(11:50 a.m. EDT) -- Planning a cruise or a holiday over the next couple of years that starts in the USA? Then now is the time to register for ESTA, the United States' Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Why now? Because from September 8, next Wednesday, there will be a fee to register.
As we reported last year, the charge that's being introduced is $14, or about £10 per person, which has to be paid by credit card during registration. The money raised will pay for the administration of the scheme and will contribute, somewhat ironically, to promoting the U.S.A. abroad as a tourist destination.
It's not a huge amount in the context of the cost of a cruise, but a family of four would probably find a more enjoyable way to spend £40 on a cruise; and we British are already hit with enormous aviation taxes on long haul travel, so yet another fee is hard to swallow.
One registration will last you two years and you have to do it online. There is no need to register again for subsequent visits to the U.S.A. unless your passport expires during the two years, or has to be replaced.
Anybody whose nationality qualifies them for the Visa Waiver Scheme needs to apply for an ESTA before travel; if you're not sure which countries participate, check here. And bear in mind that any organisation charging for ESTA applications before September 8 is taking a fee for itself, not acting on behalf of the US government.
Will the new charge put you off cruising from a U.S. port? Let us know on our blog!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor