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LandlockedCruiser01

"Did you meet anyone on the ship?" question in Customs

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On 9/6/2019 at 11:41 PM, LandlockedCruiser01 said:

So what gives?  My older age?  Different port of embarkation?  Individual officer's bias?  The only common factors are me being male and Caucasian.  (If it's the port, it makes me more willing to sail out of Long Beach, and avoid Port Canaveral like the plague, and least while cruising solo.)


I think it's a general change in CBP, at least in relation to cruising. 

When I cruised in 2013 with three (fully adult) girlfriends, three of us got in one line and the other got in a shorter Customs line and got a LOT of questions because she was "traveling alone".

I cruised a few times a year with my teenaged son, and after waiting in the big lines of people, we got the "are you bringing back any fruits/vegetables, jewelry, liquor, did you visit a farm" questions and a perusal of our passports, and waved on through.

When I took my son and his then-16yo girlfriend on a Caribbean cruise a year ago, we had the big lines of people waiting to see an agent, and the agent looked at our passports, compared them to our faces, and said, "Welcome back".  Never even asked why I was traveling with a teenaged girl with a different name.

When I cruised on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas (6000+ passengers) in March, I walked up to the CBP area where there were just three or four agents each standing in their own little walkway (separated by the stanchions with retractable ribbons), I walked up, handed him my passport, he maybe glanced at it, and said welcome back.  THERE WERE NO LINES, even though there were only three or four agents for 6000+ passengers (and the ship was FULL -- it was Spring Break week for schoolkids in Canada).  

I got off Majesty of the Seas this morning and experienced the Facial Recognition for the first time.  If you had only your birth certificate with you, you went to the left.  If you had a passport, you went to the right, where there were six little walkways each with a tablet/computer screen on a stand at eye level.  You look at the tablet screen and it's like taking a selfie.  A green box forms around your face, and after a couple seconds a checkmark or a thumbs-up or something else to denote A-OK comes on the screen and you walk away.  Other than the worker telling me to stand in front of the screen so my face showed in the green square, I never talked to a human, I never showed my passport to anyone, I never made any statement about having been on a farm or buying booze or jewelry or ANYthing.

I think that CBP has figured out that people aren't smuggling things into the country via cruise ship, nor are they using cruise ships to enter the country illegally.  If your face matches the face that is on the passport that you used to check in for the cruise, you're good to go, have a nice trip home.  

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Most questions have nothing to do with your answer, but has a lot to do with your non-verbal communications.

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3 hours ago, Skoobdo said:

Most questions have nothing to do with your answer, but has a lot to do with your non-verbal communications.

That's true.  El Al, the Israeli airline, uses the same tactic to evaluate passengers.  They call it "interviewing": they ask you if you speak Hebrew, what you know about Israel, or what Jewish holidays you celebrate.  (Mine asked me if I knew handwashing prayer, which I did.)  They couldn't care less if you don't know any of it; what they care about is your threat level.

 

But the biggest difference is that El Al's security guards are some of the mellowest I've ever dealt with.  It felt similar to talking to the front desk in a nice hotel.  (Until you make a threat, that is.)  While most US Customs guards are as friendly as Chris Hansen, sometimes with you "having a seat over there" (while your bag is searched).

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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I travel a lot by both cruises and flying, and never once have I been asked this question.

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1 hour ago, Splinter said:

I travel a lot by both cruises and flying, and never once have I been asked this question.

At Brussels airport back in 2004, I was actually asked upon entering the secured area where was I the night before and did I meet someone.  I said no, because they said last night.  However, I did meet with a few folks a few weeks prior.  They also asked how did I arrive to the airport, which was by train.

 

They didn't care about the answers and was looking me square in the face the entire time reading my non-verbals.  Because, the questions were rapid fired, in order to display to them a change of eye movements or demeanor, from the general questions they had asked earlier, which was do you have any batteries, sharp objects etc.  My carryon was completely searched twice in two separate locations, as was everybody else's.  It may have had something to do with 9/11, not sure.  That was the highest level of security checks that I've been through in all my years of flying.

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Late 60’s female here who traveled extensively, domestically and internationally, for work. I am now retired and I look about 10 years younger than my age. Only once have I ever been questioned in depth by CBP. Since my husband died, I often cruise solo. When the CBP agent asked “ why is a nice lady like you traveling solo,” I replied that my late husband’s ghost would come back to haunt any man interested in me. He laughed and said have a nice day.

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14 hours ago, Straughn said:

Late 60’s female here who traveled extensively, domestically and internationally, for work. I am now retired and I look about 10 years younger than my age. Only once have I ever been questioned in depth by CBP. Since my husband died, I often cruise solo. When the CBP agent asked “ why is a nice lady like you traveling solo,” I replied that my late husband’s ghost would come back to haunt any man interested in me. He laughed and said have a nice day.

Great answer, sometimes a little humor goes a long way, and leaves everyone feeling a little bit better.

