Nothing beats a cruise for hassle-free family enjoyment. Cruising with your children, grandchildren, or your youngster's friends is one of the most affordable and enjoyable vacation options imaginable. It's not uncommon these days to see several generations cruising together to enjoy shared adventures onboard, and to new and exciting destinations. While multi-generational cruises are popular, so are single-parent and grandparent cruises with the children. It's also not uncommon for parents to invite their teenager's friends to sail along and to enjoy in all the fun.
For single, divorced, widowed, or married and traveling solo parents, grandparents, or family friends taking children on a cruise, there is an often overlooked planning step that can end a vacation before it begins, the Minor Travel Authorization Form. Airlines, cruise lines, and immigration agents can deny minor children initial boarding or entry to foreign countries without proper proof of identification and citizenship and a permission letter from absent or non-custodial parents.
With the number of international child custody cases on the rise, cruise lines have instituted embarkation identification requirements to help prevent child abductions. For example, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Lines require a child traveling alone, or with only one parent, or in someone else's custody, to carry written, notarized consent from the absent parent, parents or legal guardians authorizing the adult to take the child on the specific cruise, to supervise the child and allow emergency medical treatment to be administered.
Proof of identification and citizenship is relatively simple to obtain via either a certified copy of a birth certificate or passport. Most people aren't aware of the necessity to have a Minor Travel Authorization Form on-hand, let alone what it should include. An attorney could prepare a formal affidavit for you, but a simple document is adequate as long as it is signed before a duly authorized notary. To be acceptable, it should include specific details about the trip, the custodial adult(s), and the child. While no one wants to think about medical emergencies while on vacation, it’s also wise to include consent for the adult to authorize emergency treatment for the child in case the need should arise.
Additionally, some parents, particularly mothers who don't share the same last name as their children, should take no chances and also carry a copy of their divorce decree or, in the case of widows, a death certificate.
After going to all the 'trouble' to secure proper documentation, it is possible that no one at the port will even ask for it. So, why did you bother? Because if you hadn't, the possibility exists that your cruise ship may have sailed without you and your very disappointed family.