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Author: twolane55

Joined: 9/16/2012
Posts: 9
Traveler Since: 2012

December 13, 2012

 When we boarded the River Concerto in Amsterdam on October 31, 2012, for a Great Rivers of Europe, our passports were confiscated by ship's personnel. When I say confiscated, I mean our choice was to either hand over our passports or get off the ship and forego our scheduled cruise. When I asked why, Eva, the hotel manager, stated that it was for border checks that could happen at any time. I expressed concern about traveling in a foreign country without my passport and Eva stated that it would be ok because we would be with the program directors whenever we were off the ship. I told her that was untrue since we would also be off the ship for free time. She then offered to make a photocopy of our passports for us to carry, to which I responded "How about I make a copy of my euros to settle my shipboard account? A photocopy of my passport is just as effective as a photocopy of my money." She didn't see the humor in that remark and the end result was that we reluctantly handed over our passports.

When we passed the final border between Germany and Austria, I asked that our passports be returned, and was told that they would be returned on the final day of the cruise. When I complained, I was told that border checks could happen at any time. When I reminded the clerk that we had already crossed the final border, she again stated that border checks could happen at any time and refused to return our passports.

Early on the final morning of the cruise, I asked that our passports be returned, and was then told that they would not be retuned until we turned in our cabin keys at disembarkation.

What is the REAL reason that our passports were confiscated - border checks or to ensure that we return our cabin keys?

If the reason is border checks, we were traveling in all Schengen Agreement countries, meaning border checks were very unlikely:

"Since the implementation of the Schengen rules, border posts have been closed (and often entirely removed) between participating countries. The Schengen Borders Code requires participating states to remove all obstacles to free traffic flow at internal borders.

The confiscation of our passports for the duration of the cruise left us with an uneasy feeling about traveling with GCT in the future.

 

 

Author: garyrr

Joined: 8/25/2012
Posts: 118
Trips Taken: 17
Countries Visited:

Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, S Africa, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Peru, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, India, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Italy, Ireland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

Traveler Since: 2000

December 13, 2012

This is NORMAL procedure with almost all ships.  I've been on ships from various companies, whenever international travel is involved, the ships I've been on have always kept the passports.   If you look at your returned passports, you will see that there are stamps from most every country you entered.  Would you prefer to be woken up at 4 am in the morning when the ship docks. stand in line with the other 150+ passengers,  to present your passport to the authorities.   The last ship I was on (with GCCL - Eastern Europe), there was one country that did require all passengers to have passports with them when off the ship -  the ship returned our passports that day then recollected them when we reboarded.

I'm assuming this is your first international ship cruise - or, if not, your prior trip(s) were very unusual. 

(Everthing I've said here refers to smaller ships and river boats -  we have not traveled on any of the modern day MEGA ships).

Author: twolane55

Joined: 9/16/2012
Posts: 9
Traveler Since: 2012

December 13, 2012

Thanks for the reply.  If this is normal procedure, GCT staff at the home office must not be aware of it.  I received a voice mail in response to an email that I sent them about this issue and the person said "it was to save us from lugging our passports around with us" and "it's really just for our convenience"

When I called in to talk to the person who left the voice mail, he was not available but the person I did talk with said it was "so we didn't have to worry about losing our passports".

All of these sound like corporate B.S. answers.

 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

December 13, 2012

Gary is correct.  When I started reading the original post, I thought "Oh my!"  But then as I scrolled down, I thought "Well, yes of course."  It's not only GCT that collects the passports; other cruise lines traveling among countries do.  I've taken small ship cruises in the Caribbean, and the purser deals with customs people at the various ports.  We passengers don't have to stand in line.

And as far as carrying your passport on shore excursions, either in groups or individual, I do the same with my passport as I do in any country.  Once I'm through passport control and checked into my hotel or on the ship, the passport goes into my room safe and I carry the photocopy.  It won't get you from one country to another, but it's good for personal identification.

Author: twolane55

Joined: 9/16/2012
Posts: 9
Traveler Since: 2012

December 13, 2012

Thanks.  If it's normal practice, I wonder why GCT home office staff can't just say so and stop the line of BS?  Also, if holding our passports was for border checks, I wonder why they wouldn't return them after we had passed the final border?  As it was, they wouldn't return them until we turned in our cabin key, which made me think that was the real reason all along.

