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Evagoblog

BEWARE of using Visa Central and others...

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Although this pertains to my HAL cruise the advice here can pertain to ANY visa service pushed by the cruise line. I do not know if I can post the same thing in different forums so I will just lead others to here. 
 
When I booked the 50 day cruise on the Veendam I was told by a HAL sales rep, that we can get a visa onboard for Brazil with HAL and asked her 3x as it looked like on the website we had to get it on our own.   Couple of weeks later, my roommate who felt uncomfortable, made me call again and was informed by docs. agent I was transferred to, to get visa thru Visa Central (he made it sound mandatory and not an option) and when I called again to HAL to make sure, I was also made to feel that I needed to get visa through Visa Central. When I went to their website the link to an e-visa didn't work (I thought that  because the first agent said HAL got the visas we HAD to get our visas through there.)  Imagine my horror after filling out all the info (the link VC gave me was for other ships since the Veendam had no listing for the kits, but she said I could use ANY kit-confused me when she used kit but it's just instructions) it was $130 more than the base cost of the visa, I did NOT purchase but not thinking of simply asking the employee there, went through the steps to get a visa to find out price. 
 
It looks like you have to mail things to VC and they either do it the old fashioned way going to the embassy or just fill it online for you, and that's why the surcharge is so exorbitant. If I was generous, I would say that maybe because there are many elderly people on HAL cruises, they think many don't know how to use the internet and they want to be helpful in suggesting a company that can do it for you even an easy e-visa, but sadly, I think they get so much commission they want you to think that is the BEST way and push it.  Other cruise lines also push visa companies probably earning high commissions (I'd say kickbacks) so do your homework on the internet and do NOT use these companies. I don't mind paying to the ship for them to do them, as it's no hassle, but I might not have had to for some countries who usually require visas because some countries do waivers if you are in a country for three days or less, making me think that they created them for cruise ship stops. 

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Brazil consulate website for the Los Angeles area issues warning in Sept 2018 about using non-sanctioned visa services:

http://losangeles.itamaraty.gov.br/en-us/


18/09/2018 - US, Canadian, Australian, and Japanese passport holders must request their eVisa at http://www.vfsglobal.com/brazil-evisa/. Trying to obtain an eVisa through an unauthorized website can expose the applicant to the risk of being overcharged or ev...
 

We planned on taking the Prinsendam to the Amazon a few years back (around the time of the Brazil Olympics) and the visas and yellow fever requirements at that time were so crazy and confusing we decided to cancel the entire cruise.  

 

Plus horror stories of passengers not being able to board if they followed one regulations when in fact another regulation applied. NIH had just changed their yellow fever regulations at the same time and it was all over the place which one HAL would accept - life time or 10 years or whether Brazil did not did not even demand yellow fever - if coming from a yellow fever area.

 

 This inability to get straight answers seems to be par for the course with travel to Brazil. Sorry you got trapped in their latest run around.  

Edited by OlsSalt

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Ols Salt, did you not know that the visa requirement for Brazil was waived for the Olympics (but then again HAL may have had THEIR requirement and STILL have required it) and I don't know then but now, HAL only requires a yellow fever for Devil's Island but then again, the person who told me that was the agent who told me that HAL would get me the visa aboard ship-imagine if we had showed up at the dock with no visa, and this is NOT a cheap cruise-ooohh, a law suit in the making but on the roll call for this trip, someone said only YF vaccine required. 

 

On another note, on I took a Princess cruise  from Africa to England (30 days starting at $999) if I took it on HAL it would have been that price for a single, same itinerary, and I wouldn't have had to deal with a roommate that was like the aggressor in the Me Too movement!  This was during Ebola scare-silly people were so scared to go to African then, when I took a cruise from Houston, a friend not knowing where I was going told me not to get Eb, turns out that on that ship  on a couple of cruises before they had a medical worker who worked at the hospital in Texas where some person who died of it was, she never met him, but on the Carib. cruise she took they wouldn't let her leave the cabin and the ports wouldn't allow the other pax off the ship, guess she was in her room to protect her from the other irate paxs LOL!  I told my friend yeah, why go 12K miles when I can go 1200 miles and get it!  Some pax of Chinese descent,  did not get the required vaccines for Africa, they held up an independent tour that some (maybe CC passengers put together) for almost an hour, because the ship didn't want let them off the ship but finally did  (irritating, for people like me, who spent the time and money getting vacs.)   I wonder if HAL would do that, but given that the pax are usually a bit older and thus more susceptible to illnesses, probably not. 

Edited by Evagoblog

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Yes we knew about  the Brazil Olympic waiver, but this was only a short term waiver - this cruise was after the Olympics after the waiver concluded - seemed like the whole mess was going to add another $600 each to the trip between the Yellow Fever and the Brazil Visa. We also had signed up for the cruise at the last minute so the timing to get all this done was too short to really pull it off - again the YF problem had some timing issues as I recall. 

 

The one happy note in scrambling around was finding my Yellow Fever certificate from the 1960s - when at that very same time NIH or CDC was finally saying once in a life time YF vaccination was good enough - though HAL was still saying it had to be within 10 years.  Or a medical letter claiming the vaccine was harmful to health- which apparently it can be for those over 70.  

