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Document Dilemma

Dear Anita,

I booked a Caribbean cruise on Travelocity that leaves very soon. I don't have a passport and was reading that if I don't have a certified birth certificate I will not be allowed to go on the ship. I don't know if I have the right birth certificate. What is a certified birth certificate and if I don't have one how do I get one?

Mary Smother
Jackson, Mississippi

Dear Mary,

All cruise lines are denying boarding to anyone not in possession of the required documentation proving they are citizens. Sadly, this happens more than you think and it would be ashame to miss such a great vacation because of the lack of the right documentation. There have been cases where people have mistakenly made a photocopy of their birth certificate thinking it was enough, again, you need a certified copy that has the signature and seal of the official in charge of maintaining your birth record. To obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate, write or go to the vital statistics office in the State or area where you were born. Information on how to obtain certified copies is also available at National Center For Health Statistics (NCHS).

I'd like to mention for anyone booking travel via the Internet, double check what documentation you need well before your departure time. This is where travel agents come in handy. Had you booked through an agency you would have received a confirming letter from your agent indicating what documentation you need well ahead of time. Clearly, this would have avoided the last minute rush to obtain the right documentation.

I hope I've been helpful. Bon Voyage!

Anita Dunham-Potter

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