Papers Please?

Who's responsible for obtaining visas and proper paperwork for your cruise?
Who's responsible for obtaining visas and proper paperwork for your cruise?

We all like to think that if we, as Swedes, Americans, Italians or Germans, book a cruise, the travel agent or the cruise line we book with will let us know everything we need in order to get on the ship and into the destinations where we’re sailing.

But in fact, that’s not the case. Passengers are always responsible for securing their own visas and passports. As Europeans and Americans, given the luxury we have in being able to visit so many parts of the world without a visa, we sometimes forget to do this.

I have received quite a few letters from angry passengers who have been left behind because they failed to get the proper documentation to enter ports on their cruises.

In a case publicized earlier this year, 109 people were left at the dock in Fort Lauderdale watching the Carnival Splendor set sail, because they hadn’t secured visas for a port call in Brazil.

For Americans, this happens far too often on itineraries that include Brazil, one of the few in South America that demands a visa of Americans.

There have also been mishaps that have led to court cases filed by people from other parts of the world who didn’t know that almost any cruise to Alaska originating in the United States will include a stop in Canada. Those who fail to obtain a visa for Canada won’t be able embark the ship. (Note that U.S. citizens aren’t required to have visas to enter Canada.)

Passengers generally have no recourse in a U.S. court of law. They are reminded that the responsibility to get the right visa or passport falls on them. This is indicated in every cruise line’s contract. Passengers will often be asked to sign or initial those documents, indicating that they know this – so read the small print.

The reason cruise lines insist on the passenger being responsible for their own paperwork is that they say it would be difficult to keep up with the ever-changing policies of nations vis-a-vis other nations.

And as people from all over the world take cruises all around the world, the lines would have trouble knowing the multitude of visa rules they would have to comply with.

What do you think? Should cruise lines be responsible for their passengers visas and passports?

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Our latest articles


  • It is the passengers responsibility to obtain the proper documentation. That being said the cruise line /TA/online service should have in BOLD the documents required. It is the passengers responsibility to CALL the booking entity and confirm what is need.

  • Thanks for your comments Carol and for suggesting a better way to let passengers know what they need. After all, we, as the industry, are the professionals, and our job is to inform passengers. The bold print is a good idea.

  • I have doubts as to whether cruise lines could handle this responsibility without some of the same miscues their passengers make. I have been on cruises where the cruise line announced prior to a port call that everyone had to be charged a visa fee with no prior notice provided before or during sailing until the day of arrival. Usually the blame is placed on the country. As we all know cruise lines seem to be Pinocchio in many instances.

  • Thanks John. Your absolutely right. I’ve seen it too, even in domestic waters, where Alaska had suddenly imposed an additional tax and the cruise line billed passengers during the cruise. I was on HAL’s Amsterdam and we got a letter in our staterooms announcing that our folio would show the additional $1. The cruise lines can be Pinocchio and Gepetto at the same time!

  • Funny about the Penne Laura. Thank you for your concern : ) Actually, that was not me but my stand-in, Geoff Edwards. He contributes to the blog whenever he is on a cruise. In fact, I encourage anyone who thinks highly of their writing and observational skills to do so. Geoff is just great at those things, in my opinion, and he presents with such a good sense of humor. I’m glad you enjoyed.

    You make a good point about shifting responsibility. That’s America to some degree, isn’t it? Very rights oriented and not so much responsibility oriented. Someone will take issue with that remark, I just know it.

  • As a cruise specialist I first want to say THANK YOU for bringing up this subject. I send each and every passenger a note explaining their responsiblities as travelers (documents, visas, immunizations, pre-cruise documentation, shore trips, etc.) but there is , invaribly, the person who feels that everything is the responsiblity of the travel agent. Another area that is usually not addressed are the required vaccinations/immunizations that are required for certain itineraries and International Certification of Immunization(although today I did get a notice for a client sailing on 30 Night Incan Empires cruise aboad HAL). Unfortunately we live in a world where most everyone wants someone else to assume responsiblity for everything and these people are quite surprised when they find out they have to do some of the “work” themselves.

    I read your blog daily and am curious as to where you are and what you are up to … have you had any more Penne that you were unsatisfied with?

  • Of course you should be responsible for your own actions. Come on America- don’t expect somebody to always take care of you. If an agent was involved- get a new one if they are incorrect.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security