I'm sure they have me listed as "difficult passenger" in my permanent record, but I've never been one to join in with the sheep and go along with the program without a good reason. 

I'll post further information if GCT home officewiill ever just give me the real reason in a direct answer.

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 535
Trips Taken: 8
Countries Visited:

Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, Monoco, Croatia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji

Traveler Since: 2006

December 13, 2012

Celebrity and Carnival do the same thing. As others have written, it's normal procedure. A photocopy of my passport has always worked for ID purposes.

Strange response to you from GCT though; if they don't know the reason they shouldn't guess but ask a supervisor or a cruise expert.

Author: garyrr

Joined: 8/25/2012
Posts: 118
Trips Taken: 17
Countries Visited:

Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, S Africa, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Peru, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, India, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Italy, Ireland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

Traveler Since: 2000

December 13, 2012

As for not returning the passport after the last border crossing -  I think some of that has to do with "consistency".  If they returned yours on Tuesday, but the end of the cruise was Thursday -   then they'd have some, and not others.   With large groups - they really need to be consistent.  AND, I'm guessing, there's always the possibility of "official" checks of the ship on an unannounced basis.

As to the office knowing about these things -  my experience with GCT and OAT people here in the US is not good.  They do not have full information and, in general, if I based my choices on them I wouldn't use this company.  The international staff, and services have always been excellent - and make up for the issues I've had with the US staff.   The people on the call center lines just don't have knowledge of all trips like they should.  Not sure how they can - I'm sure turnover is high and there are lots of trips they are covering.

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 138
Trips Taken: 3
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Hawaii and Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The zores, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

December 13, 2012

Maybe the US Call Center should arrange their staff and phone numbers by trip type (i.e., river cruises, small ship, land trips, etc or something similar) Or they could arrange it by specific areas of their tours (I.e, Europe, Mid-east, Africa, far east, etc.)   That way staff could be trained on specific trips and not the whole range of trips both OTC and GCT offer ; therefore, they would be more knowledgable with respect to specific questions involving one of these specific  tours...In addition, the customer by calling a specific number for the area of the world they are interested in, would get better answers rather than guesses as some on this forum have indicated that they have gotten... 

Author: fleetfoot

Joined: 3/10/2010
Posts: 45
Trips Taken: 9
Traveler Since: 2006

December 13, 2012

twolane55,

We did a seven day Aegean criuse with another cruise line.  We had to give them our passports when we boarded the ship and the passports were returned to us on the last night of the cruise.  We also like to have our passports with us at all times so I know how you feel.  But that's just the way it is on European cruises so we just had to accept it.  The ship key was all we needed for identification when we were off the ship for the day.

Author: piercove

Joined: 6/11/2010
Posts: 24
Trips Taken: 18
Traveler Since: 2003

December 13, 2012

 Keeping passports on the ship is standard procedure on every cruise we've taken--river or ocean, Grand Circle or three other cruise lines.  Basically, the ship figures it will have much less of a headache if no passengers lose or are robbed of their passports.  In some cases, if you explain that you will need your passport to change money at a bank or some other valid reason, you can take it ashore and then return it to the ship front desk.  In several European museums, to rent or borrow an audio guide, you will be asked to leave some kind of photo ID at the audio desk.  We found that everyone was happy with a U.S. driver's license, or even the ship's ID with a photo (issued by a different cruise line, not Grand Circle).  So relax, enjoy free time ashore, and you'll at least still have your passport if your purse is snatched or your wallet pickpocketed. 

Author: jandb

Joined: 3/10/2010
Posts: 33
Trips Taken: 11
Traveler Since: 1999

December 14, 2012

 On our recent Eastern Europe to the Black Sea we were required to individually present our passports to custom agents.  I've forgotten which country we were entering, but I do remember it was a major pain-in-the-neck!  Be grateful the ship takes care of these formalities most of the time.

Author: twolane55

Joined: 9/16/2012
Posts: 9
Traveler Since: 2012

December 14, 2012

Thanks to all for sharing your opinions.  This was our first river cruise and I was shocked that they would force us turn over our passports for the duration of the cruise.  I was even more shocked - I'm a neophyte in dealing with GCT - that their qualitymanagement@gtc.com staff would offer such bogus "reasons" as to why the ship held our passports.

