January 10, 2003
Security of passengers continues to be an ever-present priority in the industry as cruise lines, in conjunction with the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL), work with the U.S. and international governments to enhance various procedures. But travelers may not even notice. At this point, says ICCL president Michael Crye, "what passengers will see and what will affect them is minimal." The first enhancement area of 2003 involves additional information that cruise lines are required to provide to the U.S. government's Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) on all passengers. But this new requirement is fairly unobtrusive; the Border Security Act has added a couple of areas, such as where travelers' passports were issued and drivers' license numbers, to the usual passport number and birth date. Where this could create a small log-jam, Crye says, is at check-in if passengers haven't completely filled in their forms. "You could see a little bit longer of a line at embarkation if people haven't completely filled in all that information," he says, "but we hope we're educating travelers and travel agents enough so this requirement is taken care of when the cruise is booked and not at embarkation." A more significant development still lies in the future. The International Ship and Port Security Code was just adopted at the International Maritime Organization meeting in December and what's important is that it will ultimately -- over the next 18 months -- require every ship and every port in the world to undergo a uniform certification process. "It pretty much parallels our own domestic legislation," Crye says, noting that the most obvious-to-passenger elements include security enhancements like more lighting and added security fences at ports. There will be additional waterside security requirements -- small boats won't be able to get as close as they did in the past. Expect to see more security at passenger terminals at ports-of-call, consistent with what you see at the port of embarkation. These changes are not officially required, however, until July 2004. One interesting omission in this ever-increasing-awareness of cruise security (which is actually not limited to cruise passengers): the U.S. still does not require Americans to carry a passport when traveling to some international destinations, like the Caribbean (though other forms of ID, like a birth certificate, are required). Crye anticipates that will ultimately change.