent resident status. I’d tell you exactly who this was if there was some sort of private messaging system on Disqus.

            USCIS originally sent a couple of these letters along with the work authorization card.  After a few months, UCSCIS sent the 2 year green card.  At the time of our travel, the re-entry letters hadn’t expired.  They might have been valid for one year, while the process to get the initial green card took about 4 months. I don’t recall if USCIS ever asked to see the foreign passport, but they certainly didn’t stamp anything in the passport. My friend was authorized to leave the US twice using one of these two letters each time.

            These letters were on the same paper stock used by USCIS for all sorts of things, including requests for fingerprinting, and letters indicating changes in status. They had a complex greenish patterned background with an image of the torch from the Statue of Liberty. Many were also issued with some of the worst laser printer toner I’ve ever seen. The toner was peeling off some of these documents left and right. It just didn’t adhere properly to the paper.

    2. I think the airlines only check that you’re able to legally get where you’re going. Coming back is a totally different story and it’s not their responsibility… until you check-in to come back.

  26. I voted no.  My first cruise was with Disney and while checking our baggage at the terminal, the staff clearly stated time and time again, you will not see this again, make sure you have your passport.  Also, we were with friends who were seasoned cruisers and they made sure we knew to keep our passports out.  I feel for them, as this can happen, when you are not paying attention, but why would you ever separate yourself from important identification documents?  Also, the rest of the family figured it out, why did they not alert the father and the brother?  I know from having also been on a Carnival cruise, that the staff is not as good as Disney’s and that they are more loose in the baggage area, but I still remember being asked if I had my passport out.  This was a mistake, not of Carnival’s making, and they were reunited at the next terminal. 

    I agree with Raven, if you are that sensitive and unbending, then please don’t travel outside of your comfort zone.  Leave it to those of us who go with the flow and consider this a funny story for the friends and a little adventure! 

  27. WHY would you pack the most vital identification documents in your luggage??  I never let them out of my sight when traveling , much less leave them in luggage that anyone could rifle through once it is out of my sight!

  28. “She wonders why Carnival couldn’t post signs in the luggage check-in
    areas, warning passengers not to pack their passport or birth
    certificate in their checked luggage?”

    So, what she’s saying is that she desperately needs Carnival to state the obvious to her in big, bold letters so her family members don’t do something that everybody should already know not to do?

    1. This is what I was thinking too, and at the same time should Carnival also post a sign that says “please remember to drink water if thirsty”?

  29. This sounds so ridiculous, I almost think it’s a deliberate attempt by this group to game a free ride for everyone.  Nice try sister, get over it.

  30. Do not mediate this case.  Not only do I believe it would be a waste of your time (the cruise line acted appropriately) but I’m weary of people expecting companies to compensate them for their own stupid mistakes.  The OP’s expectation that out of the literally thousands of pieces of luggage checked, loaded and distributed on board the cruise ship should have been able to locate one suitcase and return it to them before sailing is ridiculous.  A passenger can not board nor could the ship sail with a passenger who has not produced valid identification.  The father and brother were able to join the cruise and rather than enjoy the rest of it, this woman says their holiday was “ruined.”  Dramatic much?  People need to take more personal responsibility

  31. I just can’t imagine anyone nowadays putting travel documents in checked luggage – even if you have never cruised (that’s no excuse).  You know you will need them.

  32. “[Anne Newman] wonders why Carnival couldn’t post signs in the luggage check-in areas, warning passengers not to pack their passport or birth certificate in their checked luggage?”
    Perhaps Mrs. Newman would also like signs in other locations to remind her what common sense looks like.

    Sorry – not an iota of sympathy here.  If I am traveling with my passport, it stays on my person until I can put it someplace secure.  Inside checked baggage is probably one of the least secure places for it.

    Not to mention – it’s a passport.  Which means you will be asked to present it as identification.  If the trip necessitates a passport, it’s what you need to be ready to present.

    1. Last year in Yosemite National Park, a group of people climbed over the railings at Vernal Fall to get their pictures taken on a rock in the middle of the Merced River, about 25 from the precipice of the waterfall.  There were signs everywhere warning about the hidden swiftness and power of the water.  They ignored them.

      I wouldn’t expect that a reminder posted would necessarily do anything.  I see signs that eating and drinking aren’t allowed on public transportation.  I see people not notice signs all the time.

