Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Passport Law Could Delay Trips

Travelers without a passport must pass on any cruises outside of the U.S. starting in late December, no matter what kind of great deals they land for their next vacation, points out Bob Levinstein, CEO of

After a year-long delay, passports will be required for all air and sea travel outside of the U.S. for persons returning home after Jan. 1, 2007. This includes trips to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and various other cruise ship destinations.

The Cruise Lines International Association estimates that only 35% of travelers used passports as identification on cruises during the past 12 months. With more than 10,000,000 Americans enjoying cruise vacations each year, this means a lot of people still need to secure proper identification.

“Under normal conditions, it takes about six weeks to obtain a passport, but who knows how long it will take if the demand surges later this year when people realize they need one,” Levinstein cautions. “Our travel agent-members booking trips for late December and next year are imploring their clients to obtain their passports now. Wait too long and they could be left stranded on shore.”

Passports cost about $100 apiece. However, delay until the last minute and it costs an extra $60 per passport to expedite the process, which still takes up to two weeks. One must apply for a passport in-person at the post office or county courthouse. Passport forms also can be downloaded through the State Department’s website, passport.

Levinstein mentions that the upside of this situation is that there should be a glut of cruise inventory for later this year and next, especially for short cruises. “It will be more difficult for people without passports to book cruises less than two months out. We think this is going to result in a lot of cruise lines drastically reducing their prices to help fill their ships. It’s a great benefit for those individuals who already have their passports in-hand.”

Source: USA Today Magazine, Aug2006