My girlfriend April ** and I faced a scenario, that we both did not think was possible earlier this year on June 21st 2015. We had booked a cruise for the Royal Caribbean Ship the Navigator of the Seas, which left from Galveston, Texas to Cozumel, Belize and Roatan (Honduras). The sailing date was the 21st of June 2015 and the return date the 28th of June 2015. We booked the cruise on the 14th of October 2014 through Orbitz and paid the full amount for the cruise by the 24th of March 2015. We arrived at the cruise terminal in Galveston early at about 9:30am on the 21st of June 2015 with a big group of people, that was traveling with us. When we were trying to check us in I was told that there was an issue with my visa.
I am a German citizen and holder of an L1-B Visa since the 12th of September 2012. The Visa was valid until the 10th of September 2015 well after the end of the cruise. I had just two weeks prior entered the USA again with my visa without any problems or questions. At this point I want to point out, that all that is required as per Royal Caribbean's website: the Passport from my home country and a Multiple entry United States visa (if applicable). Please see on their website.
The shore personnel of Royal Caribbean Cruises in Galveston said, that they need to see additional documentation to my visa (a so called I129-S form). Although I was never asked for that form by anyone before, and despite the fact, that the contracts of Royal Caribbean and Orbitz do not mention that, the form was emailed to the on-shore personnel immediately. It took the personnel over 2 hours to review the email until they finally came back to me and said, that the I129-S is not enough, but that they need an original of the I129-S AND the Immigration Form I-797. My immigration lawyer was by that time already in contact with Royal Caribbean on shore and with their emergency helpline. He explained the visa regulations to the on-shore personnel, stating that they do not seem to be correctly informed about the visa regulations. The requested Originals have no relevancy over the validity of the visa.
In order to satisfy Royal Caribbeans request however, April and I went to get what we were asked for nonetheless. We borrowed a car and drove over 130 miles in midday weekend traffic and got the documents that we were asked for. After arriving back at the terminal at 3:10pm and handing everything in, we were still denied access. The reason this time: They also need an original I-797 form. I, as the visa holder however, do not have an original of that form. My employer has a copy and I had to hand in an original when I first entered the United states only on first entrance. So not only is their request not possible for me to fulfill, but also does Royal Caribbean never states I need any additional documentation to my visa. In addition one of our friends, that was on the cruise ship is French and has the exact same L1 type visa. He was checked in and boarded without any further questions.
The end of the story was: The ship left without us. We were misled, misinformed and in the end even mistreated, as the shore personnel asked the police to escort us out. We were never during the entire seven hour time period asked to leave, nor were we not cooperating in any way. We did everything we possibly could to satisfy the questionable request of the onshore personnel and in the end we were treated in a rude way by especially two Royal Caribbean employees and the police used physical Force on us.
We were planning this trip for more than a year. It was supposed to be our first cruise and it was a destination wedding cruise of two friends of ours. April and I were an important part of the wedding, we were to hold a speech and had wedding gifts with us, that the couple now did not receive on their wedding in Belize. In addition we were meant to scuba dive for the first time on the trip and got our scuba certification just for this trip. All of that was not possible for us anymore. Out of a group of almost 40 people, we were the only ones that were denied access to the ship, despite other people having the same visa. There are a lot more details to this story, that add to the discouragement, disappointment and even humiliation beyond words.
Unfortunately the disaster did not end at that point. Neither Orbitz, nor Royal Caribbean were willing to refund us our money even more were they condescending and even insulting in the frustrating telephone conversations I had with them after our failed cruise. We hired a lawyer to pursue this matter further in every possible way we could, but Royal Caribbean, through very tricky contract wording and clauses, managed to make it virtually impossible to successfully sue them. Up to this day, we did not see any positive impulse from Royal Caribbean, nor Orbitz towards us and we have not receive a single cent back from them.
Our experience could not have been any worse and it is needless to say, that not only our friends on the ship, but everyone else, that we know is in shock and indignation about how we were treated - especially as the reason is so incomprehensible. In our opinion everyone, who takes one of these cruises should know how deceitful and malicious Royal Caribbean was to us and how Orbitz took their side. If everything works out you may be lucky but if they find any reason, to have a problem with you you will not stand a single chance. I wish everyone more luck than us and can just hope that Karma finds its way.