      You’re traveling to a foreign country.  Your passport should be on you until you get to your room.  If you’re separated from your luggage, don’t expect that you’re going to retrieve it quickly.

  33. I do not get why grown adults think they can act like children. Do dad and brother also pack their driver licenses in the bags when they are in car driving too?  Did they have any other USA identification with them to prove who they were (not a driver’s license) ?

      1. You probably don’t want law enforcement seeing you reach into a reasonably large bag for anything.  There’s a good chance that they’ll come out with guns drawn and a stern order to place your hands where the officer can see them

        I’ve been pulled over at night before, and I was well aware that they wanted the engine shut off and my hands on the steering wheel, along with bright lights from the police cruiser blinding me.

        I’m pretty sure they’re worried about someone reaching into a bag for a weapon, because it’s happened before.

        1. Absolutely – engine off, hands on wheel. But then, when the officer asks to see your license, you say “it’s in the zipper pocket of the backpack on the back seat”, at which point he’ll either tell you to get it out or get it himself depending on how much or a risk he thinks you are.

          I mean, even if the license were in my wallet in my front pocket, I’d be reluctant to get that out for a cop without having been explicitly asked – since it’s very nearly the same movement as getting a gun out of a holster…

  34. I am quite surprised that the line would allow the passengers to board at Port Canaveral (erroneously reported as Orlando). Under the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (sometimes erroneously cited as the Jones Act) prohibits foreign flag vessels from transporting passengers from one U.S. port to a different U.S. port, unless the vessels calls upon a distant foreign port in-between. The Carnival Pride is a foreign flag vessel, registered in Panamá), and the Bahamas do not qualify as a distant foreign port. Thus, it appears as though Carnival Cruise Lines violated the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, and should be liable for a penalty of $600 (two passengers transported at $300 each). It is typical in cruise contracts for the line to then pass along the penalty to the passengers.

    (In this case, Carnival might have obscured the violation, and avoided imposition of the penalty, if their paperwork shows the two passengers having boarded in Baltimore, since other members of the family group boarded there, as did their luggage. But in that case, Carnival might well be criminally liable under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 if done knowingly and willfully.)

    1. I’m extremely confused at your explanation of the “erroneously” cited Jones Act. 1. According to your explanation, the violation would be transporting a whole boatload of people from Baltimore to Canaveral. 2. Why do the Bahamas not qualify as a distant foreign port? 3. If 2 is the case, why aren’t cruise lines fined out the wazoo routinely when some only stop in the Bahamas, particularly on shorter cruises? 4. How do ships depart from Canaveral, call in Key West, THEN move on to foreign ports without being fined? Not being snarky, just asking for clarification as what I’m reading makes no sense to me. Thanks

      1. I think the claim is that they’re essentially being transported from Port Canaveral to Baltimore, with stops along the way.

      2. It can be confusing, but hopefully the following, more detailed, explanation will help. The relevant text of the statute can be found at 46 U.S.C. App. § 289 (the statute and the regulation can be found a the Cornell University web site,, the U.S. GPO website,, or many other free and pay sites).

        1. The other passengers were being transported from Baltimore to Baltimore. That an intermediate stop is made at Port Canaveral (as well as two stops in the Bahamas) is permissible under the Act. The two passengers in question were transported from Port Canaveral to Baltimore, and being one-way transportation within the United States (notwithstanding two stops in the Bahamas), it is impermissible.

        2. The definition of a “distant foreign port” is defined by regulations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at 19 C.F.R. § 4.80a. Subsection 3 defines such a port, in a typical round-about government way, as “any foreign port that is not a nearby port.” So what’s a “nearby port”? Well, subdivision 2 defines a “nearby foreign port as “any foreign port in North America, Central America, the Bermuda Islands, or the West Indies (including the Bahama Islands, but not including the Leeward Islands of the Netherlands Antilles, i.e., Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao). A port in the U.S. Virgin Islands shall be treated as a nearby foreign port.” So the literal answer to your question is that the Bahamas do not count because the regulations say so. The real story is that the government and U.S. labor unions want to make sure that foreign flag vessels engage only in “true” international commerce, and that foreign flag vessels not attempt to skirt that intent by making only a brief “technical” stop in a nearby foreign port in order to engage in transportation entirely within the United States.

