Greetings from all of us at GATEWAY CRUISES 'N TOURS:
WE ARE BACK and better than ever.
As you all may know by now cruising from American ports has returned. You will see vessels on both the east and west coast returning to a sense of normalcy over the next couple of months.
And with the waiver of the Passenger Services act for Alaska cruises there is no necessity to go to Canada before returning to Seattle. This is a temporary waiver but one the cruise lines worked hard to make happen.
At this time the cruise lines are ramping up operations and will continue to comply with CDC guidelines in getting all staff vaccinated as well as doing test cruises to get certified to sail out of and to American ports.
It's time to be patient and your favorite cruise line and your favorite places to sail are definitely on the near horizon.
In the meantime here is other news from our world of travel.
NEWS AND VIEWS have continued during this time and we will update this section as well as the COOL POSSIBILITIES when we have the chance to do so.
Please stay safe an dhealthy and remember you will GETAWAY FROM YOUR EVERYDAY soon.
Bill and Fred
by Matt Turner
Aug 4, 2021 1:17pm
Photo by shalamov/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images (Photo by shalamov/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)
As part of the Bahamas' continued efforts to provide a safe and healthy island experience for everyone, new testing requirements have been announced for persons applying for a Bahamas Travel Health Visa to enter the country or travel inter-island within the Bahamas.
Effective Friday, August 6, 2021, the following protocols will take effect:
The regulation for traveling within the Bahamas includes Nassau and Paradise Island, Grand Bahama, Bimini, Exuma, Abaco and North and South Eleuthera, including Harbour Island.
Guests on cruises that originate in and return to the Bahamas must still apply for a Bahamas Travel Health Visa and follow the new testing requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals:
Note that cruise lines may have different requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated guests. Travelers should check with their cruise line for specific details pertaining to their cruise.
The new testing protocols are for all travelers applying for a Bahamas Travel Health Visa from Friday, August 6 and onward. Good to know: These protocols will be waived for any person with imminent travel who has already applied for and obtained a Bahamas Travel Health Visa.
For full details, visit www.bahamas.com/travelupdates.
Margaritaville Beach Resort Nassau
Margaritaville Beach Resort Nassau Welcomes Vacationers – Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts hosted it downtown ribbon-cutting ceremony for the all-new 300-room Margaritaville Beach Resort Nassau, complete with 11 dining options and an on-site waterpark.
Frontier Airlines Adds Even More Non-Stop Flights to Nassau – Frontier Airlines announced new weekly routes to Nassau from Orlando International Airport beginning November 2, 2021. Reservations are now available.
Crystal Cruises Crystal Serenity Offers Third Round-Trip Option – Crystal Cruises now offers “Luxury Bahamas Escapes” voyages, with three ports of embarkation: Nassau on Saturdays, Bimini on Sundays and Miami on Mondays.
Palm Star Travel Announces Non-Stop Trips for East Coast Travelers – Palm Star Travel is scheduled to launch new non-stop services from major U.S. cities, including Jacksonville, Nashville and Raleigh beginning November 2021. Booking will be available later this summer.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line Gives Back to Essential Workers – Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line launched a "Hometown Heroes" initiative, giving essential workers free two-day cruises to Grand Bahama Island departing now through September 30, 2021.
Two Fly or Cruise Free from Nassau – Book a participating seven-night getaway now through April 2022 to the Out Islands and get two free roundtrip air or ferry tickets from Nassau. Booking window is open through August 31, 2021.
Path on the water from a large cruise ship. (photo via cassinga/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
It's been an awfully long road to the return of cruising as companies have spent the past year-plus working closely with health experts and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and implement enhanced safety protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Delta variant continues to spark concern around the globe and a great deal of uncertainty remains even in year two of the pandemic, one thing is for sure, the cruise industry's COVID-19 protocols are working.
Despite vaccination requirements for passengers and crew, stringent testing measures, mask mandates and social distancing guidelines in certain areas of ships and the rollout of more contactless features, there were always going to be some positive cases on board, a reality that speaks to the effectiveness of the aforementioned testing being conducted by cruise lines. Additionally, quarantine requirements and contract tracing efforts have been paramount in preventing massive outbreaks.
