Holland America Cruise / Costco Travel Refund

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Oct 17, 2016
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Hello, I have an issue with Holland America Line/Costco Travel.

My family and I booked an Alaskan cruise I took with Holland America departing from and returning to Seattle, WA scheduled to embark on September 17th 2016. I was advised by a Holland America representative that a Canadian visa was not needed for residents outside of the United States to board the cruise as this was an Alaskan cruise, departing and returning to the United States. I expected that Holland America, a supposedly reputable cruise line would have the knowledge of whether a visa was needed to board their cruise. This trip was booked specifically for an elderly couple from China celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary as well as celebrating the husband’s 70th birthday. Their specific reason for visiting the United States was to enjoy an Alaskan cruise with their family. They saved up for years to go on this cruise.

Due to receiving incorrect visa information from Holland America, this couple was denied boarding the cruise on the day of departure at the Seattle port. Since this couple is visiting from China, specifically for this trip, they had nowhere to stay or go as the only family they had were going on the cruise with them. The couple was advised by Holland America to try to obtain an “Emergency Canadian Visa” by driving to Blaine, Washington, crossing the Canadian border to get stopped by the Canadian Customs agents and try to persuade them into issuing the couple an emergency visa. If an emergency visa was issued, they were to fly to Juneau, Alaska and meet up with the cruise ship, as that was the first port stop. I had to miss several days of this cruise in order to stay behind to interpret and translate English and accompany the couple to Blaine, Washington to try to get the emergency visa, as wrongfully advised by Holland America port staff. The experience driving into the Canadian border to try to obtain an emergency visa was traumatic and terrifying. Holland America port staff advised us that this process was easy and certain. However, upon arrival to the Canadian border, we were greeted with hostility, guns, and disrespect. We were told that we could be detained for unlawfully crossing the Canadian border, something we did not realize, as we were told that this was the way to attain an emergency visa by Holland America port staff. We were finally released after the customs agents realized that we were afraid and lost. The customs agents advised that no emergency visas are given at the border and instructed us to immediately leave the border. Due to receiving incorrect visa information from Holland America, additional costs were incurred to accommodate the elderly couple and me for the cruise boarding denial. Below is the breakdown of the additional costs that was incurred:

Uber ride from Seattle cruise port terminal to car rental: $10.63
Rental car: $228.82 for 2 days
Gas: $34.00
Hotel Room: $219/day = $438 for 2 nights
Uber ride from car rental place to Seattle airport: $29.57
Flight to Alaska for accompanying traveler (me): $576.00
Flight to Los Angeles for elderly couple: $800.00
Cost of Accompanying Traveler (me) missing 2 days of cruise: $304.59
Couple missing the entire cruise due to not receiving visa information from Costco: $2132.08
__________________________________
Total: $4553.69

I have emailed Holland multiple times and they have advised they are not will not be refunding any money.

I also reach out to Costco, as this trip was booked through Costo Travel. During our call, there was no mention of Canadian visas needed for the couple traveling with a China passport. Costco Travel, acting as a travel agency should have provided additional information as I was also trusting their travel expertise.

I also called Holland America to confirm if any additional visas were needed and they said no. Cruises and travel agencies that book on behalf of cruises need to be held to some type of standards. They need to be held accountable for some of the things they do. Consumers spend thousands and thousands of dollars on them, it is a shame that they refuse to provide any type of assistance.

Furthermore, Holland resold the cabins that my relatives could not use, they most certainly did not miss out on any money. Please let me know what my options are, thank you.
 
Feb 9, 2016
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#2
Yeesh, what really sucks about your situation is that Holland America clearly states in it's TOC that the guest is responsible for researching and obtaining necessary documentation, etc, for the specific cruise in question.

As well, Holland America is going to contend that their CS agents are not qualified to advise any guest on passport or visa needs for any cruise.

Do you have the agents name? The date and time you called? (maybe they can pull a recording of the call?)


For Non-U.S./Non-Canadian Citizens: You must have and carry a passport valid for six months beyond the duration of your travel. Please carefully verify the existing identification requirements for your particular travel situation. In addition, non-U.S. citizens who have previously been admitted to the United States for permanent residence must carry their Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551), commonly known as a Green Card. Resident aliens not in possession of this must obtain one at the nearest office of the U.S. Immigration Service.

