Global Entry now available at some US cruise ports
Submitted by Mike Engelberg
Global Entry is a service available to US and some other countries' citizens to expedite the process of clearing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when entering the United States. There is a good description of Global Entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Entry
Of interest to cruisers is that recently Global Entry has become available at some cruise ports.
In this space I describe what we have seen at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, as well as what we did during our online application and what we were told during our personal interviews.
The application process requires three steps:
(1) an online application, after which you receive conditional approval.
(2) scheduling your personal interview.
(3) the personal interview, after which you receive a membership number and a credit-card-size membership card.
Online application is done using the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES),
One quirk about the online application process bears mentioning. GOES first asks how you will prove your citizenship, then it asks for a method of admissibility. Sorry, I don't recall what admissibility means. You can use your passport for both citizenship and admissibility. First you answer the citizenship question. Then you see what looks like the same page again. Didn't you just complete that page? Well, it isn't really the same page. The new page's title is different -- it says Admissibility. So give the same answer a second time.
It takes only a day or two to pass (or fail) your online application. Assuming you pass, the GOES system notifies you (via e-mail) to log in to see your conditional approval. You will need to print the conditional approval for the third step.
The GOES system also tells you to now schedule (online) your personal interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. For a list of these locations and operating hours, see http://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/enrollment-centers
To set up your interview, you have to choose a location, then a date and time.
Our experience was that the earliest available date and time were 1.5 months ahead. Here is a tip: Interviews are available on holidays. At Port Everglades, interviews were available on Christmas day! Our interviewer told us their office is open whenever the port is open. So you may find a closer-in available time slot on a holiday.
If at any time until 24 hours before your appointment you want to change the date and time, you can do so online, but be aware that you may have to wait another month or two.
For your interview, bring:
(1) the printout of your conditional approval. GOES says bring it, but our interviewer never asked for it.
(2) your passport.
(3) your driver's license or something else (like a utility bill) showing your current address.
The interviewer asks some questions then takes your picture (sans glasses) and your fingerprints. The fingerprints are sent immediately to the FBI's system, which returns immediate approval to the interviewer. Another tip: If as you age your fingerprints fade, the interviewer said to apply hand-cleaning solution (like Purell) to your fingertips before you reach the Global Entry area, to enhance your fingerprints for the scanner.
The interviewer encodes your Global Entry membership information into your passport. When you use a Global Entry kiosk and place your passport onto the scanner, the kiosk's software will find your number.
Almost immediately the GOES system notifies you of a new status for your application. That is your final approval and membership number. The notice says you can use that number immediately.
A week after our interviews, we received our Global Entry membership cards. They are the size of a credit card. The front of the card contains photo, name, gender, birthdate, and expiration date. We were surprised to see that our expiration dates are our birthdays five years hence. That is longer than the five-year validity quoted initially. If you time it right, maybe you can get almost six years for your card.
The reverse of the card contains three numbers. One is the Global Entry PASSID, which is your Global Entry membership number and also your TSA Known Traveler Number (see below). The other two numbers are not labeled, although one of those numbers comes with a barcode. None of these numbers is your passport number.
Accompanying the card are instructions to go online to a specific URL to activate the card. At that URL is a square labeled Activate Today. Click on that square, then enter information from your new card. You get instant confirmation that your card has been activated.
The interviewer, as well as some contributors to cruise forums about Global Entry, say you should always bring the membership card with you so that you can be directed to the Global Entry area. This card would have come in handy when we disembarked a cruise and found a customs line that took 1 hour 20 minutes to clear. (Alas, we had no Global Entry cards yet.) From the end of the line we could not see how many CBP officers were working, or where the Global Entry area was. In such a situation, someone with a membership card in hand might be able to ask the terminal workers how to get to Global Entry.
Global Entry also includes using TSA Pre-Check for flights. (The fee for Pre-Check alone is $85, so for $15 more you get expedited entry back into the US as well.) Your Global Entry membership number serves as your Known Traveler Number for TSA Pre-Check. Plug your number into all of your airline profiles online.
For cruisers near Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale:
The CBP office building, at 1800 Eller Drive, is just west of the I-595 security gate for Port Everglades. You do not need to go through security. If your appointment is on a weekend during cruise season, and you use I-595 to approach the port, allow extra time for the backup of cars on I-595 waiting to go through security. One person in a cruise forum said he waited 40 minutes in that backup. Better yet, make an appointment toward the end of the day in order to minimize port entry traffic. Or if you feel adventurous, use an online map service to find ways to exit I-595 then use roads underneath I-595 to arrive at the CBP office building. In this regard, http://maps.google.com is up to date for those obscure roads.
