Need a birth document, or a passport, or a visa fast? Here are the people to use…

Preparing for a cruise is always exciting and not always in good ways. Of course, there is the fun of anticipation but then there are the problems we encounter along the way.

Right now Chet and I are working out the details of our next cruise: We are sailing the Seabourn Spirit from Dubai to Singapore in December. It is an exciting itinerary that will take us to Oman, India, Thailand and Malaysia. All of the ports will be new to us so there will be a lot to write about here.

First, we had to figure out our air flights, which took awhile because it was one way to Dubai and one way back from Singapore. The Seabourn air staff did a great job of helping us work out the flights at a very decent cost.

Then we had to apply for our India visas. Fortunately, Seabourn gives you very specific instructions on how to do this but it does involve filling out several forms, getting photos taken and having all of the right documentation. But we pulled it all together and sent it off on Monday (9/27), only to have a call on Tuesday (9/28) from the ZVS/CIBT Visa Service telling us that we did not have the correct birth certificate for Chet. We had to send one that had both of his parents’ names on it.

Now, the small little certificate that we submitted was the only one he has ever had in his 70+ years. We weren’t even sure we could get a full certificate with both names. She said that India would not issue a visa if we did not have this. Wow! Panic time…

So, we went online and discovered there are many companies offering to get your birth documents for you. But we chose to use VitalChek because it was part of Lexis/Nexis and also recommended by the City of Detroit Bureau of Vital Statistics. We filled out the online forms, checked everything offering speedy service, and we ordered a full copy of his birth certificate. They told us we would probably have it in 7-10 days, but would not guarantee that it would have the names on it. That was Tuesday.

Today, Thursday (9/30), we received a call from UPS telling us that an overnight package would be arriving today and needed a signature. Lo and behold, it was the two copies of the birth certificate that we ordered…and, yes, it did have both parents’ names. The total fee was $65 but we did not care…we had it in two days! And it was an actual photocopy of the document filed way back when!

I scanned in the certificate and e-mailed it to Barbara Moreno at the visa service who was handling our applications. She acknowledged that she had received it, said it looked fine and that she would drop it off at the Indian embassy in Chicago tomorrow. We should have the visas and our passports back in about ten days. She even agreed to delay mailing them to us until we could be sure to be home to receive them. Perfect! We don’t leave until Nov. 27.

My compliments to the people at VitalChek ( for the speed at which they handled our application for the birth certificate. I thank the clerk in the Detroit Bureau of Vital Statistics who processed the request in one day. And I thank Barbara Moreno at the visa service ( for the personal attention she gave our case.

I recommend either of these services if you need copies of your personal documents or if you need a visa or passport in the future.

Okay, now I have to find a hotel in Dubai for before the cruise…

About Cynthia Boal Janssens

Cynthia Boal Janssens is the editor and chief blogger for She is a former national president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She has sailed on over 40 cruises all over the world.

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