VISAS
Certain countries require that you obtain official authorization (called a visa) before entering the country, and some countries require that you obtain a visa regardless of whether you plan to go ashore in that particular port or not. Usually there is a fee required. Guests are responsible for verifying and obtaining any necessary travel documents for entry and exit to the countries visited, as these requirements vary depending on the specific port and nationality of the traveler. This includes payment of all costs related to arrangements to obtain entry to the countries you visit. Boarding may be denied or fines levied against those guests arriving at the pier without the proper documentation, and those guests will not be eligible for a refund. Payment of any fines levied is the responsibility of the individual guest. Please note that fees and visa requirements are subject to change without notice. Holland America Line provides guests with the following link to VisaCentral as a service to assist with the collection of necessary documents. Applications and additional information may be downloaded from their website:
hollandamerica.visacentral.com

You can also reach them by phone or email:
U.S. citizens
Phone: 1-866-788-1100
Email: customerservice@visacentral.com
Canadian citizens
Phone: 1-888-665-9956
Email: customerservice@cibtvisas.ca
Australian citizens
Phone: 1902-251-370
Email: info@au.visacentral.com
Austrian citizens
Phone: 43-1-22811
Email: service@cibtvisas.at
Belgian citizens:
Phone: 0902-150-45
Email: info@visumcentrale.be
Dutch citizens
Phone: 0900-315-0200
Email: info@cibtvisas.nl
French citizens
Phone: 08-25-08-10-20
Email: info@cibt.fr
German citizens
Phone: 030-230959175
Email: info@cibtvisas.de
Singaporean citizens:
Phone: 66-031096
Email: info@visacentral.sg
Spanish citizens:
Phone: 902-113-829
Email: info@visacentral.es
Swiss citizens:
Phone: 41-0-31-313-20-20
Email: info@visacentral.ch
United Kingdom citizens
Phone: 0207-593-6207
Email: specialservices@cibtvisas.co.uk;
Citizens of all other countries should contact the nearest representative embassy or consulate for proper information.
 
Likes: Patina
Oct 17, 2016
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Thank you for your reply @sas80, I've been looking through my notes trying to find where I wrote down the name of the rep I spoke with at Holland America. My main issue with them, aside from the visa misinformation was telling us to cross over to Canada! I'm sure most people wound't have done it, but I didn't want my relatives to miss out on this trip and thought it was a sure thing and that since Holland advised it, it was good information.
And I'm trying to work with Costco on pulling up our phone call, where they also did not advise on Canadian visas. I realize how stupid this all is, this was my first cruise and I booked through Costco mainly because I did not know of all these rules and of course of their good deals and great customer service but Costco Travel is vastly different than Costco Warehouse. I think it is unfair that Holland isn't even offering anything even for the fact that they told us to cross Canada illegally (i have the name of the agent, spoke with her in person at the terminal, and have multiple witnesses that she gave us this info) but they are not even acknowledging that.
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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#4
I am sorry this has happened. What a huge disappointment to plan and dream of this trip only to be denied for something so simple and correctable if known at the time of booking.

Just thinking out loud here and not really able to offer any advice..........if the couple was able to enter the US and be present in Seattle, why were they not able to board a ship that was sailing to another part of the US? It sounds like they cleared customs and immigration somewhere in the States, SeaTac I presume? My only guess is the ship had stops in Canada which is why they needed a visa. If you could please clarify why the visa was required.
 
Oct 17, 2016
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Thank you for your response @Patina. Yes, we had a stop in Canada. The last port call, being my first trip, newbie mistake, I honestly thought since we were disembarking from Seattle and returning to Seattle, the US Visa would work fine, as we were told...didn't even think much about it since this was an Alaskan cruise (US territory) but that last stop got us! Being told to cross the Canadian border was the crazy part, and the fact that they tell many people to do this seems bizarre! I have family in the Coast Guard and US CBP and they all said that was insane and not right information to give out. I mention CBP and Coast Guard as they often deal with people crossing borders, through land or sea).
 

Carrie Livingston

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
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#6
The port agent that you spoke with in Seattle is generally not a cruise line employee. The port provides the employees for the cruise line for the check in process and then the cruise line employees handle things on ship. However I'm surprised that the employee would have directed you to try to cross without the visa.

Costco Travel, as your agents, should have determined whether a visa was required or not. They were provided with the passport information for your family and should have verified whether or not a visa was required. Canada is actually pretty strict about border crossings and will deny entry to US citizens who have been convicted of certain crimes.
 