Royal Caribbean International's Adventure of the Seas' July 24 sailing is a prime example of how and why these new protocols are working to protect all on board.
"Yesterday [July 29] six guests on Adventure of the Seas tested COVID positive during routine testing required of all guests before returning home. Four of the guests are vaccinated, three are asymptomatic and one has mild symptoms. Two of the guests are kids in the same traveling party and are unvaccinated and asymptomatic," Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley wrote in a Facebook post last week.
"They all were immediately quarantined, and all close contacts were traced and all tested negative. All of the other 1,000 plus guests tested negative. Each guest and their immediate travel parties were disembarked today and traveled home via private transportation. To sail aboard Adventure, which departed from the Bahamas on July 24, on a seven night cruise, travelers 16 and older were all fully vaccinated and tested negative before boarding. Children ineligible for the vaccine must test negative as well and all crew are fully vaccinated. And so it continues! The good news is everyone is home and doing fine. Four are vaccinated of which three are asymptomatic and the two kids are asymptomatic."
Adventure of the Seas arrives at Nassau June 8, 2021. (Photo via Nassau Cruise Port)
Adventure of the Seas hasn't been the only ship to successfully handle positive COVID-19 cases. According to the CDC, roughly one in three ocean cruise ships operating in U.S. waters or planning to enter U.S. waters have reported a COVID-19 case on board in the last seven days.
Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Equinox had a fully vaccinated passenger test positive after visiting the ship's medical center with COVID-like symptoms six days into last week's sailing. The Celebrity Millennium also had one vaccinated passenger test positive late last month. The individual was evacuated from the ship via a private carrier, and the ship's captain informed passengers of the incident. Close contacts with the person were also isolated and tested for COVID-19.
"I feel like they handled it so well, it wasn’t overwhelming," passenger Gabi Green told KOMO News. "Honestly I thought their protocol was really cool," said another passenger. "I thought that whole idea of, you know, next chance we get we can stop and send you home in a jet if we need to. That was just a cool protocol, I thought they handled it well."
Demand in cruising remains as strong as ever, with travelers showing tremendous interest in destinations all over the world, and while positive COVID-19 cases at sea are becoming the new normal, so too are cruise lines' protocols to quickly and safely handle them.
"Today, we have dozens of ships operating with hundreds of thousands of guests every month. There are a few cases of COVID on ships just as there are cases on land but they're handled smoothly without disruption. That's the goal," says Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain. "Science has provided us a path that allows people to carry on their lives while dealing simply with a few number of cases."
Aug 5, 2021 9:46am
(Courtesy of Holland America Line)
Holland America Line has taken delivery of Rotterdam, officially making it the 11th ship in the fleet. A handover ceremony took place at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard in Italy on July 29.
The ship's master, Captain Werner Timmers, Holland America Group's vice president of newbuilding services, Cyril Tatar and Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono were present at the ceremony, while video congratulations were extended by Jan Swartz, president of Holland America Group, and Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line.
Rotterdam will remain in non-guest operations until its transatlantic crossing October 20, 2021, from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, following which it will then begin its maiden season in the Caribbean. Naming details have not been finalized yet.
The third vessel in the Pinnacle Class series, the 2,668-guest Rotterdam will offer staterooms and suites that include family and single accommodations, and serve cuisine guided by seven global chefs. In addition to the Dining Room, there will be specialty restaurants: Rudi's Sel de Mer, a French seafood brasserie; Tamarind, exploring traditions of Southeast Asia, China and Japan; Nami Sushi serving sushi and Asian spirits; the steakhouse Pinnacle Grill; the family-style Italian dining Canaletto; and Club Orange exclusively for guests in the Club Orange program.
Additional culinary venues include Grand Dutch Café with traditional Dutch coffee and treats and European beer; Dive-In, serving up gourmet burgers and fries poolside; New York Deli and Pizza, offering made-to-order sandwiches and pies; and Lido Market, with themed serving stations to enhance the buffet experience.