PHOTOGRAPHY - Taking Pictures in the "DARK"
You could use a lens with an f-stop of 1.4 or 1.8, but I want a zoom lens so that I can take the photo from a distance and zoom-in as required. I use an 18-200 mm zoom lens that has an f-stop range of 3.5 to 5.6. With this lens, I need a camera that takes excellent photos at high ISO, acquires focus quickly in low light conditions, and renders colors accurately.
I researched cameras at the www.DxoMark.com website and found a few that were affordable. My first purchase was a Nikon D5000 which delivered good photos up to ISO 3200. I replaced it with a Nikon D7000 which is excellent up to ISO 6400.
To take photos of the entertainers in the darkened ship's theater, I set the Nikon D5000 to automatically select the ISO up to 3200, slow down the shutter speed as necessary to 1/60th second, and use spot metering on the entertainer's face.
Here are some photos taken with the Nikon D5000 in the ship's theater.
I have written an 8-page report with photos and details on the ISO setting and f-stop for each photo to illustrate the capabilities and limitations of my Nikon D5000 under low light conditions. My new Nikon D7000 is much better than the D5000 that I used for these photos. This camera is fantastic for taking photos in museums, churches, caves, etc. under low light conditions.
Download my report on low light photos and camera settings (3.7 MB) from LowLightPhotos.pdf
Q: What is the first thing to pack in your suitcase for a cruise?
A: A corkscrew. Never leave home without it.
Q: What is the second thing to pack in your suitcase?
A: A USB flash drive with copies of all of Toms Port Guides to share with fellow passengers.
It's difficult to download port guides from my website on a ship due to sloowww internet speed.
INTERNET - How to find Internet cafes & WiFi connection sites
Do a Google search for information on how you can pre-purchase internet access at a discount for the cities you plan to visit. The cruise terminal building next to the ship often has free WiFi.
This website has an excellent summary of options to access the internet in Venice.
Other internet sites include McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. that often offer free WiFi.
Another way to find internet cafes is to ask a staff member on the ship - your waiter, one of the singers, dancers, etc. They know the internet sites because they use them in port. If you see them leaving the ship with a laptop, that's where they are going. Ask them or follow them to the internet site. Also, some cruise ports have free WiFi in the terminal and many tour buses have WiFi.
Efficient use of ship's internet for EMAIL
Download the FREE Windows Live software to your laptop BEFORE you go on a cruise. Use this web linkhttp://explore.live.com/windows-live-mail?os=other
Windows Live Mail is one of a half-dozen programs in Windows Live Essentials. It can help you organize your life all in one place on your PC. Add and see multiple email accounts in email programs like Outlook, Mail, Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo! Even see your email, calendars, and contacts when you don't have an Internet connection. The software is lighting fast and user friendly.
Install it and click on “Add E-mail Account” to recognize your multiple email accounts by entering email addresses and passwords. Click the “Sync” button in the main menu. The software connects to your email accounts, downloads a copy of all your email onto you laptop and then uploads/sends any new emails you've written from your laptop. Set it up so it does NOT delete the original email at the server where your email resides. Make sure Windows Live Mail DISCONNECTS from the ship's internet service when it's done sending/receiving email.
NOTE: Be sure to install and test all your email accounts on your laptop using Windows Live Mail before your cruise. Modern email services such as Google, Yahoo, etc. are easy to install on Windows Live Mail. Unfortunately, the Comcast email service uses old, outdated, email technology making it very difficult to set up on a laptop with Windows Live Mail.
Exchanging Money & Use of Credit, Debit Cards
Currency exchange is complicated. Each merchant, bank, organization, etc. can set their own exchange rate. The most favorable rate for consumers is published each day on the internet by large banks and financial organizations. The numbers for this “official” rate are slightly different from different organizations, but the variation is small. I use the MasterCard rate for my calculations and financial planning. Transaction fees to exchange money can add 8% or more to your cost.
Finding the most favorable Debit/ATM and Credit Card foreign exchange rates/fees
- The goal is to get the “official” exchange rate with NO fees. This website has useful information on Credit and Debit cards in Europe https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/debit-card-foreign-transaction-fees/
- As you can see on this website, some banks offer Credit and Debit-ATM cards which use the “official” exchange rate with NO fees. The “right” cards save us money on large purchases!!! We use Capital One. Capital One Debit-ATM cards will also rebate some of the "ATM use fees" charged by local banks in Europe.
Cruise ships and independent money changers are usually charge high fees to exchange money.
