US immigration officials forced 2,000 passengers on a P&O Cruises ship call in Los Angeles into lengthy checks forcing the line to extend the stay and miss a future port of call.
People travelling on adults-only ship Arcadia had questioned the need for lengthy security checks on the vessel’s tenth stop in the US as part of an extended voyage from Southampton to Alaska and back.
Although they had already been given advance clearance for multiple entries to the country during the cruise, all passengers were made to go through full security checks in a process which took seven hours to complete.
Passengers claim that the extra checks were carried out in “revenge” for what had been a minor spat over allegedly overzealous security, the Daily Telegraph reported.
They complained of being “herded like animals” and made to stand for hours in temperatures up to 80F with no food or water or access to lavatories.
Some were said to have passed out in the heat while others were left confused and bewildered.
To compound the situation, the officials' computer broke down and further delays resulted.
The immigration delays forced P&O to extend the stay in LA by a day forcing it to cancel a later stop at Roatan, Honduras.
With a total of 15 stops scheduled at US ports during the 72-night cruise, the passengers all completed standard US immigration (ESTA) forms designed for multiple-entry trips.
Passenger John Randall, a retired dentist from Wigan, was quoted as saying: “A couple of passengers got a bit stroppy about having to go through all the rigmarole again and these petulant officials decided to take revenge.”
In a letter to the captain he said: “We are holidaymakers, here to try and enjoy ourselves - we are not potential inmates of Guantalamo Bay, and should not be treated as such.”
A P&O Cruises’ spokeswoman said that passengers were kept on the vessel to prevent them queuing for more than about an hour.
“The delay in immigration procedures was largely to blame on issues with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) computer systems, not aided by the verbal approach that a minority of our passengers, clearly frustrated by this delay, took with the local immigration officers,” she said.
“The US has a record for the most stringent and thorough security and entry requirements in the world, and they felt the need to enhance their security checks further, which they have the power to do.”
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