From a security standpoint, I see no value in a border/customs official stamping passports en masse without the passport holder present - but that's just me. I can understand the idea of not making the passengers line up for an early morning border crossing, but the border official has no idea if I match my passport and/or who he/she is allowing to cross the border.

I've emailed qualitymanagement@gct.com to express my displeasure at their flip response to my concerns and to ask them for a copy of GCT's policy on holding passengers' passports.

Think I'll hear from them?

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

December 14, 2012

When I was leaving Russia in 2010, the official didn't believe my passport picture was me and held up the line until her supervisor came over to see what the problem was.  She kept looking at the picture and then up at me and repeating "this you??"  When I entered Israel last month, the official took some time comparing me to the picture, but he finally let me in.  So, presenting it in person can take a lot longer even if it's legit.

The procedure on cruise ships for collecting all the passports has worked well all over the world for years.  Just sayin'.

Author: garyrr

Joined: 8/25/2012
Posts: 118
Trips Taken: 17
Countries Visited:

Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, S Africa, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Peru, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, India, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Italy, Ireland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

Traveler Since: 2000

December 14, 2012

twolane55 -

Yes, you do have a complaint about the GCT staff not knowing about how passports are handled.  But don't ask for a "policy about holding passports"!   It's INDUSTRY PRACTICE everywhere!   It's not like GCT made this up and thinks it's best -  EVERYONE in the industry does it this way.   And, yes, I agree that it doesn't do much good for border patrol to stamp hundreds of passports en masse -   but there are TONS of things that various border patrols do that make no sense.  With international travel, you just have to "follow the rules" of whatever country you're trying to visit.

Again, you have every right to complain about the "not knowing" by the GCT staff - but don't complain about the actual holding of passports!   It's not GCT's decision!

Author: jandb

Joined: 3/10/2010
Posts: 33
Trips Taken: 11
Traveler Since: 1999

December 14, 2012

 As for the custom agents accepting the passenger passports en-mass (and stamping them).....Grand Circle and OAT take thousands of travelers a year to these countries.  GCT and OAT stand behind the people on their tours.  Besides we have gone through customs on our way to the ship and the ship itself has tight security.  

Betty

Author: grandcircle

Joined: 3/5/2010
Posts: 271
Trips Taken: 0

December 14, 2012

Hello Everybody -

Thank you for your comments.

If a traveler wishes, he/she is allowed to keep his/her passport.  Twolane55, we apologize if the procedure for retaining your passport was not clearly communicated.  We will be following up with our regional staff regarding this matter.

In general, we collect passports upon boarding as the police have the right to do periodic, unannounced spot checks on our ships. During these checks, we could be required to present our travelers' passports. To ensure that these random checks do not impact our travelers, we ask that our travelers allow us to hold their passports during their cruise.

Kind Regards,
Michelle
GCCL Forum Moderator

Author: twolane55

Joined: 9/16/2012
Posts: 9
Traveler Since: 2012

December 14, 2012

Thanks you, Michelle.  Will there be a policy in writing that I can print and carry with me for reference in the event this happens again?  It was certainly not optional when I boarded the River Concerto.

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 277
Trips Taken: 7
Countries Visited:

many

Traveler Since: 1999

December 14, 2012

Miichelle, I recommend that the procedure be documented in the appropriate trip handbooks. It seems to me that is the best way to inform everyone who needs to know.

Author: garyrr

Joined: 8/25/2012
Posts: 118
Trips Taken: 17
Countries Visited:

Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, S Africa, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Peru, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, India, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Italy, Ireland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

Traveler Since: 2000

December 14, 2012

Again , remember,  if you chose to insist on keeping your passport -  you will likely be woken up in the middle of the night several times.  Most river cruises dock in the very early morning hours.   And, again, remember, this is "industry practice" and has worked for many years with thousands of clients.

Author: twolane55

Joined: 9/16/2012
Posts: 9
Traveler Since: 2012

December 15, 2012

I would welcome the opportunity to have the option of surrendering my passport to the ship's personnel or retaining it in my possession.  That would leave a much better taste in my mouth than being bullied into handing it over on the pretext that it is for border checks, my convenience, so that I don't lose it, or as security for my cabin key. 

One can only hope that all GCT personnel are informed of the policy and that GCT includes the information in handbook we receive prior to the trip.

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