Likes: AAGK
Oct 17, 2016
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#7
Thank you @Carrie Livingston, the employee advised she was with Holland, she was called by one of the port employees to come speak with us. Thinking back now, it is very surprising that we were advised to cross the Canadian border illegally. I am US citizen so me driving across the border was technically fine, since no visas are needed for US citizens but I was driving two people who were not US citizens so I was advised I was illegally transporting 2 people who were trying to cross the Canadian border illegally.

I finally got to hear the audio from when I booked the trip with Costco. When we booked, the CSR asked which country the passports are from. I said China, for the 2 people who were not from this country, and this was repeated by the CSR 3 additional times, when she repeated the information back to me. At no point did she mention a visa was needed. I understand, as a traveler I need to do my research, but when I'm using a well-known travel agency, which claims: they have "trained travel professionals who can expertly advise you in planning and booking your vacation," (https://www.costcotravel.com/Info/aboutCostcoTravel) I have to ask, what's the point of using a travel agency if these IMPORTANT information is not relayed to people who haven't traveled much? At what point do we hold travel agencies accountable for providing a service that they should be an expert in? At the end of the call, the CSR did a fast forward monologue of travel insurance and slipped in the word visa for some countries, and said thank you very much and our call was ended. Is that it? Does that suffice for informing a new cruise traveler about this much needed information?

Also, Holland did not lose out on money b/c the cabins that my relatives should have been in were resold. Our cabins were all right next to each other and we spoke to the people occupying that room and they said they paid for it and it was theirs.

And yes, I have learned that Canada is very strict about people crossing their borders. They were very hostile, dismissive, but oh well, that's them protecting their country, I can't be upset about that.
 
Likes: AMA

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#8
This is an awful way to learn how to determine the paperwork required for travel. For our other readers, NEVER take the word of a cruise line employee, a port staffer, or anyone else except the government authorities. Any good travel agent will outline exactly what you need to do and can steer you in the right direction.

We always advise using a real travel agent to arrange any travel out of the ordinary. A discount or online travel agency, such as Costco, just takes your order. It is a mystery to me why these people try to give advice when all they should say is "be sure to do your own visa research".

I think Costco should make an attempt to compensate you for this mess; they are a reputable company with a good customer service reputation and should not be allowing their workers to give out this kind of advice at all. You had no way of knowing that they were clueless. Whether their travel department is completely separate is of no consequence, you had faith in Costco and they've let you down badly.
 
Feb 10, 2015
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#9
The port agent that you spoke with in Seattle is generally not a cruise line employee. The port provides the employees for the cruise line for the check in process and then the cruise line employees handle things on ship. However I'm surprised that the employee would have directed you to try to cross without the visa.

Costco Travel, as your agents, should have determined whether a visa was required or not. They were provided with the passport information for your family and should have verified whether or not a visa was required. Canada is actually pretty strict about border crossings and will deny entry to US citizens who have been convicted of certain crimes.
We've booked a number of cruises with Costco and never provided them with passport information. This information is entered directly on the cruise lines website as part of the check-in process. Costco's confirmation email provides clear instructions regarding checking with proper authorities about required travel documentation, including specific instructions for non US citizens to check on visa requirements with consulates of countries to be visited.
 

Carrie Livingston

Moderator
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Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
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#10
I finally got to hear the audio from when I booked the trip with Costco. When we booked, the CSR asked which country the passports are from. I said China, for the 2 people who were not from this country, and this was repeated by the CSR 3 additional times, when she repeated the information back to me. At no point did she mention a visa was needed. I understand, as a traveler I need to do my research, but when I'm using a well-known travel agency, which claims: they have "trained travel professionals who can expertly advise you in planning and booking your vacation," (https://www.costcotravel.com/Info/aboutCostcoTravel) I have to ask, what's the point of using a travel agency if these IMPORTANT information is not relayed to people who haven't traveled much? At what point do we hold travel agencies accountable for providing a service that they should be an expert in? At the end of the call, the CSR did a fast forward monologue of travel insurance and slipped in the word visa for some countries, and said thank you very much and our call was ended. Is that it? Does that suffice for informing a new cruise traveler about this much needed information?
Like @jsn55 said, I think your beef is going to be with Costco Travel. They were acting as your agent and should have advised you about the visa requirements. From frequenting this site and the Cruise Critic message boards, I've learned a lot and have learned that many countries require a visa for Chinese citizens. I hope you can get some resolution from them. I'm not sure if there are contacts for Costco Travel or if you should use the regular contacts for them but I'm sure that one of the other posters or moderators might have some additional ideas. I'm so sorry you didn't get to take this trip.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#11
We've booked a number of cruises with Costco and never provided them with passport information. This information is entered directly on the cruise lines website as part of the check-in process. Costco's confirmation email provides clear instructions regarding checking with proper authorities about required travel documentation, including specific instructions for non US citizens to check on visa requirements with consulates of countries to be visited.
I agree, Bob, but you are an experienced traveller who carefully reads and understands all the information. I book all my travel as well without any nasty issues, but I do a great deal of research. I would never ask a cruise line employee about required visas, I would check it myself directly. People just don't have any idea how complex a trip like this is. What's that old saying? You don't know what you don't know. And I think that Costco is a trusted name and Costco let them down.
 

