To Passport or Not to Passport? That is the Question
It’s inevitable that you’ll have a client question whether they really need to have a passport to cruise. When the itinerary sails between two cities (not returning to the original port of embarkation) it’s an easy answer: yes. If they research it themselves, they won’t find an alternative answer.
The problem arises when we are discussing a closed-loop itinerary out of a US port. No, for now a passport isn’t required, but it is strongly recommended. That is when we get the pushback. If it’s not required, why should they spend $125 per person to get one? Especially when you’d working with a family of six, the cost of getting passports can significantly impact their travel budget.
It is a challenge to convince clients to get passports when they aren’t explicitly required. Not only do they look at the cost involved, but most people seem to have the “it won’t happen to me” attitude. Like travel insurance, travel consultants should have a file of examples that illustrate why having a passport is important. If you don’t have personal stories involving your own clients, reach out to other travel agents for examples of travel gone bad because no one had a passport. If you can’t come up with first hand personal stories, then at the very least flesh out the scenarios that can happen and share them with clients.
As an example (this applies to travel insurance and passport requirements) share the scenario of trip interruption. What happens if they are two days into their seven night cruise, and they get the call that a parent or grandparent is gravely ill and not expected to make it? Family is urging them to fly home immediately in order to say their last good-byes and attend a funeral. Are they going to stay on the ship? Or will they disembark and fly home ASAP? Unless they are in Puerto Rico or St Thomas, flying home without passports can be a challenge. For any other port of call without passports, “ASAP” won’t necessarily be in the cards. Explain to them how the process works when you don’t have passport (i.e. possibly paying more at a US embassy to have emergency passports issued), and the delays that can be involved before they can even board a plane. When grieving, the last thing they should have to worry about is whether they’ll get home in time.
What do you do to encourage closed-loop cruise passengers to travel with a passport?
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.