A stolen passport shouldn’t normally ruin a vacation, as experienced travel advisors know. There are a variety of ways travelers can protect themselves and obtain emergency replacements.
Still, sometimes things go awry, and as a Newsweek story that ran on July 16, 2019 described, headaches and unexpected costs can pile up when you don’t have back-up plans. According to the Newsweek story, 70-year-old Chris Crook and his 63-year-old wife Sarah were refused boarding in April 2019 on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer when Chris Crook lost his passport.
According to several reports, during a shore excursion in Rome, Chris Crook left his passport in a bag under a chair at lunch while he visited a bathroom. When he returned, the passport was missing. The couple reported the theft to the local police and headed back to the ship.
Expecting assistance back onboard, Crook told the Regent staff his passport was gone, but since he now had no form of identification, the staff told him he had to leave the vessel.
Crook told one news outlet that when he and his wife headed back to the Explorer of the Seas, he expected no issues since he had shown his passport during his initial embarkation. He also claimed to have a copy of his passport. “No sooner than I said it was stolen and that I had no second form of ID, they said, 'Well then, you have to get off the ship,’" he told one media outlet.
In a letter shared with the couple's travel agent, the cruise line said, “The decision to not allow the guests to sail with us come from the Italian immigration authorities. Regent Seven Seas Cruises are obliged to comply with all Immigration authorities, Maritime Law and International Law where we require passports for all travelers for all voyages, regardless of guests' nationality and ports of call and countries visited."
Regent’s ground agents assisted the couple with their stay in Rome, as well as their passport application with the British Embassy, the cruise line said. The couple said it took several days to organize emergency travel documents for Chris Crook.
The couple had spent about $12,500 on the 12-day Barcelona-Venice itinerary, and missed out on at least two additional ports, according to one report. The stay in Rome cost them about $1,250 in out-of-pocket expenses, the Crooks said, including a $123 taxi bill and a $280-a-night hotel room. (Travel insurance reimbursed the couple for a portion of the expenses.)
Trip protection tips if a passport is lost or stolen
Travel Market Report reached out to several travel advisors to see what they would have done in this situation, and to offer tips and reminders for cruise vacationers to protect themselves when traveling abroad.
“I’m not sure why it took them so long to get a replacement passport. There’s not enough detail in this article,” said Margie Lenau', of Wonderland Family Vacations, in Walker, Michigan.
“A passport can be reissued in Rome usually within one day,” said Diane Bean, Off on Vacation Travel, in Bangor, Maine, curious about why, on a weekday, an emergency passport took several days to issue.
Denise Pickard, owner at Travel By Denise, was also confused by the media reports. She recalled a similar situation that happened to her in Italy. “We had our passports, among other things, stolen in Venice. We did a police report and headed to Milan to the U.S. Embassy. We were in and out within 30 minutes, because we had copies,” Pickard said.
Lenau’ and others reminded agents and travelers that travel insurance assistance call centers are a great resource in situations like this, and another reason why advisors should be recommending additional travel protection for their clients heading overseas.
Agents like Lorrie Darr Ortega, Cruise Planners – Lorrie Darr Ortega, and Lenau’ keep their clients’ passport information on file in their CRM specifically for situations like this one. “We also make our clients’ passport information available via our My Trips app,” Darr Ortega said, “and recommend travelers save a copy of your passport on your phone.”
Stef Katz, owner at The Travel Superhero, in Lake Mary, Florida, reminds all of her international clients to do these three things:
1. Keep your passport on your person at all times when ashore, in a cross-body bag that has a safety pin closing the compartment the passport is in, as well as on the top zipper of the bag.
2. Never take that bag off your person while ashore, even when eating at a cafe or other restaurant. Pickpockets live for travelers putting their bags down for “just a second.”
3. Keep copies of your passport in your luggage, with a contact back at home, and in your email account, so they can be accessed easily anywhere, at any time, to speed up the replacement process overseas.