        3. Again, the literal reason is that regulations say so. Subdivision 4 of 19 C.F.R. § 4.80a defines the words “embark” and “disembark” as follows: “Embark means a passenger boarding a vessel for the duration of a specific voyage and disembark means a passenger leaving a vessel at the conclusion of a specific voyage. The terms embark and disembark are not applicable to a passenger going ashore temporarily at a coastwise port who reboards the vessel and departs with it on sailing from the port.” That is, calling at an intermediate stop is just a transportation stop, but transportation is not being provided to or from that intermediate stop. If this were not the case, then no vessel would be able to call at more than one port in any given country, an severe impediment to the cruise industry as a whole.

        4. This is the same answer as in (3), above.

        Where the Act comes into play most visibly are the Panamá canal cruises, generally operating one-way between California and Florida; and seasonal repositioning cruises, generally operating one-way between the northeast and Florida or New Orleans. In order for these itineraries to be legal under the Act, the vessel must call upon a distant foreign port. South America counts as a distant foreign port, as do the southern Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaço. But none of the other Caribbean islands, or any of the countries in Central America, qualify as being “distant” enough. Thus, all one-way Panamá canal and seasonal repositioning cruises stop at one of the aforementioned southern Caribbean islands, or South American (usually Cartagena, Colombia) in order to comply with the Act.

  35. You are kidding here, right Chris?  These folks screw up, fail to have proper documents in their possession and somehow its the cruise companies fault?  Really?  The OP here is just trying to get someone else to pay for her lack of thinking it through.   This quote is amazingly ignorant:

    “She wonders why Carnival couldn’t post signs in the luggage check-in
    areas, warning passengers not to pack their passport or birth
    certificate in their checked luggage”

    Really?  I guess the Nanny State really has removed people’s brains since there will always be someone else to take of you and bail you out of your mistakes.   I think this calls for a gentle . . . “Ma’am, you screwed up.  Its not the cruise companies responsibility to tell you that you need to bring your appropriate documents WITH you.  Not packed in a suitcase.  oy vey. . . .is this what its coming to?

  36. The OP’s comment that it was her Father and Brother’s first cruises, indicate to me that the rest of the family had cruised before and were apparently aware of the documentation requirements.  What if they were flying and had packed their boarding passes? Whose fault would that be? Even if they didn’t know they needed the documents right away, why on earth would you pack vital documents like a passport or birth certificate in baggage that will be out of your control for any length of time? Not everything is actionable and the cruiseline isn’t responsible for the OP’s family members lapse in judgment.  And seriously, “why don’t they have signs warning you not to pack your passport”??? The OP must be one of those people who actually NEED the  “don’t use your hair dryer in the shower” warning labels! Unbelievable.

    1. What if they were flying and had packed their boarding passes?

      That wouldn’t be an issue.  You can’t check baggage at the airport without your ID.  If you check a bag with your boarding pass inside, you can easily get another boarding pass.

      1. I still think they have to take responsibility for packing valuable documentation in a bag. How often do we read about things being stolen out of bags? If there’s anything I wouldn’t pack (besides $ and medication), it’d be my IDENTITY DOCUMENTS. I just get tired of people thinking that corporations, travel agencies, cruise/airlines, whoever should hold their hand from start to finish for every transaction and want to blame someone for their own mistakes.

  37. Ms. Newman “wonders why Carnival couldn’t post signs in the luggage check-in areas warning passengers not to pack their passport or their birth certificate in their checked luggage”. Really? I mean… really?! Maybe Carnival could just post signs saying “Don’t be stupid”, because the Newmans of the world seem to getting more and more stupid, and as Ron White said, “There ain’t no cure for stupid” 🙁   

  38. I don’t think they are entitled to a refund. However, it would be nice if Carnival took the step she recommended of posting signs where people check luggage, so that people who rarely travel and may be ignorant have a chance (if they read the signs – I realize some won’t, but some will) to save themselves. It’d be a nice good-will gesture on Carnival’s part.

  39. I must admit that I’m surprised first time cruisers wouldn’t make absolutely sure that their documents never left their possession since they were going into an unfamiliar situation. I sure wouldn’t.

  40. I’m confused.  Can any Joe Schmo check a piece of baggage onto a cruise ship without checking in or showing proper documentation?

    I understand that the baggage is probably x-rayed, but that still sounds to me like a gaping security hole.

