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Edwardnave

UK-USA Transatlantic Cruise Immigration Procedures

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Hello all,

 

We will be sailing to USA and our first US port will be St. Thomas.

We have a pretty long list of sights we want to visit so I hope we can estimate the time we have and remove some places if we don't have enough time. My question is will the immigration be conducted on board during seaday or during arrival in the port? If ashore, how long does immigration usually take? I hope past cruisers can help to share their experiences. 

Thanks!

 

 

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I've done westbound TA'S  in the past that called in at various Caribbean ports before finally arriving at Fort Lauderdale and it's just been like any other port day as was the disembarkation at FL! The latter has got better over the years, especially if you DIY! 

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4 hours ago, Edwardnave said:

Hello all,

 

We will be sailing to USA and our first US port will be St. Thomas.

We have a pretty long list of sights we want to visit so I hope we can estimate the time we have and remove some places if we don't have enough time. My question is will the immigration be conducted on board during seaday or during arrival in the port? If ashore, how long does immigration usually take? I hope past cruisers can help to share their experiences. 

Thanks!

 

 

You will not go through immigration until your final morning. Assuming your going to Fll.  If your on the 15 night Independence cruise you just get off at each island with your seapass card and one pictured ID. Leave the passports in the cabin safe. happy cruising

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11 hours ago, ZiggaZagga17 said:

I've done westbound TA'S  in the past that called in at various Caribbean ports before finally arriving at Fort Lauderdale and it's just been like any other port day as was the disembarkation at FL! The latter has got better over the years, especially if you DIY! 

I assume that's on indy? How long did you wait in immigration?

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7 hours ago, taglovestocruise said:

You will not go through immigration until your final morning. Assuming your going to Fll.  If your on the 15 night Independence cruise you just get off at each island with your seapass card and one pictured ID. Leave the passports in the cabin safe. happy cruising

Oh but i read the reviews of last year, they said immigration was on st. thomas (not sure if it's on the ship or in port terminal where we have to stand under the sun?) and some people had to queue up for 2-3 hours.

They said guest services suggests people to buy the ship tour in order to get into the fast queue. That's what we have done, although it's a 2 hour tour in exchange for only visiting the overlook. That's only 1 of over 10 places to check off our list. 

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7 hours ago, Thorben-Hendrik said:

Anywhere from 2-7 hours!🙄

Wow that's insane! Were you on last year's cruise? Reviews suggested that some people didn't have the chance to visit st. thomas due to the never ending queue! Is immigration in one of the lounges on the ship or at the port's terminal where it might be humid? 

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I think these replies are wrong. Immigration is done in the first US port which will be St Thomas, we have done this ourselves there on a TA. It usually happens on the ship, you are given a time slot according to your deck. It depends on the number of non US citizens as to how long it takes (US go through separately and much quicker). On our cruise it took place in the MDR and I remember the queue stretching right down the promenade although it moved fairly quickly. You were not allowed to join it until your time slot.

 

I would not schedule anything until mid morning. We were in a suite so fairly early, I think our time was 9-9.30. Remember all the foreign crew has to go through too and they are cleared first.

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5 hours ago, Edwardnave said:

Were you on last year's cruise? Reviews suggested that some people didn't have the chance to visit st. thomas due to the never ending queue!

Yes - it was totally insane.... they did it in the MDR! 🙄😱

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5 hours ago, Edwardnave said:

I assume that's on indy? How long did you wait in immigration?

Early trips we could be there an hour or more - last few you could say less than half an hour!

 

I guess each n every time is a lottery though, and depends on when you get off the ship!

 

Also, I've done 6 westbound crossings and definitely don't recall doing immigration on board ship - but it has been 5/6 years so either my memory is off or they could have changed procedures!

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2 hours ago, kernow said:

I think these replies are wrong. Immigration is done in the first US port which will be St Thomas, we have done this ourselves there on a TA. It usually happens on the ship, you are given a time slot according to your deck. It depends on the number of non US citizens as to how long it takes (US go through separately and much quicker). On our cruise it took place in the MDR and I remember the queue stretching right down the promenade although it moved fairly quickly. You were not allowed to join it until your time slot.

