My heart has been beating a thousand miles an hour for the last five hours. My fiance and I were just putting the finishing touches on our baggage when I went to recover all of the documentation we would need -- I have absolutely everything, EXCEPT, my birth certificate (I do not have a passport). I immediately tore apart my entire desk, all of my belongings, every drawer in the house, etc. Everything I own was at one point tonight laying in a heap on the floor. It is nowhere to be found. I am horrified as our ship is set to sail in just 15 hours and I have no idea where the birth certificate could have gone (last I confirmed it was in my filing drawers about 2 months ago).
I am shaking and fiance is on the verge of tears in the other room. This is our first cruise and our first real vacation together in almost two years. I am completely torn apart right now.
Does anyone out there know if there is any possibility of our still being able to board this ship? The cruise is set to leave California and sail, round-trip, to various ports in California with one stop in Mexico. I have absolutely no intentions of disembarking anywhere other than American soil. Do we have any hope at all?
after you have called the cruise line and your travel agent, Call the city where you got your birth certificate from, they might have a web site where you can get an e-copy of your birth certificate, the cruise line may accept this i am not sure, Is it possible for someone to go the the city clerks office and get a copy for you??
You can write a written statement the "I am a U.S. citizen....." Then have it notorized before you leave the U.S. This does work, we've done it. If Mexico is your only foreign port, you'll be A.O.K. Call me at 360 604-7041 If you have any questions. We did this for my partners mother one time and it worked slick. Bon Voyage!
I did that once before 9/11 Chuck but don't hold out any hope of it working now. Best bet is call the Cruiseline and speak to a supervisor and get advice and names to refer back to. Also call your hometown NOW and see if they can get one to you immediately. I feel really bad for you because this can as has ruined many a vacation for people. Keep searching as well as this is a must have.
LISTEN UP EVERYONE>>>>THIS IS THE REASON EVERYONE SHOULD GET A PASSPORT RIGHT NOW AND KEEP IT IN A SAFE PLACE FOR LATER USE>>>>>
I know you thought you had everything but so does just about everyone else that runs into this problem. We have passports and keep them in our home safe and I STILL check when we get our documents or a week or so out just to make sure. I also have a BC and other documents stored there as well including my kids bc's. They have copies as well. Duplication is the key.
Desperate, if you are still online and wondering what to do... I had a similar problem with a renewed passport being delayed in the mail. I had to have my 85-year-old mother run down to the county records building and get a copy of my birth certificate with a raised seal. The raised seal is critical. A FAXed copy will not serve. All this happened while I was waiting in Miami with my records still in Detroit. Overnight messenger delivery was the best I could arrange, but luckily it came with a couple hours to spare. You might think about flying to one of your cruise's port calls to meet the ship a day or two into your itinerary. It's expensive, but could save at least part of your vacation. Good Luck!
You got good advice Desperate, I know and share your feelings. Now I have a safe that I keep these important papers and I always check about 3 weeks prior to needing them to make sure everything is there because I would not want to go thru what you are. I hope you can get this straightened out one way or another. Happy sailing!
I only had a few minutes before we had to drive down to the port, so I was not able to respond to any replies to my post. I hit print, did that "hurry up!" hand waving thing over the printer until all of the replies printed out and then jumped into our car and started out.
I didn't want to leave this thread hanging open, it may be of benefit to other travelers, so here is what happened:
t -minus 9:00 hours to ship departure
(i) While driving towards the port, I called Royal Caribbean cruise lines. Explained to them that my birth certificate was somehow lost or stolen. Within 2 minutes of the call, the representative was telling me I had "next to no chance of boarding the cruise line" [without a birth certificate/passport]. She apologized, read me the no refund policy and then said "Good luck".
Immediately redialed and repeated practically the exact same scenario with another, completely different, RC rep. What worried me most was that not only did both reps sound as if they had my story many times before, but they almost sounded reluctant to read me the "no refund" policy as if expecting a ferocious, combative, retort from me. Of course, one never came as I was certainly not about to burn a bridge before I had tried all possible ways to cross it...
Both reps said they made a note of my missing paperwork on my account. Nooo! Damn them! I am DOOMED now! DOOMED! Note: This actually may have helped us some later...
(ii) Following other advice from this thread, next I called the Pennsylvania office of Vital Records and hurridly explained the situation to them. They instructed me to: print out a fax request form, from their website; type up a quick note giving permission to Royal Caribbean to retrieve a certified copy of my birth certificate; request Royal Caribbean, at the port of departure, to fax both of the previous documents and then a note of request, on official letterhead, with bold "URGENT" written across it, back to the vital records office. If accepted by Royal Caribbean, the PA Vital Records office would then fax back a copy of the birth certificate, a letter of intent to USPS Priority a certified copy of my birth certificate and drop the certified copy in the mail [to Royal Caribbean]. All for a very reasonable < $15 charge.
t -minus 8:00 hours to ship departure -- logic setting the seeds of panic now.
(iii) Made a quick stop at a Holiday Inn Express, printed the form and then typed and printed up my permission to access documents. Printed up mock-type for Royal Caribbean to copy onto official letterhead, essentially a formal request from RC for my documents. Printed up a cover letter with the "URGENT" marking on it. Essentially, printing and preparing every type of document Royal Caribbean would need to make it as less of a hassle as I could.