The best place is an international bank ATM. If we fly to Europe, we use the ATM machine of a major bank in the airport. If we are arriving in Europe on a ship, we go to the ATM at the first port where we can get Euros. Note: Gibraltar use their own “Pounds”, not Euros. Some ATMs in Gibraltar give you a choice of Euros or pounds.
How much cash do you need?
- Our largest Euro cash purchase is for personal tour guides.
- We also use Euro cash for cabs, coffee, and small item purchases and always carry Euro coins for public toilets. Typically, ATM machines limit the withdrawal to 250 Euros. My wife and I can collectively withdraw 500 Euros ($ 700) a day because our ATM cards have different card numbers for the same account.
Talk to your bank and credit card company before you travel
- Confirm the terms for use of your credit and debit cards for your account i. e., which exchange rate is used and whether there are additional fees. Check to determine which bank(s) in the countries you are visiting accept your debit card. Not all banks honor all debit cards.
- Advise your bank of your travel plans and which cards you are carrying to minimize denial of purchases due to suspected fraudulent use of your cards. Get the toll-free international number to contact your bank if your credit card charges are denied. Some banks provide a secret password to verify it is you on the phone to expedite correction of any problems with your cards.
Make sure that you and your spouse have different ACCOUNT NUMBERS on your cards.
- If you have the same account number and one of your cards is lost to a pickpocket, both cards will be canceled!
- I usually sign up for fraud and identity insurance with my credit card company just before leaving for Europe and pay
$ 8/month. When I return to the US, I cancel the insurance.
- Make a list of the credit card account numbers you are carrying on vacation with all the details on the card and contact information. I keep this list and a photocopy of my passport in my shaving kit and on my computer.
Get a credit card with a "chip" for use in Europe
- Europe uses credit cards with a chip. Most European credit card readers will not "read" the standard magnetic strip used in US credit cards. Having the right kind of card is important because many of the things you buy are from unattended kiosks such as the machines that sell train tickets.
- My friends were traveling in Villefranche-sur-Mare, France. They walked from the ship's tender dock to the local train station to purchase tickets for a few euros to Nice, France. There were no people selling tickets at the train station and the kiosk only took coins or credit cards with a chip. Because they did not have the chip-credit card, nor the right euro coins, they had to walk back into town to find cafes where they could get the euro coins for the kiosk at the train station.
LOSS OF DOCUMENTS
Attach the pdf file to an email and send it to yourself. Be sure to use an email address you can access from anywhere in the world; your email at work might not be accessible to you worldwide. The reason to use pdf format for the file is that Adobe PDF format is the "standard" for documents and can be accessed from most computers and phones worldwide.
Comments by George Schulte
Cost of losing your US passport in Europe
If you lose your passport on a Friday, you'll need four days and ~ $ 2200 to resume travel.
The high cost is booking four days hotel on an urgent basis, traveling to the US embassy in another part of the country, paying for meals, and cost to rebook flights to the USA. Unless you happen to be in the city of the US embassy, you will need to travel to a different location in that country, go to the embassy on Monday AM, and will have new passports in 3-5 hours. Then you can book your plane back to USA for Tuesday.
Procedure to get a new US passport
The US Embassy will want a police report on theft of your passport. Because the theft occurred in a Zurich hotel, the manager helped me. He drove me to the police station and explained the situation in Swiss-German. The hotel manager used his influence with the police. They delivered the report to the hotel in an hour. I would have had a heck of a time on my own dealing with police that speak a different language and having no "influence" to get them to expedite preparation of the theft report.
There is one US embassy in each country.
We lost passports in Zurich and had to travel to Bern to the US Embassy. We took a train.
You can't just walk up to a US embassy dragging your luggage past the Marine guards. Leave your luggage at a hotel. You will need passport photos. Get photos at a train station, but do not "cut" them to passport to size. The US uses a slightly larger photo than on European passports. The US Embassy complained my photos had been trimmed about 1/4 inch smaller than required, but finally accepted them.
You need information about your parents and family history to fill out the passport application form. I now keep that information plus photos of my passport, drivers license, birth certificate, credit cards, etc. in a password protected file on my computer. The file is also encrypted, password protected, and backed up to a server at www.carbonite.com so that I can access it from an internet connection anywhere in the world.
The embassy only accepted cash and a few credit cards. Fortunately, I had one of the cards they accepted. Two women at the embassy had lost all credit cards with their passports and only had enough cash to pay for one passport. Their plan was to take that passport to pick up $ 500 which had been wired to them; you can't pick up wired money without a passport for identification. I charged both their passports on my credit card and they sent me the money when they got back to Colorado.
The US Embassy was insensitive to needs of Americans in trouble. When I learned that American Express has a policy of helping travelers get cash, replace passports, etc., outside the USA, I got an American Express card.