Carnival Cruise Line has responded to guest concerns about the need to hand in passports for select sailings with reassurances that this is indeed normal procedure.

While it may be new to some guests who may be sailing these types of itineraries for the first time, passports are always safely stored onboard.

Guests aboard Carnival Freedom as the ship returns from dry dock in Spain have been startled to learn that they must surrender their passports for immigration processing in Spain. This can be disconcerting for travelers who have been warned of passport theft and scams, but Carnival Cruise Line is seeking to reassure guests about the requirement.

Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald has been inundated with questions and concerns about this issue – some not so polite – and has explained the process.

“So [passports] will be collected today, embarkation day and stored in a safe on board. The immigration officials will come on the ship in Valencia or Malaga or both and check passports,” Heald said. “The good news is that the immigration authorities will not need to see the guests themselves otherwise there would be a huge line for that as you can imagine.”

Carnival Freedom at Port Canaveral (Photo Credit: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock)

Carnival Freedom departed Barcelona, Spain on Monday, October 23, 2023, after finishing her dry dock upgrades in Cadiz, which included getting a new whale tail funnel. The ship is scheduled to call on Valencia, Malaga, and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands before heading out to the open ocean on her way to Bermuda and then Port Canaveral.

The cruise line will not hold on to passports any longer than necessary to comply with immigration requirements.

“All the passports will be returned after the last Spanish port which is Las Palmas,” Heald clarified. “You will all receive a letter on board on how this will be done.”

Heald said that the cruise line was only informed of the requirement for Carnival Freedom‘s transatlantic crossing in the last few days, which explains why guests were not alerted to this requirement long before embarkation.

It must be noted that this is not an unusual procedure and is quite common on both Asian and European cruises as part of immigration processing and clearances.

Collecting passports is not the cruise line’s decision, but is dictated by the regulations of the country the ship is visiting, with different countries having different regulations. Carnival Cruise Line has no recourse nor input that will affect the requirement, and if it is not done, Carnival Freedom would not be permitted to visit the planned Spanish ports of call.

US Passports (Photo Credit: Chiara Sakuwa / Shutterstock)

Carnival Cruise Line’s travel documentation webpage only states that “US citizens are required to carry a passport, valid for six months beyond the return date of their voyage” for Europe and transatlantic cruises. No specific details about surrendering passports are mentioned.

Read Also: Large Passport Book vs Standard – Does It Matter?

Different factors may influence whether each country’s immigration officials may require passports to be surrendered. The number of ports a ship will visit, the total number of hours in ports of call, previous destinations the ship will have visited, or the overall capacity of the ship could all be factors in whether or not passports must be turned in.

Guests are always advised to travel with a valid passport, even if not explicitly required, such as for closed-loop cruises from US homeports.

Without a passport, guests could find themselves having much greater challenges if they must remain in a port of call due to an injury or other circumstances, must leave the cruise early for an emergency back home, or if something drastic happens and the entire cruise is cancelled and guests must be returned home from a foreign port, such as due to ship damage.

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