The Wahba family reached out to the ABC11 I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson for help after they watched their dreams of a family cruise sail away.
They saved for months for their dream vacation. It was supposed to be a birthday celebration on the cruise for their two boys instead the ship set sail without them!
"Incredible heartbreaking to be sitting in our minivan and hearing that big honk and watching that ship sail away, that was our vacation," said John Wahba.
It was a vacation that John Wahba says was ruined shortly after arriving at the port in Norfolk to board their Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas.
"They looked at all the documents to double check it and told us that our son, Lincoln, was not going to be able to board.
Lincoln is a four-year-old they adopted from Ethiopia. Because of the red tape involved with international adoptions, John says he knew to bring Lincoln's certificate of identification from North Carolina, his Ethiopian passport with entry visa to the U.S., and even a cell phone picture of Lincoln's green card. However, it still wasn't enough.
"We went back and forth a lot," said John. "I asked if there was anything that she could do to help us and she said that there wasn't. We asked if she would speak to our attorney or to our travel agent and they declined to do that. We were shocked. We couldn't believe that this was happening to us."
John and Jodi were shocked, and Lincoln was crushed.
"I'm sad," said Lincoln.
Big brother, Boston, was beyond bummed.
"I felt super mad," said Boston.
With nowhere else to go, the Wahbas had to come back home to Cary. It didn't take long, though, for John to start venting on social media, and then reach out to me. He believes they not only had the proper documents for Lincoln, but that Carnival isn't clear on what exactly is needed for internationally adopted children.
"If they want more from adoptive children then there needs to be a spot on that, on what the documentation that they need or they at least need to be able to be aware and willing to contact people who are above them who may know," said Jodi Wahba.
We got in touch with Carnival, and a rep said they were denied boarding because the documents they had for Lincoln were not adequate proof of citizenship, such as a U.S. passport.
Despite that, Carnival agreed to give the family a full refund as a gesture of good will.
"They offered to either send us on a replacement cruise or to refund our money," said John.
The Wahbas took the money and give this advice.
"We would like for others to know -- parents of internationally adopted children -- that they need a little more documentation than their biological children," said John.
So what does any cruiser need to take to make sure they're not left stranded on shore? Carnival says a valid U.S. passport will almost always get you on board. Carnival also adds a supervisor and a manager on duty on the day of sailing all looked at the Wahba's documents the day of sailing.