Nightly entertainment options include Rolling Stone Rock Room for classic rock lovers and Lincoln Center Stage that offers chamber music. At Billboard Onboard, live musicians entertain the crowd with chart-topping hits; while the popular B.B. King's Blues Club will play the best of Memphis music to sea. The 270-degree LED projection at World Stage is another highlight.
For more information, visit hollandamerica.com.
PHOTO: Mexico flag. (photo via 3D_generator / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
The president of Mexico announced on Monday that his country has no plans of asking residents and arriving tourists for proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced during a press conference hosted by the Mazatlan Tourism Promotion Office that despite the recent surge in confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, vaccine mandates are not part of the government’s long-term health and safety plans.
“There are currently some protests in Europe, very significant protests, because vaccination proof is being required to move around or visit shopping centers or restaurants and people are opposing that,” Lopez Obrador said. “As for Mexico, we won’t require such types of proof whatsoever. I want to be very clear about that.”
Last week, the Quintana Roo Tourism Board debunked erroneous reports from media outlets that the Mexican state’s Governor Carlos Joaquin enacted a policy mandating proof of vaccination and a negative COVID for entry into hotels, restaurants and bars.
“This is not a mandate. Unfortunately, this information was misinterpreted by local news outlets and picked up by international media,” a Quintana Roo Tourism Board spokesperson told TravelPulse’s Claudette Covey. “The government stated that in order for restaurants and bars to operate at a higher capacity, they would have to create a ‘safe health space,’ which would mean vaccinating and testing all their employees, requiring guests to present proof of vaccination or antigen tests.”
“This was a suggestion on how to create a safer environment, but it was never a state mandate or requirement,” the spokesperson continued. “As of today, no restaurant, bar or hotel has announced implementing these measures.”
Despite the U.S. government extending the closure of land borders with Mexico to non-essential travel through August 21, the country predicts international tourist numbers will rebound this summer as COVID-19 vaccines become more readily available worldwide.
Mexican Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco Marques announced SECTUR’s projected visitor numbers for July and August, saying the nation expects an estimated 20.2 million tourists.
In addition, Mexican officials revealed that 99.5 percent of the country’s beaches are classified as suitable for recreational use, according to data from the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris).
Aug 4, 2021 10:20am
(Royal Caribbean International)
Royal Caribbean International has announced that its complete lineup of 26 ships will be sailing by spring 2022. Oasis of the Seas will lead the return of the next set of ships and itineraries, when it sets sail on a seven-night voyage from the New York area to the cruise line’s private island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas, in September.
Royal Caribbean’s continued comeback builds on its months-long sailings across Alaska, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe, and each ship now returning will cruise with the health measures that have been introduced to safeguard the well-being of guests, crew and destination communities. All 2021 and 2022 cruises are open to book now.
“We are excited and appreciative to be able to say with confidence when all of our ships will return, especially for travelers looking ahead to plan their getaways," said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International, noting that "more than 110,000 guests have cruised with us since December, and they’ve done so safely."
The plans for the return of the entire fleet add to previously announced Royal Caribbean milestones coming later this year, including the cruise line’s return to California and the start of the first full winter season from Barbados.
Following the Oasis of the Seas’ itinerary, which departs September 5, Navigator of the Seas will arrive in Los Angeles to set sail with West Coast vacationers on short three-, four- and five-night getaways to Catalina Island, California and Mexico.
Ovation of the Seas will head back to Australia on December 13 to sail domestic cruises from Sydney, and Grandeur of the Seas will cruise from Bridgetown, Barbados on seven- and 14-night Southern Caribbean Islands sailings from December 5.
Royal Caribbean requires all crew members and guests who are of the eligible age for the vaccine to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For travelers sailing on cruises from Florida, it recommends that all eligible guests be vaccinated. Children younger than the eligible age on any cruise must undergo testing and follow other health and safety measures. The cruise line’s health protocols, such as vaccine and testing requirements, are available at www.royalcaribbean.com.
