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.