I’m sitting at home, after getting back from a cruise that almost didn’t happen for me. The reason behind this was my own foolishness. However, I was fortunate enough to make it to the cruise, all thanks to the driver of the airport parking shuttle. Here’s how a spiel that he says to travelers dozens of times a day just might have saved my vacation.
My Packing Style
I tend to be a last-minute packer. I’ll make sure that I have everything I need for the trip, but the actual getting things together and into the bags will happen the night before or the morning of a trip, depending on when we’re leaving the house. One reason that I still use a packing list is so I can cross things off as I put them into my suitcase or backpack.
This cruise trip was a bit unusual for me. Due to work and other scheduling conflicts, I had to do most of the packing in advance. I was fully prepared for the trip a day ahead of our departure, with the exception of some last-minute items such as my computer and some toiletries.
Leaving For The Cruise
As we were getting ready to leave the house, I gave one last look at the list to make sure I brought everything. We packed the car and headed to Orlando Int’l Airport. We were taking the Brightline train to Miami, and since this was a new experience for us, we left extra early. We also booked tickets that included access to the lounge, so we’d be able to hang out at the new station to wait for our train. As I parked at our usual off-site parking lot, we loaded on the bus to the airport. The driver gave his talk: “Check to make sure you have your keys, wallet, tickets, ID, and passport.”
Oh no. I felt this knot developing in my stomach.
I immediately realized I didn’t have my passport. Even though it’s in ALL CAPS on my packing list, complete with six exclamation marks after it.
I turned to Sharon and said, “I forgot my passport.”
At first, she thought I was joking, but she soon realized that I was serious. Virgin Voyages used to almost always require you to have a passport to cruise with them, but they changed the rules in mid-2023. Unfortunately, although I had my driver’s license with me, I didn’t have the other supporting documentation I’d need to board the ship.
What Happened Next?
Here’s where the driver saved our trip. Fortunately, we only live 20-25 minutes from the airport. Sharon stayed on the shuttle with the rest of our travel group while I drove back home. I remembered exactly where I left my passport. It was on my desk, where I put it when I took it out 2 days earlier. Some papers had fallen over and covered my passport, which is why I didn’t see it to put in my pocket before leaving the house.
It was an hour-long detour, but we had left early enough that I made it home and back to the Brightline station in plenty of time. I was even able to grab a snack in the lounge before getting on the train.
Would I have been able to cruise without my passport?
We tried to figure this out ahead of time, but since we were still in Orlando, I didn’t have to worry about it. In the worst case, if I missed the train, I could take a later one or even drive to Miami if I had to. But what if I didn’t realize it until we made it to Miami? I’m playing over in my head what if the driver didn’t have a corny speech he makes to every busload of passengers he takes to the airport.
Here are the rules for sailing on Virgin Voyages.
Are passports and visas required to sail?
Our voyages require Sailors to have a valid passport with an expiration date at least 6 months after the voyage end date. Additionally, depending on your country of citizenship, certain ports may also require a visa for entry.However, we understand that spontaneous getaways sometimes occur without sufficient time for passport arrangements. If you fall into this category and you are sailing out of Miami, on an eligible closed-loop voyage, and are a United States citizen, we can make an exception to the passport requirement. In such cases, you will need to present one of the following documents:
- Original valid US Passport
- Original valid US Passport Card
- Original valid Trusted Traveler Card (NEXUS, FAST)
Or one of the below combinations of documents:
Original or copy of your state-issued birth certificate AND a physical Government-issued photo ID
- Puerto Rico birth certificates issued prior to July 1, 2010 are not acceptable
- Hospital-issued birth certificates are not acceptable
Original Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State AND a physical Government-issued photo ID
Original Certificate of Naturalization issued by US Citizenship and Immigration Services AND a physical Government-issued photo ID
If I had access to a copy of my birth certificate, I could have boarded the ship. However, the U.S. Department of State warns of possible problems when traveling outside of the United States without your passport:
We recommend that everyone taking a cruise from the United States have a passport book. Though some “closed-loop” cruises may not require a U.S. passport, we recommend bringing yours in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port. Also, your cruise company may require you to have a passport, even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not.
What I’ll Do Next Time
I’ve decided to store an electronic copy of my birth certificate so that I can access it easily if required. This could have saved me a trip if I was in Miami and about to board the ship. Additionally, it may come in handy in case I lose or my passport gets stolen.
You can also be sure that I’m going to triple-check that I have my passport in my pocket the next time I leave the house for a trip. I also won’t have to worry because I’m sure that Sharon’s never going to let me live down I almost missed our cruise because I forgot to bring my passport (Note from Sharon: he’s 100% correct. However I will say that we’re even now).
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