 

Brazil claimed they did not need it at that time, but if you had come from a YF location prior to arrival in Brazil you had to have proof. Others said on prior cruises to Brazil, no one even bothered to check for YF vaccinations. So ultimately we pulled out of that one and signed up for Voyage of the Vikings instead - what a contrast in sanity and sanitation. 

 

Your Africa misadventures sound like pretty much the same thing - but that is half the fun of picking those off the beaten track places to visit. Adventure. 

Edited by OlsSalt

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Americans are assigned by their state of residence to a specific Brazilian embassy.   Not everyone lives in or near that city.  Using an intermediary saved us a 2014 wintertime trip to Washington DC,  an inconvenient location for us.  We actually live closer to another one but you cannot choose where to go. 

We’ve used CIBT for visa services and felt their fee was well worth it.  Their web site is well organized and detailed on how to meet visa  requirements, what to send and how to do it.  

I have read the Brazilian process has been simplified to allow e filings but haven’t researched it. 

We paid for yellow fever vaccinations but not a single official asked about it. 

 

Visa rules change all the time.  Never rely on a message board for guidance. 

 

 

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43 minutes ago, sammiedawg said:

 

Visa rules change all the time.  Never rely on a message board for guidance. 

 

 

Truer words never spoken, and one reason why I'm sure cruise lines do not want to get into the business of giving advice on visas.  This is one area where it truly is important to take responsibility and do the research yourself -- and I'd add to that the need to double and triple check your findings.  Also, since things DO change, you have to consider timing -- get it taken care of too early and things could change. But you don't want to leave it too late either...

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My wife and I are probably on the same cruise as the OP and and had a similar experience with Visa Central.  I found their website to be confusing and misleading.  I also could not find any information about how much it cost and actually had to go through the checkout process.  When I saw what they were charging (very high) I cancelled and decided to do some further research.  I found out about VFSGlobal and the process couldn't have been easier.  I filled out the necessary forms and uploaded passport pictures of my wife and I and we received our e-visas the very next day.  I believe the total cost was $88.  We did check with HAL to make sure they would accept e-visas and they said they would.

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On 12/6/2018 at 1:02 AM, OlsSalt said:

 

The one happy note in scrambling around was finding my Yellow Fever certificate from the 1960s - when at that very same time NIH or CDC was finally saying once in a life time YF vaccination was good enough - though HAL was still saying it had to be within 10 years.  Or a medical letter claiming the vaccine was harmful to health- which apparently it can be for those over 70.  . . .

 

 

Just an FYI — per the CDC, anyone over the age of 60 should discuss with their doctor whether to get the Yellow Fever vaccine because they might be at increased risk of severe problems following vaccination. 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/yf.html

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I started a thread of problems you can encounter getting an evisa on Chromebook,, if anyone has had it, please go to that thread  Brazilian evisas that is in the "Ask a question" forum. 

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I used Visa Central  ( a CIBT company) with Holland America for our Brazil Visas for our 2012 Amazon Cruise.  I thought the company was very up front about the costs and what features you could choose to use, but there was no pressure   The process was complicated, but there was no pressure from HAL to use this company.  I chose to use the service because I did not want to make 2 round trips to Los Angeles to deliver or pick up the visas.  It was worth the money to use Visa Central.  I can't imagine that HAL would say they would take care of the Brazil Visa.

 

We are returning to the Amazon in November and will be taking our expired passports with the  unexpired 10 year visas, along with our new passports.  According to the Brazil consulate web page and HAL documentation department, this will work.  We also have our yellow fever vaccination documentation, which is current.  This will be the 3rd time we will use our Brazil Visas, so I think we have gotten our money's worth!

 

It looks like the e visa is much easier, but I just wanted to say that I had a positive experience with Visa Central.

 

Karen

 

 

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I am glad that you had a positive experience, I never said DON'T use it but to beware of it, they disable the link to get an evisa through them, and the cost is much higher to get it through them, if one can afford to pay a lot if it's easier for you, than do so.  I never said that they pressured me per se, but everyone I talked to strongly suggested that is the best way (and because of what the previous agent who wrongly informed me, I was almost going to do it that way thinking it would be better.) 

 

I hope that you are not implying that I am LYING about this (like our "esteemed" president often does) or that I imagined this, I do resent that implication since you were NOT privy to the conversation (maybe they get commissions for bookings and will say whatever to get the booking??)  I don't like hassle which is why I take cushy cruises rather than independent travel where I can more readily absorb the country and culture of the locals than spending a few hours in port.  I had asked the res. agent THREE times, before I did a temporary booking which later I transferred to a travel agent who came up with a better price, and she DID say, that I did NOT have to get it on my own, and HAL would do it and all we had to do was give them the passport when boarding. I had done this on other cruises and maybe she knew that they had done  it for other ports, but that doesn't excuse her from giving out wrong info. Since the reservation was changed, there was no way that the particular agent could be " counseled"  to check before giving incorrect advice, but believe you me, if what HAL has told me is true, ALL HAL agents are NOW advised to either look up on their computer or check with someone else before giving a specific country's visa information in regards to how HAL would handle it on their cruise  (NOT just general info which again I agree can be found on the internet) so one can make a decision on whether or not to take a particular cruise with accurate info. 

Edited by Evagoblog
info changes

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