Spain to Deport Bolivian Cruise Passengers Over Invalid Visas

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Spain has announced the deportation of over 60 guests that were from the MSC Armonia cruise ship after they were not allowed to disembark in Barcelona due to false visas on April 2, 2024.

Visa Discrepancies Lead to Deportation of Cruise Passengers

Going on a cruise can be a fun and exciting way to holiday; however, you’ll need to ensure all of your documentation is in order before you set sail. It’s something that a group of 69 guests onboard MSC Armonia thought they did or failed to do when they boarded the cruise ship for their 16-night Grand Voyage cruise on March 17, 2024.

Upon arrival in Barcelona, the third European stop on the voyage after Tenerife and Malaga, 69 Bolivian guests aboard the MSC Armonia were barred from leaving the ship. Spanish officials identified their Schengen visas as counterfeit. Now, the Spanish government has decided that 65 guests will be deported from Spain, and flown back to Bolivia. 

Only a family of three siblings and the underage daughter of one of the siblings will be allowed to stay in Spain as they have family connections in the country. MSC Armonia sailed from Barcelona a day later than scheduled, while the 69 Bolivians were accommodated onboard another MSC Cruise ship.

MSC Armonia in Barcelona
MSC Armonia in Barcelona (Photo Credits: VideoBCN / Season)

Due to the decision from the Spanish government to deport the 65 passengers, MSC Cruises will be paying for the flight, which will depart on April 11, 2024. While unfortunate for the guests onboard, the issue remains an expensive mistake by the cruise line, which could have been prevented.

MSC Cruises Fails to Perform Proper Visa Checks

MSC Cruises has stated that the documentation provided by the Bolivian passengers appeared legitimate upon boarding in Brazil. The cruise line has been collaborating with Spanish authorities to address the situation, which has raised concerns over possible visa fraud, prompting investigations by Spain’s national police into the matter. 

The situation took a more peculiar turn when Solange Duarte, a Bolivian diplomat in Barcelona, received reports that some of the guests were aware they were provided fake visas.

“We have asked the families to indicate who has processed this visa and we have not gotten answers,” Duarte said to the Associated Press.

MSC Armonia Cruise Ship
MSC Armonia Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Stefan Lambauer)

This in itself raises serious concerns about the security procedures in place onboard MSC Armonia. Through the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, each cruise line is required to implement a ship security plan that outlines the measures that need to be taken to keep the vessel, the crew, and its passengers safe.

While the exact contents of this plan are confidential, one part that must be included is implementing a method to get to know with 100% certainty that all onboard have the documentation required to sail.

The failure to detect counterfeit visas indicates a lapse in verifying guest documentation before boarding. That being said, expecting the staff responsible for guest check-ins on embarkation day to also verify visas, in addition to processing 1,500 guests, would be unrealistic.

Read Also: Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise? – Full Guide

While the entire situation is likely down to human error, MSC Cruises will be doing a full review of the situation and will need to implement safeguards to ensure this does not happen again.

The 58,600-gross ton MSC Armonia set sail on her next cruise a day late, on April 3, missing out on the call to Ajaccio, Corsica, calling to Civitavecchia and Sicily, Italy; Corfu, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and concluding the cruise on April 8 in Marghera, Italy.

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