Having got married to a very wonderful lady we embarked on our dream honeymoon, a 7 day cruise in the Caribbean.
This all came to a very abrupt and unpleasant end as soon as we landed at Miami airport.
The events are probably best described in my email to Princess Cruises:
Subject: Booking Ref: VDGR5Q
When booking our dream honeymoon with you I asked if we required a visa to enter the United States and was told this was no longer necessary as you only need to complete a visa waiver form on board the aircraft prior to landing.
Once on board the outbound fight we received the form as stated and found their were several conditions to being able to eligible to use the waiver system and if answering no to any question we must apply for a visa BEFORE traveling to the USA. This was now obviously impossible to do.
I had previously travelled to the USA some 20+ years ago on a visa (which was before the waiver system) so new they would be aware of my arrest as a teenager as this would have been stated in my original visa application 20 years previous.
The result of this I was refused entry to the USA and deported. I telephoned your customer assistance number and informed them of what was happening and all they could do was to contact the ship to say I would not be joining the cruise.
You can only imagine the amount of upset and distress this caused not only myself but my disabled bride as this was truly a dream holiday for her including being able to fulfill a life long dream of swimming with dolphins which I had booked as an excursion as an additional surprise.
We were treated appallingly by the US immigration staff who gave us the clear impression that they wanted to keep as many British Citizens out of their country and would deport anyone they possibly could. We were not offered any food or drink for several hours whilst being detained and was only given some very basic food and a small amount of drink when I started to complain my human rights were being breached.
In addition to all the distress, this has caused me a great deal of embarrassment as everyone we know new where we were going and I will now have to explain to, not only our friends and family but also my business clients that we were deported and unable to go on our cruise.
Should we had been informed of the conditions of the visa waiver system this whole situation would have been avoided and we would also not be in the position of either of us never wishing to set foot on American soil again.
We both feel that Princess Cruises are at fault here in not making the conditions of the visa waiver system very clear or at least mentioning that we needed to check with the US Embassy to check if we needed a visa.
I look forward to receiving your response to this along with an offer of some form of compensation.
On our return flight the British Airways cabin crew were fantastic and really looked after us. They also told us of how the US immigration service was making life very very unpleasant for them by detaining them for hours before and after flights even causing some flights to leave without them.
When landing back at Heathrow we were handed over to UK immigration along with a sealed yellow envelope that we assumed had our passports and deportation documentation in. Well it had our passports and nothing else, no documents, no explanation, nothing. The immigration officer was surprised and appalled at this and commented that if we treated their citizens in this way there would be an uproar.
I do clearly remember a big blue sign whilst being detained in Miami which read US Immigration Service, we are the face of our nation. Frankly if that is the face of the American people then its not a very nice face at all.
Oh yes a word of warning, these so called visa waiver forms also secretly double up as a RIGHTS waiver form, read the words carefully. It appears that by signing this document you waive ALL YOUR RIGHTS. This meant that my deportation could be decided by a single supervisor and was denied access to any legal representation whatsoever, I was even denied access to the British Consulate. This waiving of rights also means that should you be admitted into their country you can be arrested at any time there and held indefinitely without trial or access to legal representation.
We will never set foot again on US soil and urge any Briton to obtain a visa before traveling to the US even if you don’t need one because at least that way you will have rights whilst over their.