 

I would not schedule anything until mid morning. We were in a suite so fairly early, I think our time was 9-9.30. Remember all the foreign crew has to go through too and they are cleared first.

I haven't done one in 5 or 6 years, but have done a good half dozen on different ships ( mostly the Indy tho! ) and can't remember ever doing that! Is it a new process to ease Q's at disembarkation maybe? I'm not saying I've never done it - I maybe sent the wife to Q up ha ha ha - although I do remember picking up UKBorder guys at the last caribbean port and ribbing them about having an easy trip once they'd checked everyone off ( 2days iirc into an 8 day crossing ) ha ha

 

Or have the drink packages numbed my memory ha ha

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55 minutes ago, ZiggaZagga17 said:

I haven't done one in 5 or 6 years, but have done a good half dozen on different ships ( mostly the Indy tho! ) and can't remember ever doing that! Is it a new process to ease Q's at disembarkation maybe? I'm not saying I've never done it - I maybe sent the wife to Q up ha ha ha - although I do remember picking up UKBorder guys at the last caribbean port and ribbing them about having an easy trip once they'd checked everyone off ( 2days iirc into an 8 day crossing ) ha ha

 

Or have the drink packages numbed my memory ha ha

What islands did you stop at before reaching the US.  If you just stopped at St. Thomas or Nassau (non US ports) for example  you wouldn’t have had to clear customs until you reached the US.

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3 hours ago, kernow said:

I think these replies are wrong. Immigration is done in the first US port which will be St Thomas, we have done this ourselves there on a TA. It usually happens on the ship, you are given a time slot according to your deck. It depends on the number of non US citizens as to how long it takes (US go through separately and much quicker). On our cruise it took place in the MDR and I remember the queue stretching right down the promenade although it moved fairly quickly. You were not allowed to join it until your time slot.

 

I would not schedule anything until mid morning. We were in a suite so fairly early, I think our time was 9-9.30. Remember all the foreign crew has to go through too and they are cleared first.

Thanks for the detailed information. At least it will be in an air conditioned area but we will be getting a stamp and our passport back, right? 

 

We are on the ship tours that leaves at 9am, if our tour gets delay because of immigration we won't have enough time to explore the port. Not sure if our tour will be on time.

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1 hour ago, ZiggaZagga17 said:

Early trips we could be there an hour or more - last few you could say less than half an hour!

 

I guess each n every time is a lottery though, and depends on when you get off the ship!

 

Also, I've done 6 westbound crossings and definitely don't recall doing immigration on board ship - but it has been 5/6 years so either my memory is off or they could have changed procedures!

I heard the border formalities has been getting stricter over the years especially the recent two years so I am quite surprised to hear it's getting faster in the recent years.

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6 minutes ago, Ourusualbeach said:

What islands did you stop at before reaching the US.  If you just stopped at St. Thomas or Nassau (non US ports) for example  you wouldn’t have had to clear customs until you reached the US.

But I thought St. Thomas is U.S virgin islands which is a U.S terrority and therefore a US port? The next port will be puerto rico which is also another US port so I think it's unlikely that we only clear customs at FLL

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5 minutes ago, Edwardnave said:

Thanks for the detailed information. At least it will be in an air conditioned area but we will be getting a stamp and our passport back, right? 

 

We are on the ship tours that leaves at 9am, if our tour gets delay because of immigration we won't have enough time to explore the port. Not sure if our tour will be on time.

Yes, it's exactly the same as entering the US anywhere else. The people doing this are the US customs agents who come onto the ship, that is why it is out of the control of RCL. The speed depends on how many agents they send onto the ship and how many non US citizens they have to process.

 

Your tour will not leave until everyone on it has cleared immigration. I can't remember any major problems when we did St Thomas but there was a thread on here 2 or 3 years ago about a TA that had it's first US stop in Boston and many people missed their tours and didn't get to see Boston at all.