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3 hours ago, travelnap said:

Great answer, sometimes a little humor goes a long way, and leaves everyone feeling a little bit better.

Straughn might get a pass as a female senior citizen, but me being in a "high-threat" demographic, I'd be very, very cautious about joking with a Customs officer.  One false move, and I could find myself detained for days with no legal representation, followed my spending hundreds of dollars on a new plane ticket.  All I'd give is terse, direct answers about my whereabouts, as well as respond to any side topics, like "What's that writing on your shirt?"  ("It's an obscure rock band.")  But like I already mentioned, the officer I dealt with after this cruise borderline ignored me.  The most he did was hold up my passport next to my face.  So all of it was irrelevant.

 

I kind of wish Customs procedures were more standardized, rather than luck of the draw with who you get, but oh well.

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4 hours ago, LandlockedCruiser01 said:

I kind of wish Customs procedures were more standardized, rather than luck of the draw with who you get, but oh well.


I think that's kind of the point, though.... if it's random, people have less chance of gaming the system, because you never know what "the system" is going to be like on any given day.

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I think it also has to do with the fact that if you give a group total power to make life difficult, some people drawn to that position just love to wield the power.

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7 hours ago, brillohead said:

I think that's kind of the point, though.... if it's random, people have less chance of gaming the system, because you never know what "the system" is going to be like on any given day.

Yes, I can see the merit in that.  BUT... under that logic, strictly theoretically, I'll catch less heat from US Customs if I cruise with a "stranger", putting it nicely, I met on Miss Travel (NSFW), than I would if I cruise solo.  That just means that Customs's logic is more broken than our Congress.

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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2 hours ago, LandlockedCruiser01 said:

Yes, I can see the merit in that.  BUT... under that logic, strictly theoretically, I'll catch less heat from US Customs if I cruise with a "stranger", putting it nicely, I met on Miss Travel (NSFW), than I would if I cruise solo.  That just means that Customs's logic is more broken than our Congress.


Well, considering it's the GOVERNMENT, did you really expect any form of logic, reason, efficiency, or any other positive attribute?  😄

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May I offer a small defense of our government's Customs and Immigration Officers?

 

All of these men and women "put their pants on" like we do.  The vast majority do their job to the best of their ability given the restraints/conditions that the "higher-ups" put upon them.

 

What would your view of your "job" be with a minimum number of colleagues to assist and having to process thousands of recently arriving guests at an airport or a seaport?   Yet, you must be vigilant in trying to detect the "bad guys" or the "smugglers". 

 

I appreciate what they do and I appreciate those who say at the end of the inspection process:  "Welcome Home!".  

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On 8/22/2019 at 5:48 PM, Cruisercl said:

Hi OP,

I absolutely have been asked that question and have been detained for extra screening.

I did ask the CO to clarify what he meant by meet.  I said I met new people but had not planned to meet anyone specific. He was satisfied with that.

My detain time was about 1/2 hour. I just got off a TA cruise which stopped in Morroco (to MIA) so I am assuming they were being careful.

I have been asked intermittantly questions like that, depending on where the ship went, it seems. 

I travel by myself ,mostly land and have never been singled out. I am curious as to why you thought a stop in Morocco was something that caused a further search . I spent weeks there. no questions asked.

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I've only been heavily questioned once while traveling solo - I was going on a cruise through Cape Liberty and the Customs person was surprised I was solo. He said, "where's the company?". I said excuse me? and he quickly realized the question was a bit out of line. I told him I travel solo to get away from the every day stresses of life - he handed me my passport and said have a great trip.

 

They do tend to look me up and down but they wave me through fairly quickly.

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8 hours ago, Virtopia said:

I've only been heavily questioned once while traveling solo - I was going on a cruise through Cape Liberty and the Customs person was surprised I was solo. He said, "where's the company?". I said excuse me? and he quickly realized the question was a bit out of line. I told him I travel solo to get away from the every day stresses of life - he handed me my passport and said have a great trip.

 

They do tend to look me up and down but they wave me through fairly quickly.

I wonder if it depends on who else cruises out of a particular port.  That is, who else besides you, solos and non-solos, typically cruise out of that port.  If a particular port has many solos, you won't stick out, and will be dismissed as just another hungover passenger, provided that you don't have shifty eyes and/or nervous body language.  On the other hand, if a port is all about couples and families, a solo cruiser will be scrutinized like a flu virus in a biology lab. 

 

I was detained for half hour in Port Canaveral, given several minutes of questioning in Miami, and borderline ignored in Long Beach.  I guess it happened because Port Canaveral, being a Disney port, is overwhelmingly family-centric. So, a single person sticks out like a sore thumb, which makes the agents' hair stand on end. Long Beach has a hugely diverse mix of everybody and their brother, combined with the "you do you" West Coast mindset, so a single person looks as normal as a family with 2 kids. 

 

Or maybe it depends on which agent you get: a rational thinker or with a pillar stuck up their rectum (uptight).

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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