How a gun-shaped key nearly scuttled their cruise

The same key that gets Henry Echevarria into to his home almost kept him and his wife from departing on a vacation cruise.

On Sunday, security screeners at Port Canaveral, Fla., told Echevarria and his wife, Lisa, that they could not board the Carnival cruise ship Liberty with his 2-inch, gun-shaped house key.

“He pulls out my key and says ‘Oh, here’s the problem,’ ” said Henry Echevarria, who lives in this community about 45 miles north of Tampa. “It’s my house key, and he said, ‘Well, you can’t take it on.’ ”

Both Henry and Lisa Echevarria work in law enforcement — Henry Echevarria is a Pasco County deputy — so they know about security procedures and concerns.

“First of all, you can’t even get your finger in the hole if it was a gun, and you can barely get a finger around the grip,” he said. “They say I can’t have it. I can’t get on the boat. I either need to get rid of it, take it back or not cruise.”

He let Carnival put the key in a safe so he could retrieve it when they returned, but Henry Echevarria contends that action raises some security concerns of its own.

“They have my address. They have my key,” Henry Echevarria said. “All they need to do is make a replica, and next thing you know they could be at my house.”

Carnival Cruise Line officials told WTSP-TV that its prohibited items policy does forbid “all firearms including replicas, imitations and their components.” However, a house key shaped like a firearm is not what is meant by the term “replica.”

“It’s embarrassing because you’re sitting there and everyone is looking at you like you did something wrong,” Henry Echevarria said.

Echevarria and Carnival officials agree that the whole headache should not have happened, especially when a vacation is supposed to be stress free.

“It was upsetting. It was comical because it’s like, ‘Really, what am I going to do with that?’ You know they give you steak knives on the cruise,” he said.

Carnival officials said they are contacting the company under contract to provide port security to make sure that screeners understand the policy so the mistake doesn’t happen again.