Jun 27, 2021
Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet will feature 27 ships by the end of 2023.
Credit: 2021 NAN/stock.adobe.com
Carnival Cruise Line has announced the addition of two more ships to its fleet by 2023. One will be a third new Excel-class ship following Mardi Gras (2021) and Carnival Celebration (2022), and the other will be a reassigned existing ship.
The extra Excel-class ship joining in late 2023 was originally slated to become an Aida Cruises ship for the German market but has now been shifted to the North American namesake Carnival Corporation brand. Meanwhile, by mid 2022, Costa Cruises’ Costa Magica will also transfer over and be rebranded for Carnival during a dry dock.
“We are excited about these additions to our fleet, which reflect the strong position that Carnival has established in the U.S., the pent-up demand we continue to see for cruise vacations and the overall plans by Carnival Corporation to optimize capacity and growth in key markets,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a press release. “While our immediate focus is on our restart of guest operations this summer, this is another cause for excitement at Carnival, and we will be announcing more detailed plans about homeports, itineraries and ship names very soon.”
The two additional ships have yet to be named. They will bring the Carnival fleet to a total of 27 ships.
by Matt Turner
Jun 30, 2021 10:54am
Dublin, Ireland // Photo by pawel.gaul/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
As of July 19, U.S. visitors who have been vaccinated, have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival or have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months will be able to visit Ireland and they will not have to quarantine.
Ireland will be following the advice of the European Union, which, earlier in June, suggested to its member states reopen to select countries, including the United States, subject to confirmation of reciprocity. While the United States has not yet officially opened its borders to Europeans, many E.U. members have announced plans to reopen to Americans, if they have not already reopened entirely.
Travelers to Ireland will need to use the E.U. Digital COVID Certificate (in either digital or paper format), proving they have been vaccinated, received a recent negative test result or have recovered from COVID in the last half-year. Your certificate will include necessary information, such as your name, date of birth, date or issue, vaccine/test/recovery history and an ID number.
Ireland plans to launch the certificate when it reopens on July 19. According to the Government of Ireland, “Teams across the public service are working together to deliver the E.U. Digital COVID Certificate in Ireland and you will be clearly notified of the steps needed to access the E.U. Digital COVID Certificate soon.” So, be sure to keep an eye out for updates before traveling.
Note: Americans can currently visit Ireland, although there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine (with few exceptions and none for tourist reasons). They still need a negative PCR test result from within 72 hours of travel, fill out a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form and take another test upon arrival free of charge.
Europe as a region was the largest source of international travelers. (photo courtesy of Bet_Noire/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
The European Council has officially recommended today European Union (E.U.) member countries lift restrictions on non-essential travel from the U.S. That’s welcome news for the many Americans that have been holding out hope of taking a post-pandemic European vacation this summer.
Several others were also added today to the E.U.’s so-called “white list” of nations, territories and special administrative regions from which leisure travel is allowed: Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, North Macedonia, Serbia and Taiwan.
In a statement released Friday, the Council wrote that countries were selected for list inclusion based upon, “the epidemiological situation and overall response to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources.” It also noted that the element of reciprocity is being taken into account on a case-by-case basis.
Today’s announcement essentially means that all 27 members of the E.U. bloc should shortly begin granting entry to U.S. tourists, among other foreigners. Bloomberg reported that member states will begin allowing in fully vaccinated Americans, and they may individually decide whether to also offer quarantine-free entry to unvaccinated travelers coming from white-listed countries.
The Council’s statement also advised Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, as well as Schengen-area associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) to adopt its updated travel policies.
This latest move by the E.U.’s governing body should go a long way toward restoring Transatlantic travel in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, something which airlines have been pressing U.S. and E.U. officials to actively support as vaccination rates improve on both sides of the Atlantic.
Still, it’s important to note that the Council’s recommendations aren’t legally binding and that each member state is responsible for implementing these guidelines. Bloc members can also choose to impose added regulations as they see fit, including quarantine, testing or vaccination requirements.
