I (actually our exchange student) was recently denied boarding on a Carnival Cruise leaving from Long Beach, CA.
The only reason we were given was insufficient documentation. I booked this cruise for myself, my wife, 7 year old son, and 17 year old exchange student in early January - for an end of March departure.
We filled out fun passes - and in fact - I had at least two phone conversations with Carnival regarding the required documentation for our exchange student. These talks were brought about by the fact that the Carnival web site would not accept the information for our exchange student. I was told - at first via their (Carnival's) interactive web dialogue - and then by the phone representative I was referred to - that this was a glitch in Carnival's system.
I was told by the first representative that the information should be accepted and to check back in about 24 hours and I could print out the Fun Passes for myself and the exchange student. After checking back, I found that the system still had not accepted my exchange student's data and it kept telling me that his fun pass information was not complete.
This prompted a second call (and much more in depth and detailed conversation) with a Carnival representative. At this time - she said (again) that this was a glitch with the Carnival web site and that they were aware of it. The problem centered around the fact that it did not allow for a entry of the "Country of Citizenship" and the "Country of Residence" to be different and still allow you to select a return destination address to be with-in the United States. The solution (according to the representative) was to put in the "Citizenship Information" field - that he is a permanent resident and to put in his Visa registration number and expiration date.
The point to the above information for all of you is that this required me to go through his entire Passport and Visa information with the representative. She was particularly concerned about his re-entry status (M) and his Visa classification (J1). Both of these factors were required in order for him to re-enter the United States.
I specifically asked if there was any other information we would need to bring for our exchange student to be able to take the cruise. I was told the completion of his "Fun Pass" along with his Passport-Visa, and a completed letter from Registered Officer of the program he was enrolled in here. We had all of those documents when we arrived at the embarkation point.
What happened was - we were denied boarding any way. We were told that we needed an I-94 and a DS-2019. We were told the I-94 should have been stapled in his Visa (it wasn't - there was a stamped page with a date, Visa classification (J1) and his FINS#) across from the information page with his picture. We had no DS-2019 form. What we had was a signed document from the Registered Officer on United States Department of State (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs) letterhead giving authorization and permission for his trip. In this letter was his name, the educational program he is involved in (including a statement that it is an "Official program of the government of the United States" - along with his eligibility dates, the dates of the trip, and to where, and who he lives with here in the United States, and our address. Finally, it stated that if there were any questions to call the Responsible Officer and gave here direct number. Oh, and we were told that this letter would be the documentation in the DS-2019 that Homeland Security would be looking for.
During this period - after we were told at the counter where we would have received our final boarding papers - we were told to sit at the rear of the facility and see if we could contact someone to "fax" the paperwork we were supposedly missing. The Carnival representative told us that this same thing had happened a couple of weeks ago - and that they just had someone at the home fax the required documents. After finding a neighbor to go to our house and get the documents - this same lady asked to hold off faxing the documents as they were trying to resolve the issue with the documentation they already had.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE TWO THINGS HERE:
1) OUR NEIGHBORS HAD THE DOCUMENTATION IN THE FAX MACHINE AT OUR HOUSE READY TO FAX
2) WE ASKED THE CARNIVAL REP. WHY SHE HADN'T TAKEN THE LETTER FROM THE RESPONSIBLE OFFICER (OR ANY OF THE OTHER DOCUMENTS WE POSSESSED) TO THE PEOPLE WHO WERE CHECKING OUT OUR EXCHANGE STUDENTS DOCUMENTS. WE WERE TOLD BY THIS REPRESENTATIVE THAT THESE OTHER DOCUMENTS DID NOT MATTER!
She came back a few times in between and told us they were still working on it (trying to work with the documentation they had.) I asked her if it wouldn’t be wise to at least fax the other documentation as we had the information ready to be faxed. Again, I was told to just wait a few minutes and see what they could do. Then the situation changed, she came back and told us that it looked like now they weren’t going to accept the faxed version of the documents. I asked her what prompted this sudden change and she just shrugged her shoulders. The end result here was that with no time left and after having waited for over 45 minutes for them to look over what she had deemed worth looking at (his Passport-Visa) was we were denied boarding.
When I asked her what options we had left - or what could they do to help us out as we would now be stranded in LA with no hotel, a return flight that was a week away, and nowhere to go - I was told: "I can call you a cab, but you have to get out of the building first." The representative then left the building before even telling us if a cab had been called or where to meet it.
The reason I chose this cruise with Carnival (and there were others with the exact same cruise, exact same dates, and prices) was that we had travelled with Carnival on a previous cruise on the Conquest.
We have all individually (my entire family and our exchange student) written a letter to Carnival asking for another cruise or a refund - but I would like to know from you experienced travelers what our other options might be.
Any information - either civil or legal - would be appreciated.