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1 hour ago, ZiggaZagga17 said:

I haven't done one in 5 or 6 years, but have done a good half dozen on different ships ( mostly the Indy tho! ) and can't remember ever doing that! Is it a new process to ease Q's at disembarkation maybe? I'm not saying I've never done it - I maybe sent the wife to Q up ha ha ha - although I do remember picking up UKBorder guys at the last caribbean port and ribbing them about having an easy trip once they'd checked everyone off ( 2days iirc into an 8 day crossing ) ha ha

 

Or have the drink packages numbed my memory ha ha

Not a new process at all, we did it on Adventure back in 2012. You have to go through immigration at the first US port so if you stop at St Thomas or San Juan before getting to the US mainland it happens. Perhaps you had no US islands.

 

The one advantage though is that it is very simple to disembark on the last morning of the cruise as there is no immigration.

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16 minutes ago, Edwardnave said:

But I thought St. Thomas is U.S virgin islands which is a U.S terrority and therefore a US port? The next port will be puerto rico which is also another US port so I think it's unlikely that we only clear customs at FLL

Sorry meant St. Maarten.

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I´ve been on many TA and Repositioning Cruises when the US Immigration had to happen on a port of call and not on debarkation day. 

Without any exemption it Always happened on the first US port of call. 

 

As for the procedure, it can be hit or miss. I´ve had everything, from it being a breeze to lines that crawled the entre ship length over several decks - I´m not kidding - and taking Hours. 

 

Yes I´ve seen times when ship tours could not wait for the last ones to clear Immigration and just left and yes there have been times when some People had no time left to go ashore. This is not the norm, but it certainly happened more than once.

 

To the OP, it seems you have a lot of stuff planned for St. Thomas - I recommend to not set your heart on doing it all. Have back up plans in place if Immigration is a Nightmare. A lot will depend on the Immigration officers and the number of non-US People having to clear Immigration. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Ourusualbeach said:

What islands did you stop at before reaching the US.  If you just stopped at St. Thomas or Nassau (non US ports) for example  you wouldn’t have had to clear customs until you reached the US.

Again memory doesn't furnish me with what actual ports we stopped at, so that's possible! 

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18 minutes ago, 123funcruiser said:

I´ve been on many TA and Repositioning Cruises when the US Immigration had to happen on a port of call and not on debarkation day. 

Without any exemption it Always happened on the first US port of call. 

 

As for the procedure, it can be hit or miss. I´ve had everything, from it being a breeze to lines that crawled the entre ship length over several decks - I´m not kidding - and taking Hours. 

 

Yes I´ve seen times when ship tours could not wait for the last ones to clear Immigration and just left and yes there have been times when some People had no time left to go ashore. This is not the norm, but it certainly happened more than once.

 

To the OP, it seems you have a lot of stuff planned for St. Thomas - I recommend to not set your heart on doing it all. Have back up plans in place if Immigration is a Nightmare. A lot will depend on the Immigration officers and the number of non-US People having to clear Immigration. 

 

 

I guess when we travelled westward, the process must have been easily forgotten, I simply can't remember it - or like I said earlier, my other half went on our behalf!

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41 minutes ago, kernow said:

Not a new process at all, we did it on Adventure back in 2012. You have to go through immigration at the first US port so if you stop at St Thomas or San Juan before getting to the US mainland it happens. Perhaps you had no US islands.

 

The one advantage though is that it is very simple to disembark on the last morning of the cruise as there is no immigration.

That literally must be the reason then! How lucky on our part not to get delayed on port days - thanks for clarifying it!

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3 minutes ago, ZiggaZagga17 said:

I guess when we travelled westward, the process must have been easily forgotten, I simply can't remember it - or like I said earlier, my other half went on our behalf!

 

Everybody has to present themselves to Immigration officers. 

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1 hour ago, Edwardnave said:

I heard the border formalities has been getting stricter over the years especially the recent two years so I am quite surprised to hear it's getting faster in the recent years.

MY last arrival into FL was last August and I'd say we were in the terminal no more than 30 mins! We did take our own luggage off early doors though! 

Our arrival into the US for the same cruise 2 weeks earlier was the best I've ever experienced and I think was down to the pier/terminal that the airline (BA) used - ask me again in February 😁

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1 minute ago, 123funcruiser said:

 

Everybody has to present themselves to Immigration officers. 

Yeah I'd considered that too! 

 

That drinks package has a lot to answer for 😂

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