I am planning on spending 90 days in Schengen zone countries. I will be taking a cruise between Lisbon and Barcelona. Do the days at sea count against the 90 days allowed for staying in the Schengen zone?
I am Ship's Agent in Norway. I deal with this all the time.
Your 90 days in Schengen start as soon as you are stamped into the zone at your port of entry. It doesn't matter if you are at sea.
Just be sure you get stamped out when you leave, or you will have a terrible time if you want to re-enter.
The exemptions you may have heard of are only for Crew Members with a valid Seaman's Book.
We get many questions about what counts or not but if you look at things from the other end, namely how this limit is enforced, it's relatively simple to understand how this works: The day you received an entry stamp, the day you received an exit stamp and each day in between count. So the question becomes one of getting a stamp or not.
For cruise ships, the Schengen Border code includes specific rules on when and how border checks should be carried out (in particular in annex VI). A couple of relevant points:
- If the itinerary only includes ports in the Schengen area (as in your Barcelona-Lisbon examples, assuming there are no stops in Morocco or something), checks are not necessary so you would not generally get any stamp.
- If the ship also calls at ports outside the area, checks are generally conducted using the passenger manifest, you only get an entry stamp when going ashore. And even in this case, checks can be waived.
If checks are not deemed necessary by the authorities, article 11(3)(b) creates an exemption to the regular rules on stamp so the whole duration of the cruise would count. It does not matter that you are at sea, whether the ship is in territorial waters, etc. you can't expect to stretch the 90 days in that way.
If the boat goes from Spain to Portugal without any intermediate stops outside of Schengen, you won't clear border control, and as such never exit the Schengen Area. This would mean that the days at sea do count.
All that matters is when you clear border control for entering and exiting the area.