"It’s up to every country to decide how and when to open the borders," French Embassy spokesperson Pascal Confavreux said, according to USA Today. "The European Union is the one giving the framework, but the decision comes from the states."
Americans hoping to travel to Europe any time soon should therefore check the E.U.’s reopening website for current restrictions in their intended destination.
For more information, visit reopen.europa.eu/en.
From our friends at Conde Nast it’s still time to heed the call. Be careful and be safe.
NEWS & ADVICE
Planes pose a unique risk for any disease contraction, including COVID-19.
July 13, 2020
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, it has incited pandemonium globally, specifically among travelers. Over the last several months, COVID-19 has led to thousands of canceled domestic and international trips. The U.S. State Department still has a Global Level 4 Health Advisory in place, cautioning against international travel. Different countries have their own policies regarding travel and COVID-19, and some places, like the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Mexico, have opened or are planning to open their borders to U.S. travelers.
As domestic flights have slowly started to return, airlines have implemented a slew of different regulations, too, including temperature screenings, mask requirements, adjusted boarding processes, and the distribution of sanitizing wipes. Some airlines, including Delta, have announced that they will block middle seats on aircraft through September 30, in an effort to maintain social distancing.
“We said at the outset that we were all on a learning curve and as information evolved, guidelines also were likely to change—and that’s what has happened and what will likely continue to happen until we get our arms around this virus and get a vaccine that can crush it,” says Dr. Robert Amler, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College and former chief medical officer for the CDC.
Ultimately, even as COVID-19 has spread across the globe and while we continue to see surges in cases, experts are still learning about the virus. But for now, the CDC notes that it likely spreads similarly to most other viruses, via close person-to-person contact and respiratory droplets, making planes—which put people in close contact with one another—an arguably tricky place. Here’s how to keep others safe and lower your risk of exposure of COVID-19 (and other viruses, for that matter) if a flight is in your future.
This article was originally published in February 2020. It has been updated with new information.
The CDC recommends wearing face coverings “in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” An airplane certainly fits the bill. “When you sit in your own seat, it might feel like personal space, but you're still in a public space,” says Amler. “You should continue to wear a mask to help protect the airspace from infected particles.” Mask wearing can reduce the amount of virus in the airspace and—since even people who don't know they're sick with the infection can still expel enough virus with just exhaled breath to infect someone else—it’s a measure to keep others safe. “If everybody in an area is wearing a mask, then you're basically keeping a space from getting contaminated with virus droplets," says Amler. You can find everything you need to know about buying and wearing a mask for travel here.
It’s fair to wonder what airlines are doing to keep planes clean, keep passengers and staff safe, and keep virus risk low. After all, pre-COVID, research already suggested that sitting simply within two rows of someone with flu-like symptoms puts you at a 3.6 percent increased risk of getting sick with what they have. So how can you keep your distance on planes? Well, for now, it’ll depend on the airline you’re flying. For example, while some (American Airlines and United) continue to book middle seats, others still have them blocked. “I'm concerned about any social distance that's less than six feet unless you’re talking about a household member,” Amler says when it comes to COVID risk. “The risk of transmission is much wider than we originally thought and the only way to protect yourself is to block exposure at every chance that you can." We've compiled a complete guide to international and U.S. airlines’ coronavirus policies and looked into how airlines are changing their in-flight policies so you can compare boarding and in-flight experiences. Consider booking with an airline that matches up with your expectations and personal requirements.
Scrub your hands with water and any soap for at least 20 seconds to stay safe and clean, suggests the CDC. And remember: Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. These are the portals into your body for viruses.
Make sure it has at least 60 percent alcohol content, an amount that can neutralize germs. (Tried-and-true travel-friendly Purell will do the trick, as will something like Honest's grapefruit-scented spray sanitizer.)
Use a disinfectant with that same threshold of alcohol content. Wipe your seat, the seatback in front of you, the tray table, armrest, seat belt, and the buttons for the fan and light overhead, suggests Amler.
