Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Help Me Howard: Cruise to Nowhere
There's nothing quite like a nice, relaxing cruise. That is, of course, once you're on the boat. One couple didn't make it that far, when the cruise line denied their boarding papers. Vacation plans sunk, they drifted over to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Seymour Sattin: "Married 57 years."
When you've been married as long as Sylvia and Seymour, you automatically know what the other is about to say, even if you don't agree.
Seymour: "I don't know, it just comes natural."
Sylvia: "No, it doesn't! It's hard work!"
Clearly they enjoy each other, and they're friends, which is why they decided to take a cruise.
Sylvia: "It was three couples that were going to go together."
Three couples, seven days, lots of fun.
Sylvia: "The first day we were supposed to go to Key West."
Sylvia says "supposed to" because Sylvia, born in America 77 years ago, was not allowed to board the ship.
Sylvia: "Well, I was, you know, I was close to tears."
The couple was checking in at Port Everglades. Cruise officials cleared Seymour but said Sylvia's birth certificate didn't meet their requirements.
Sylvia: "They said, simply, they wouldn't let us on because it was supposed to have a raised seal. That was the only reason why we couldn't get on, because my birth certificate doesn't have a raised seal."
The Sattins tried to reason with the cruise line, even promised to stay on board when the ship docked in other countries but no luck, and their friends had to leave Seymour and Sylvia behind.
Sylvia: "They went on the cruise!"
Seymour: "They went on the cruise."
Sylvia: "They went on the cruise."
This couple returned home, then started calling the cruise line to get their $987 back.
Sylvia: "Then, she said, all the higher-ups are busy because of Christmas. Then everybody was on vacation because of the holidays and kept putting it off and putting it off."
Finally Sylvia gave up, disappointed to not only be blocked from cruising but refused a refund on the cruise to nowhere.
But can a cruise line block a passenger from boarding then refuse to give a refund? Let's set sail with the Help Me Howard guy.
Howard Finkelstein: "When the Sattins went on their cruise in December the federal law did not require a birth certificate at all to board, much less one with a raised seal. What the law did allow is for each cruise line to set its own requirements for passengers to get on board and, unfortunately, the Sattins didn't see that in their documentation."
The president of MSC cruises told us, "We make it very clear to all guests that they need either a passport or state certified birth certificate with raised seal, or they are denied boarding." However, the president of the cruise line told us, as a gesture of good will, they would give the Sattins a replacement cruise free of charge.
Howard says this whole ordeal is a sign of the times.
Howard Finkelstein: "What the cruise line did is very nice, and if you are going to travel in this post 9/11 era, remember the world has changed, and cruise lines, like airlines, are under enormous pressure to keep us safe. Given the alternative, they would rather err on the side of caution, even if that means denying a paying customer the right to board."
Fortunately, Sylvia and Seymour will get to set sail, thanks to a nice gesture from the cruise line, after the Sattins made a call to those Help Me Howard guys.
Sylvia: "You did wonderful."
Now, we checked with the Department of Homeland Security. Today, you can get on a cruise ship with a birth certificate and a photo ID, but to get off in other countries you need a passport.
If you have any other questions or concerns about travel requirements or restrictions, go to the Customs and Border Protection website below.
Trying to set sail and afraid you're going to miss the boat?
Don't just drop anchor and sink? Contact us. We may miss the boat on things but we will find a way to leave you in ship shape.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Customs and Border Protection
Help Me Howard Contact
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn (please include your contact number when emailing)