(iv) Took note of the advice to retrieve a fax copy of the birth certificate and have it notorized. Called back the extremely friendly representative at the PA Vital Records office and asked her to please fax me (still at the Holiday Inn Express) a copy of the birth certificate. One fax back with credit card information (charge of $7.00) and I had a printed copy of my certificate in-hand and was on my way to a Mailbox Etc for the notorization stamp.
t -minus 6.5 hours to ship departure
(v) We were now 3+ hours away from the San Pedro port and despite the fairly reasonable time buffer, I was still extremely nervous. The Royal Caribbean rep.'s comments (I know I know, she was just doing her job and I remained very friendly to her despite the harrowing news) had left the two of us (fiance and myself) with some serious doubts. We were spotting hotels all the way down I-15S, looking for alternative places to spend the night, pending almost certain rejection from RC.
I had all of my forms in place and had a verbal promise from the PA Vital Records lady that she would be available until such-and-such time. We were cutting it close. I offered to fly her and a loved one out to L.A., with an original copy of my birth certificate. She politely reminded me a flight would never make it in time. I was joking, but my heart was still running a marathon.
t -minus 3 hours to ship departure
(vi) At last, arrival at the San Pedro port. With a faxed, notorized, copy of my birth certificate, a thin stack of request paperwork for a certified copy, my pay stub, my driver's license, my condo lease, my social security card, my voter registration card and even a picture of me (age 10) in a cub scout uniform, I was prepared to argue my existance before the port authorities.
We unloaded our bags (stupid theory 1: having your luggage boarded onto the ship will somehow convince them to let you aboard); we filled out custom's declaration cards and SARS statements (stupid theory 2: declaring you spent "$0.00" in Mexico before you even travel to Mexico will not convince them you do not plan on disembarking); we waited in line laughing, smiling and hugging (stupid theory 3: we probably looked even more nervous and suspicious than we actually were). When it finally came time to present our documentation, I handed the rep both of our driver's licenses and my fiance's birth certificate. The rep looked mock-confused at first, then politely asked for MY birth certificate. I immediately stuttered (stupid theory 4: practicing your excuses didn't work when you were 14 and still doesn't work now). "M-m-mine, my birth certificate? OH! Right, we were asked to bring these forms instead." She looked at the stack of computer print-outs sitting in a very non-official looking inside-out yellow filing folder. "Those?" she asked. "Y-y-yes, we were told to bring these because my birth certificate could not be found." She flipped the file folder open with a pen. "I've never seen these before..." Alarm bells, if we make a run for it now, the immigration gorillas standing nearby might only get about half a clip into our backs. My fiance squeezed my wrist. "You see..." Bad start. "My birth certificate was nowhere to be found last night, we had it, well, we thought we had it, but we didn't have it where we thought we had it so I called Royal Caribbean and then I called vital records..." She looked up at me, held up a single "wait one second" finger, paused for a long moment, leafed back through the paperwork I had presented, then said, "I'm sorry to hear about your birth certificate. Just a moment, I'll get your SeaPass cards."
Slowly, I inhaled... My fiance stood up on her toes and began wildly pinching my waist and poking me in the arm. I casually smiled and winked at her and she almost burst into laughter.
A few moments later, we were sliding our carry-ons through the x-ray machines and presenting our SeaPass cards for inspection. Shortly after, we had our picture taken aboard the ship and were practically running down the halls towards our cabin.
I don't know exactly which document was the key to getting us both on board (maybe it was our pathetic, saucer-like eyes), but we made it. I didn't even have to request our friend at the PA Vital Records to mail out a certified copy [of my birth certificate] to RC (something I wasn't very comfortable with regardless, but would have done if it meant being able to sail).
After the cruise (which was magnificant!), I was again asked to present my birth certificate to immigration officials. After a few curt questions, I had my "Do Not Shoot on Exit" stamp and was off to re-claim my baggage.
Five days, four wonderful nights, one sleepless horrifying night and about 62 bazillion meals later...
Following the rest of the advice in this thread, I plan on getting my passport within the next month. I also plan on booking another Royal Caribbean cruise before December. Thank you to everyone in this thread, as-well-as the incredibly helpful PA Vital Records lady, for keeping my heart from exploding on the floor. Our vacation was saved and we had a terrific time aboard the ship and in Mexico. THANK YOU AGAIN!
I am so glad that everything turned out ok afterall. When I was reading this post I started thinking of my mil birth cert. I didn't remember seeing a seal on it because it was one of those issued well after it happened (Dr forgot to record it). So I called her to make sure it has a seal and it does. Couldn't talk the folks into renewing their passports.
Desperate which ship were you on. We are heading out on the Radiance in Aug.
Very glad to hear it turned out ok. Your story had me glued to my computer screen and it read like a John Grisham thriller.
I have been through situations like yours and knew exactly how you felt. The same sort of harrowing story happened to me when I left my passport in the magazine pocket on the seat infront of me on an airplane, then realized it when I was boarding my connecting flight and had to explain my situation to the flight crew. Anyway glad you had a great time on the cruise and you convinced me to get a new passport since mine expired 10 years ago.