JVillegirl541

Verified Member
Nov 21, 2014
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#12
This is a direct copy from my daughters Costco Travel Cruise confirmation for a cruise departing this coming weekend. This was a part of the Confirmation emailed about 10 minutes after booking the cruise.
This information is extremely clear about the passenger responsibility for Required Documents.

From a Costco Travel booking confirmation for a cruise departing this Sunday:
Travel Documentation
Government-issued photo ID is required for all travel, both domestic and international. Passports are required for international travel. You will not be permitted to depart without the necessary documentation. There may be additional requirements for international travel, such as inoculations or visas, and some countries require that passports be valid for six months or longer beyond your stay in the country. Passport and entry requirements are subject to change at any time without notice. For the most current information on passport and entry requirements, please visit the official website for the U.S. Department of State (www.travel.state.gov).

IF YOU ARE NOT A U.S. CITIZEN, you must contact the consulate of the country you are visiting to inquire about visa requirements. You must also contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (1-800-375-5283), www.uscis.govfor re-entry requirements into the United States.
 
Last edited:

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#13
Did you tell them at booking that you were booking for a non citizen? US residents don't need a visa if leaving round trip from
Seattle. But non residents might.

And as SAS says, every cruise line tells you the traveler is responsible for making sure they verify the docs. they need to travel.

And as someone pointed out if you questioned someone at the port, they are not cruise line employees, they are employed by an outside company and know nothing more than to tell you where to drop your luggage and get online to get on the ship.

And please check your docs- as Jville pointed out, they usually state right on them about citizenship requirements.
 
Likes: AAGK
Feb 10, 2015
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#14
This is a direct copy from my daughters Costco Travel Cruise confirmation for a cruise departing this coming weekend. This was a part of the Confirmation emailed about 10 minutes after booking the cruise.
This information is extremely clear about the passenger responsibility for Required Documents.

From a Costco Travel booking confirmation for a cruise departing this Sunday:
Travel Documentation
Government-issued photo ID is required for all travel, both domestic and international. Passports are required for international travel. You will not be permitted to depart without the necessary documentation. There may be additional requirements for international travel, such as inoculations or visas, and some countries require that passports be valid for six months or longer beyond your stay in the country. Passport and entry requirements are subject to change at any time without notice. For the most current information on passport and entry requirements, please visit the official website for the U.S. Department of State (www.travel.state.gov).

IF YOU ARE NOT A U.S. CITIZEN, you must contact the consulate of the country you are visiting to inquire about visa requirements. You must also contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (1-800-375-5283), www.uscis.govfor re-entry requirements into the United States.
Thanks! It's the same information that is on all my Costco email confirmations. And it's not buried; it's right up front (2nd paragraph) in the email. Pretty hard to miss.
 
Aug 28, 2015
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#15
Thank you for your reply @sas80, I've been looking through my notes trying to find where I wrote down the name of the rep I spoke with at Holland America. My main issue with them, aside from the visa misinformation was telling us to cross over to Canada! I'm sure most people wound't have done it, but I didn't want my relatives to miss out on this trip and thought it was a sure thing and that since Holland advised it, it was good information.
And I'm trying to work with Costco on pulling up our phone call, where they also did not advise on Canadian visas. I realize how stupid this all is, this was my first cruise and I booked through Costco mainly because I did not know of all these rules and of course of their good deals and great customer service but Costco Travel is vastly different than Costco Warehouse. I think it is unfair that Holland isn't even offering anything even for the fact that they told us to cross Canada illegally (i have the name of the agent, spoke with her in person at the terminal, and have multiple witnesses that she gave us this info) but they are not even acknowledging that.
If Holland gave you bad info on the visa issue, I'm not sure why you would accept any more visa advice from them. Also, how on earth would a costco travel agent know what kind of Visa a Chinese national needs. She's not a State Department rep. She booked the trip you requested. You are supposed to make sure you are able to take the trip.
 
Likes: joycexyz