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Friday, July 7, 2017

Of Quick Customs, Champagne and Watching the Waters

Our past trip on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas had a number of firsts—all of them good and
all of them worth sharing:
Customs never better. If you’re cruisin’ out of Ft. Lauderdale’s Port Everglades anytime soon (and you’re a U.S. or Canadian citizen), you’ll absolutely want to use the Mobile Passport, U.S. Customs’ new app.

On disembarkation day, like a king and queen, we bypassed all 5,000+ of Allure’s passengers as they painfully snaked around the terminal, and breezed right through Customs in about five minutes flat. And all because of that app.

Here’s how it works:

Before you leave

1. Download the free app for Android or Apple from Google Play or iTunes App store (you need wi-fi for this, so do it at home or at your hotel)

2. Enter your profile info as it appears on your passport and for everyone traveling with you. You’ll need to take photos of yourself with your phone (or you theoretically can scan your passport, although I couldn’t get this to work)

Disembarkation day

3. When you’ve docked in Port Everglades and you’re waiting to be called to leave, open the app. This is important because you can only do this within four hours of getting to Customs. Fill out the required info and submit

4. You’ll receive a barcode

5. In Port Everglades, follow the signs that say “Mobile Passport.” You’ll go to a Customs agent especially assigned, show your passport and barcode on your phone. And out the door you go!

Here’s some more info on using the app in Port Everglades.

Swim with no fear. Wherever there’s water now on the Allure, there’s a lifeguard. They’re at all the pools, the ship’s water park and by the hot tubs. A very visible presence that should reassure parents who cruise. A very good move, Royal Caribbean.

You just never know. Heading down that long hallway to our room one day, suddenly a door opens and a 30-something fellow steps out. “Do you guys drink?” he asked.

“Moderately,” I said, figuring that was a safe answer.

Apparently that was the right answer, because he thrust a bottle of champagne at us. Turns out he'd been given the champagne—and the whole cruise—by his company, a reward for being a top salesman. But he didn’t drink.

So after many expressions of gratitude, we continued to our stateroom, bottle and champagne glasses in hand, and bemused smiles on our faces.

Now I can’t say that your cruises will bring offers of champagne from strangers. But what I do know is that cruising is filled with surprises. That—and the sea—keep luring us back again and again.