In early February we set off for DC’s third cruise, his second on Royal Caribbean. We didn’t have to fly for a change because the ship was leaving from Baltimore.
We drove down on Thursday night for Fridays boarding.
There are not many things DC loves more than staying in a hotel, so he was very happy that we were staying overnight. He was even more excited to be in Baltimore, because, of course….. “Hairspray”. I am sure he was expecting Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) to be dancing in the streets (I prefer the Ricky Lake version, but that’s just me)
Friday morning arrived and we took the shuttle from the hotel to the ship. We made our way through security, filled out our forms and went to check in.
DC is 22, but obviously does not drive. He has a State ID. He does not yet have a passport, but a passport is not necessary to go to the Bahamas. All that is required is a state ID/drivers license and birth certificate. When DC was born, I did not opt for the full size certificate. I was told at the time, that the wallet size was just as official and was much more convenient. I have never had a problem with it.
Just to back up a moment…… I am someone who will “put something in a safe place” and never find it again, so I have always carried DC’s birth certificate, along with my own, in my wallet. It has been in my wallet for 22 years, obviously not the same wallet, but in A wallet for 22 years. The top of the certificate is a little bit frayed, but all of the information and the seal is visible.
After giving the woman at the check in counter (let’s call her “woman #1) all of our paperwork and identifications (the very same identification used the year before and the year before that) she informed me that she did not know if Key West would accept DC birth certificate! She would have to go and have it checked out.
What??? I explained that this is the same birth certificate we used the previous year.
W#1: “Yes, but Key West is really cracking down and it’s a little tattered on the top”
Me: “Well it’s 22 years old! What will we have to do if Key West decides not to accept it?” - (The last few times it has been out of my wallet, was when we checked in last year and at check in the year before that, so the condition has not changed since they approved it on the last trip)
(At this point Doug is muttering under his breath in kind of that sing-song way “Don’t argue with them!”)
Number 1, that is what I do…
Number 2, I was not arguing, I was asking what I thought were valid questions.
W#1: “You will probably have to have someone fax the long copy over”
Me: “There is no one at home that has any copies of his information”
W#1 “Oh no, well I don’t know”
- so, in my mind, what she is telling me is:
If I had a family member back home who had access to a long version of his birth certificate or another copy of the wallet size they could fax it over and they WOULD accept a fax copy with out the raised seal (???) – I’m sorry, I was now very confused by all this.
We were asked to sit down and wait in a roped off area. The few people who were waiting there, were waiting to be seen by a doctor before boarding the ship – (we’ll call this the “problem section”).
DC remembering everything, knew that after the check in desk, we should be boarding the ship.
DC: “Time to go to the ship”
Me: “Yes, we just have to wait a few minutes”
DC: “Going to the ship”
Me: “Yes, we just have to wait a few minutes, Bud”
- Now I’m having flashbacks of San Francisco ….
Eventually another woman who seemed to be in charge of the “problem section” came over to tell us that they were still waiting to hear from Key West (we shall call her ”Woman in Charge” or WIC for short). She told us that there was an additional problem with DC’s birth certificate; there was no file number on top, just x’s. I had never noticed that and apparently no one else in 22 years – Royal Caribbean, included, noticed either. I took out my own birth certificate, issued in the same city and state and sure enough, mine had a number, his did not.
Now I was really beginning to panic – because this is also what I do. We had been sitting in this area for almost an hour. We were the only people left in the “problem section”.
My only thoughts now were:
What if they decide not to accept his birth certificate?
How would I ever tell him we could not get on this ship?
We had been sitting there for more than an hour, now. Suddenly realizing that it was Friday and city and state offices are open, I found the number to the department/office where our birth certificates were issued. Of course, this is a government office so I could not get past the main menu and any option I choose, led me back to the original menu (there was no “dial zero for an operator” option). I started dialing random 3 and 4 digit extensions and finally a woman answered. I explained our situation. She explained that not everyone is issued a file number. This woman was nice enough to hold while I went to the desk and explained to the ”WIC” that I had a city employee on the phone and she told me that not everyone is issued a file number.
The response: “Well YOU have one!”
(“not everyone” to most people, means that some are and some are not)
Me: “Yes I do, but mine was issued 31 years earlier than his!”
I asked if she would talk to the woman from the city, she wouldn’t. I asked if there was something that this woman could fax over to help the process (I didn’t want to lose the person on the phone before finding out what I needed in the event Key West decided not to accept his certificate).
WIC: “It’s in the hands of Key West now, I can not do anything about it”
- so W#1 told us that we would have to have something faxed over if they did not accept the certificate we had with us, but WIC wouldn’t tell me what to have faxed or the fax number to send it to now that I had someone on the line -
While I was standing there with the city employee still on the line, the WIC looked at her screen and announced that Key West has approved his certificate.
~PHEW ~ (as DC would say)
I thanked the woman on the line and told her that they finally approved it and we were all set.
Still sitting in the “problem section”, she directed another woman (we’ll call her woman #3) to begin checking us in. She took our names and paperwork all over again and told us to have a seat because she needed information form the original check in person (woman #1). We sat down again, woman #3 left. She came back to her seat as another passenger walked into this “problem section”, walked up to woman #3, waved to all of the other people working the regular check in line and got herself checked in.
My assumption at the time was that woman #3 was still waiting for woman #1 to supply her with whatever information she had already entered into the system, so she decided to check in this other passenger (who obviously either works for Royal Caribbean or has some sort of connection to the line). When she finished checking in this passenger, she just sat at the counter. The ”problem section” was still empty with the exception of us, so she literally sat there, hands folded with a smile staring off into distance as if she was waiting for her next passenger.
Now we’ve been sitting in the “problem section” for another half hour (One hour and 45 minutes listening to “Going on the ship” – “Time to get on the ship”). I turned to Doug and said “Do you think we are still supposed to be sitting here? I’m going to go ask”
- “Just wait, they will call us when they are ready. Don’t keep bothering them.”
After another 15 minutes, Woman #3 was still just sitting there, hands folded, grinning at no one. I went up to the desk and asked the WIC who was at the computer behind “Grinning W#3″ - “Should we still be sitting here or should we get back in line?”
Apparently, woman #3 should have been checking us in, but decided to wait on her friend in the middle of our check in and then just forgot about us! She wasn’t waiting for information as I assumed, she just thought we were already checked in! After WIC yelled “Why didn’t you check them in? I told you to check them in!” – she finally checked us in.
- More than two hours of – “Going on the ship” – “Time to get on the ship” later, we were finally checked in and ready to board.
On the ship, thankfully lunch was still being served (what a catastrophe THAT would have been, if DC missed lunch too!)
A cheeseburger and fries took his mind off of the whole boarding debacle. Everything was right with the world in his eyes.
DC WILL be getting a passport very soon….
And who knew it is more difficult to get into Key West than the Bahamas? Who knew?
(to be continued in Part 2- where our trip does get better)