Airlines like Emirates have reduced in-flight food and beverage service to personal bento boxes to limit contact between the crew and passengers. If you’re hungry, you should eat. But eating does require you to take your mask off—potentially putting others around you at risk. If you can go without a snack on a short flight, consider it, suggests Amler.
Staying up-to-date with travel notices, hot spots, and federal, state, and local regulations regarding travel is important. If you're flying to a domestic destination, start by checking the CDC’s considerations for travel in the U.S. and state health departments' websites. For international travel, look to the U.S. State Department’s country-specific COVID recommendations.
While researchers around the world are working to develop one, as of now, there is no vaccine to prevent the coronavirus. But it’s never too late to get a flu shot, which can protect you against the sometimes serious (and deadly) flu. The CDC recommends getting the flu shot by October, ahead of the fall flu season.
To stay healthy whenever you leave home, former CDC director Dr. Tom Friedan recently tweeted to follow the “three W’s”: wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance. Amler adds a fourth: walk away. “Try to spend as little time as you can in situations that are close quarters," he says. "If you're crowded in, even for a short time, there’s a chance you can get exposed.” Keep this in mind in gate areas, when using airport transportation, and in common areas on planes.
We now provide the 411 on passport issues as given to us by Conde Nast.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
If your passport expires within the next year, you need to get moving.
July 29, 2021
Last spring, Tera Wages was looking forward to a mid-July trip to Casa Chameleon Hotel in Costa Rica when a friend happened to mention the U.S. passport renewal process, which has been suffering delays during the pandemic. Wages panicked, realizing she hadn’t checked the expiration date on her own passport. “You could have sucked the air out of the room in that moment,” she says.
Sure enough, both Wages's and her partner's passports had expired during the pandemic. Wages immediately sent them off to USPS, four weeks before they were set to depart—exactly the time the U.S. Department of State said passport renewals were estimated to take back in the spring. But mere days prior to scheduled travel, the Alabama-based couple was still passport-less, despite herculean efforts to secure an in-person agency appointment through a case worker assigned to them by Congressman Mo Brooks’s office.
“Ultimately we realized our case worker was not able to make anything happen,” Wages says. “We’d spent hours refreshing the page to get appointments, and nothing was becoming available. We decided there was no way [we could still go on the trip].”
Situations like Wages's are common right now, with many Americans being forced to cancel international trips due to expired passports, and a long and frustrating renewal process. Though travel agents have always recommended giving the government a few months to process a U.S. passport renewal, the timeline is now much more complicated. Processing times are currently up to three times longer for both routine and expedited passport renewal services compared to before the pandemic.
Due to a huge influx of requests as the world reopens, travelers who need to renew (either in person or via mail) will have to allow extra time to do so. The best advice? Check your passport expiration date now—whether you have a trip planned or are just dreaming of one—and don't forget many international destinations require your passport to be valid for six months from your planned return date to the United States.
We tapped travel experts to answer common questions about U.S. passport renewal right now. Read on for the advice, including what to do if you have an upcoming trip.
"We’ve seen varying timelines, but generally the passport renewal process can take anywhere from four to 18 weeks via mail, with in-person meetings even harder to come by,” says John Spence, USA president for luxury tour operator Scott Dunn. The government’s passport renewal website says travelers should be prepared to wait up to 18 weeks from the day their mailed-in passport reaches a processing facility.
Any travelers who can provide proof of necessary urgent travel, such as life-or-death emergencies, or can show that their trip is within 72 hours, though, are given the chance to score an in-person appointment, Spence says. “However, we wouldn’t count on this unless it’s a last resort,” he adds.
If you are able to get an in-person appointment at one of the government’s 26 passport agencies or centers in the country, a passport agent will review your application and potentially issue a passport on the spot, if you’re eligible for one. Or, the agent may ask you to return at a specific time to receive it, depending on the agency, their workload, and the date of anticipated travel.
