Missed cruise due to visa snafu

We flew out of San Francisco on Oct. 11, 2006, destined to board the Pacific Princess in Cape Town, South Africa, for a 29-day voyage across the Indian Ocean ending in Australia. After arriving in Frankfurt, Germany, for the last leg of our flight, with Lufthansa, the airline ramp agent denied us entry onto the plane because we each did not have one completely blank visa page in our passports.

We were informed that South African Immigration requires one whole blank visa page. We had room for the normal entry stamps that most countries use, but this was our first experience of a country requiring a whole page.

We were stunned after already traveling so far. We contacted the U.S. Consulate, but it was after hours and they could not see us until the next day. We tried to get a flight the next day to Cape Town, but there were no seats available for the next couple of days. By then, the ship would have been on its way to the other ports of call.

Since we could not catch up with the ship in Cape Town, we had to return home, thereby forfeiting considerable cruise money to Princess Cruises. We had paid more than $13,000 for our trip.

We wrote to Princess asking for a cruise credit and credit for the unused airline tickets. We finally received a letter dated Dec. 18 saying that it was our responsibility to have the proper documents and that no refund or airline credit would be given, since their travel insurer, BerkelyCare, had denied our claim.

In the pretrip information, Princess was very diligent to tell us about needing a visa for Australia, which we got, and that a visa for Madagascar would be gotten by the ship. We feel that for the great expense of this trip, Princess should also have included a warning about the whole-page requirement for immigration into South Africa prior to boarding the ship.


San Jose, CA

ITN sent a copy of the Frizzells’ letter to Princess Cruises and received the following reply.

Thank you for contacting our office regarding Mr. and Mrs. Frizzell and their planned cruise on board Pacific Princess. Our goal is to provide our passengers with the best possible cruise experience, and we appreciate the time you have taken to share your readers’ experience with us.

We regret to learn the circumstances surrounding Mr. and Mrs. Frizzell’s arrival into Frankfurt. However, as per the information listed in the General Information section of our brochures, it is the sole responsibility of the passenger to carry and have available all required travel documents. These include valid passports, visas, vaccination documentation, etc., that are necessary for air travel, disembarkation at the various ports of call and reentry into the appropriate country of origin. Passengers who do not possess the proper documentation may be prevented from boarding their flight or the vessel without refund of the cruise or cruise-tour fare.

Our current version of our “Cruise Answer Book,” which is sent to all of our passengers before sailing, indicates a precruise checklist on page three. Under item nine, it states, “When a passport is required, ensure it is valid for up to six months after the last day of your cruise and that it contains blank pages for entry/exit stamps (see page six).”

On page six, under Passport Validity, it then states “. . . Additionally, make certain that your passport contains blank pages for entry and exit endorsements and any visas that may be required. If necessary, allow sufficient time to renew your passport and/or obtain additional pages. . .” This information is also listed on our website, www.princess.com (click on Cruise Answer Place, Getting Ready to Go, Passport Requirements, paragraph two).

Please understand that visa requirements are not part of the policy and procedures of Princess Cruises. Governments for the countries and ports being visited determine these travel stipulations. The Princess fleet travels to many different countries and these travel requirements are constantly under review. While we attempt to keep apprised of any adjustments or changes to these entry/exit prerequisites, we are certain you can appreciate that this presents quite a challenge.

We encourage all our passengers to take advantage of our Princess Travel Care plan, which is independently administrated by BerkelyCare. The features of this plan include increased compensation limits for luggage and property losses, cancellation protection and medical and emergency evacuation coverage.

We regret their dissatisfaction with the outcome of their claim with BerkelyCare. However, Mr. and Mrs. Frizzell will benefit from a 75% cruise credit toward a future cruise. We hope that Mr. and Mrs. Frizzell and ITN readers will continue to consider Princess in their future cruise plans.

MAURICE JUWONO, Specialist, Passenger Relations, Princess Cruises, 24305 Town Center Dr., Santa Clarita, CA, 91355-4999