    1. Check-in luggage for cruise ship is different. You can print the luggage tags by yourself or you can show your cruise document to obtain luggage tags at port. We don’t need to show any ID as long as you have tags.
      Also, it is possible the family member to check-in the bags, the porter will not ask whose bag it is as long as you bring a tag.
      When you do boarding the ship, you will need to show passport when checking in. For cruising in Europe, non European citizen has to surrender the passport during the journey.

  41. Who the HELL packs their passport??? Send them sailing Chris. 

    This is the stupidest thing ever. Just because they’re “New to cruising” doesn’t mean their error gives them the right to compensation. Sorry the cruise couldn’t find your luggage quickly but you’re mad because the cruise line didn’t drop everything because you made a mistake?? Seriously, this entitlement mentality disgusts me when I read these articles. 

  42. What I don’t understand is this statement
    “Her brother and father made the mistake of checking their passport and birth certificate with their luggage,”
    The boat was departing Baltimore, right? Was the next port of call a foreign country? If so, how come they could board in Orlando? Last I checked, you didn’t need a birth certificate or passport to get from Baltimore to Orlando…I can understand if the next port of call was in a foreign country, but Orlando still belongs to the USA, right? They could have boarded the boat in Baltimore, looked for their documents, and if they couldn’t find them prior to departing for foreign lands, *THEN* kick them off!

  43. I think Carnival could have done WAY better. Passengers informed Carnival that the passports were in the checked luggage. There was already another domestic stop in Orlando where passengers could have been booted if they were lying. 

    I don’t see any reason for Carnival to have made this so hard on the passengers, but maybe there’s something I’m missing. I’ve never been on a cruise. And I gotta tell you, with all of the pitfalls I read about here, combined with the virus outbreaks and overpriced shore excursions, I have absolutely zero desire to ever embark on one! 

  44. This is a typical ploy by terrorists and illegal immigrants.

    If you think a couple of people denied boarding is a big deal, the cruise line will not anyone disembark until each lowlife is paged and hunted down to pay his shipboard ($10 drink of the day X 2 people X 7 days + 15% automatic gratuity = $161 for startes–whoops!)

    I like the scenario where the family packs their passports in their checked baggage and the TSA holds the flight until the airlines unloads and searches through all the baggage.  It warms the heart to hear the cheers from the Mexican-bound cabin when the passports are located.


  45. Bottom line: as a travel agent, it is my responsibility to make sure that all clients/passengers are reminded (ad nauseum, if I must), to HAVE and NOT pack passports/birth certificates.  I also advise them to have copies readily available; best given to others traveling with them.  I just got back from the Caribbean with a group and they would tell you that I advised them at least four (4) times, in writing, about travel documents.  If these folks booked through a travel agent and were not advised/reminded, then shame on the T/A.  If they booked independently, either through Carnival or an on-line agency, they still should have been aware.  And finally, this requirement/issue is printed in every cruise line’s documentation and on-line check in.  This scenario is absolutely NOT the fault of Carnival.  And finally, regardless of them being advised or not, the ultimate responsibility for maintaining that passport on one’s person falls directly on the passenger.  

  46. Bottom line: as a travel agent, it is my responsibility to make sure that all clients/passengers are reminded (ad nauseum, if I must), to HAVE and NOT pack passports/birth certificates.  I also advise them to have copies readily available; best given to others traveling with them.  I just got back from the Caribbean with a group and they would tell you that I advised them at least four (4) times, in writing, about travel documents.  If these folks booked through a travel agent and were not advised/reminded, then shame on the T/A.  If they booked independently, either through Carnival or an on-line agency, they still should have been aware.  And finally, this requirement/issue is printed in every cruise line’s documentation and on-line check in.  This scenario is absolutely NOT the fault of Carnival.  And finally, regardless of them being advised or not, the ultimate responsibility for maintaining that passport on one’s person falls directly on the passenger.  

  47. This is a case of the family member involved not considering packing his travel documents in the checked luggage.  I am always very particular that my passports and other docs remain on my person. This saved me a great deal when i was once robbed of all my bags during a Bus Trip in Tanzania. I was lucky enough to have had my passport in my pocket otherwise it would have taken endless trips to the embassy trying to get temporary pass. and dont forget you would have to report to the police and swear an affidavit.

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