Appointments at these centers have been so scarce, however, and in such high demand, that some who’ve been able to secure one have taken to selling them illegally to other travelers. Wages says that in researching how to get appointments online in their attempt to continue with their Costa Rica trip, they discovered users on Reddit who would post appointments for sale—starting around $200—as soon as someone canceled or more spots opened up.
In a briefing on July 14, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt addressed the situation, condemning this behavior. “We are aware of the issues and we are working to prevent them,” she said. “The Department of State does not charge a fee to solely book an emergency appointment at one of our agencies or centers, so if anyone receives a request for payment for scheduling a U.S. passport appointment, that should be considered fraudulent.”
As a result, on July 21 the Department of State temporarily disabled the online appointment booking system for urgent travel service. No timeframe was specified as to when online booking for appointments will open back up. In the meantime, you must call to make an appointment (though Traveler editors have been unable to get through in recent days, with the call dropping off after the initial menu).
Note that the above measure only applies to the 26 passport agencies in the country, and not the many passport acceptance centers—found in libraries, post offices, and local government offices—which continue to take online appointments. Wait times at passport acceptance centers are aligned with mail-in timelines, meaning the process can take up to 18 weeks once you’ve had your appointment and your passport has reached the federal government. Find a passport acceptance center near you here.
If not being able to renew your passport could mean cancellation of a major trip, it makes sense you might consider extreme measures to score an appointment—even if that means paying for one. However, Spence says he’d never recommend illegally purchasing an appointment. “Although it’s tedious, we always advise going through the official application and renewal process through your local passport agency,” he says.
One creative way to potentially move quickly through the official channels? Contact your local representative, including the office of your U.S. senator or congressional representative, and ask for help getting an appointment, says Bahar Schmidt, founder and CEO of high-end travel resale marketplace Eluxit. She says that a client set to travel to Mexico realized last minute that their passport was expired. With travel in two days and no luck booking an appointment with the Department of State, they contacted their government representative and were able to get assistance—and continue with their planned trip, fresh passport in hand.
“I would probably recommend that route,” Schmidt says.”Reaching out to anyone who may [be able to] help in a crisis is worth a try.” Every district is different, so you’ll need to do some research to find the right person to call; more than likely, though, it will be your U.S. congressional representative who might be able to help in the eleventh hour. That said, it's not a guarantee that lawmakers in either the House or Senate will be able to assist in a timely manner, as Wages experienced with her caseworker.
Of course, if you’re in panic mode and willing to throw money at the problem, there are always third-party passport services you can pay to handle your renewal. Throughout the summer, many passport application and renewal services—some of which traditionally advertise 24-hour turnarounds—have posted notices to customers that they cannot guarantee rapid renewals, though some are advertising wait times shorter than the government's. RushMyPassport is a service Traveler staffers have used for a guaranteed 4-week return time, for $189. Another, GenVisa, says they will be able to offer passport renewals within 7 to 10 business days beginning in early August for $370.
During COVID, the government temporarily suspended expedited passport processing for customers applying at acceptance facilities or renewing passports via mail. However, expedited service resumed in September 2020. You can pay an additional $60 to receive your passport renewal faster; however, the turnaround time is also delayed and may take up to 12 weeks.
Mailing your passport without knowing when it may be returned is daunting. But within seven to 10 business days of mailing it, you should be able to track your application status through this page. Enter your last name, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number, and a security code.
Always take a photo of your passport before sending it in for renewal, says Spence. “If your passport happens to get lost in the mail, you at least have a copy to refer to, and this will save you additional time and effort to renew it.”
If the worst happens and you can't get a passport in time, you can always book a domestic trip instead. Wages, who is still passport-less, ended up booking a weekend getaway to The Goodtime Hotel in Miami Beach with her husband. Though she says the experience was a “10 out of 10,” it was still a consolation to the international vacation they didn’t get to take. Still, Wages acknowledges it could have been worse. “We’re fortunate our [travel] was not an emergency and that we have the privilege to be able to reschedule and plan again,” she says. “But for people who don’t have that ability, it would be really tough.”