One of the most popular questions from first time cruisers is regarding passports. The answer to the question, “Do I need a passport to go on a cruise?” is a bit more involved than one might think. The answer is yes and no! In this post, we detail when such documentation is required and weigh in on why it is always recommended to cruise with a passport.
Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise?
Open and Closed Loop Cruises
If you are traveling internationally for a cruise, the answer is more clear cut. Yes, you will need a passport. A passport is required for all international flights. Passports are required for any U.S. citizen whose cruise embarks or disembarks in a foreign country. Further, passports are also required for cruises that begin and end in different locations (open loop cruises).
For U.S. citizens, a passport is not required for closed loop cruises. A closed loop cruise is a cruise that begins and ends in the same U.S. port.
On these closed loop cruises, a birth certificate and a government issued ID are the only forms of documentation required in addition to a valid boarding pass. The birth certificate must be the original or a certified copy with the raised seal. A photocopy will not be permitted and will cause you to be denied boarding at the terminal.
Keep in mind that these requirements are for U.S. citizens only. For all other nationalities, a passport is generally required to cruise.
So, this means that U.S. citizens can cruise to Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada/New England, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, and Hawaii without a passport.
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However, just because you do not need a passport to go on the cruise, doesn’t mean that you might not need one to enter one or more of the ports of call during your trip. Travelers should always check with the cruise line to determine the requirements for their specified itinerary.
Why a Passport is Still Recommended
If you choose to cruise without a passport, you might not be able to get off the ship in certain locations; you also may not be allowed to participate in certain excursions. Certain Caribbean islands like Martinique require that all cruise passengers have a valid passport to go ashore.
Even popular excursions like the White Pass Railway in Skagway, Alaska may require a passport.
Now, even though a passport is not required for all cruises, it is still strongly recommended.
The first reason is if you miss your ship at its scheduled U.S. departure port and need to travel outside the U.S. to meet the ship. The second reason is if you unexpectedly need to depart the ship from a foreign port prior to the end of your cruise. In both of these instances, a passport would be required to leave or re-enter the U.S. by air.
Only a valid U.S. passport will allow cruisers to easily fly home from a foreign port. Without a passport, travelers would need to visit the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for a temporary visa to re-enter the country.
The U.S. Department of State recommends that everyone taking a cruise from the United States have a passport book for emergency purposes.
Illness or injury may result in your cruise ship leaving you in a foreign port. Additionally, damage to your cruise ship might cause you to go ashore in a country that requires a passport. Or, you might need a passport to fly home from that country if the ship is unable to be fixed.
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Most cruise lines require that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the end of your cruise.
What About a Passport Card?
A passport card is a lower cost alternative to a passport book for United States citizens. A passport card is only valid for land and sea border crossings between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.
It is a nice option for those who do not plan to leave the country by airplane. However, if you are not able to return on the cruise ship for any reason, a passport book will be required.
Since a passport book may be required in foreign ports on your itinerary and is mandatory for international flights, we recommend just skipping the passport card and opting for the passport book instead.
While it will cost a bit more, it provides the greatest travel flexibility. In the COVID-era of cruising, having a passport might prove to be even more important in case of medical evacuation from the ship.
Travelers can learn more about the requirements and documents needed to obtain a United States passport at USA.gov. The current pricing for a first time passport applicant is $110 for a book and $30 for a card (plus $35 execution fee).
If a passport to go on your cruise was not a requirement, would you travel without one? What are your recommendations for those considering a cruise without a passport? Drop us an anchor below to share your helpful tips with fellow cruisers.