Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise? Tips for New Year
November 13, 2023
3 min. read
Did you get a few days to spare in your calendar? That’s awesome! Now it’s your call to find inspiring destination countries and a bargain cruise for your international travel getaway.
So what’s the deal with your passport that’s been resting in a draw for long enough? Do you actually need a passport to go on a cruise? Let’s make it crystal clear if you need a passport to take with you for your marine vacation.
Do I need a passport to go on a cruise ship?
To cut it short, you don’t need a passport if it’s a purely domestic journey. If you’re wondering whether you require a passport for a cruise internationally, the answer will depend on your itinerary and also if your cruise is closed-loop or open-loop. This terminology comes into play meaning the following:
Closed loop sailing is a cruise that starts and ends in the same port.
An open-loop cruise is a cruise that you initiate in one port with your final destination in another, even though these are the ports of the same country.
For example, if you sail out of a port in the US and arrive at the same port, you can travel without a US passport if your cruise company and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) do not require a passport.
You don’t need your passport to go on a marine cruise if it has stops in a foreign port, provided you do not disembark. Then, other documents will be necessary to prove your identity. Alongside, you should have a passport if you go on a cruise with at least one disembarkation in a port of a foreign country. You might need a visa too.
Your best way here is to make inquiries with your cruise company when you book your trip or/and passport-issuance facility to be sure, you do not need a passport to go on a cruise for your sea destination.
To avoid any travel complications, the Department of State recommends that everyone should carry a valid passport book in case of emergency while going on a cruise from the United States. If you don’t have a passport yet, all you need is to take a compliant photo against a white background. A CVS passport photo taken in a store or online will be perfect. Then, fill out the application form and visit a local passport office to apply.
Places to cruise without a passport
There is good news, though. If you haven’t applied for a US passport yet, there exist overseas places to go on many cruises without a passport. These are Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean islands, and Mexico. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative provided special regulations to the typical U.S. Customs and Border Protection passport requirements that make closed-loop cruises an exception for U.S. citizens.
What documents do I need instead of a passport to go on a cruise?
There is a variety of documents you can use as proof of citizenship and a government-issued photo ID. For example, a passport card. If you plan to take your driver’s license to go on a cruise without a passport, double-check it’s the enhanced driver’s license since not every state issues this particular type at the moment. And this is the type you need.
You can use the link to find the full list of documents introduced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to use on a cruise instead of a passport: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/western-hemisphere-travel-initiative
What’s important to go on a cruise without a valid passport?
As we mentioned above, you can choose from a list of documents to reenter the United States when you travel back from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. What’s also important for sea border crossings is that your passport serves you as an airbag in case of emergency.
Let’s look into potential situations if something goes wrong, and you’ll need a passport:
- If you disembark, but you can’t come back to the ship due to unforeseen circumstances. You will need to have a passport to fly back to the United States.
- For illness or injury, you can’t be discharged before the cruise departs, and you need to fly back home upon clearance from your doctor.
- In case of unexpected medical air evacuation, you would need a passport to go back from a cruise.
- In case of the docking at an alternate port.
- If cruise ships are damaged or have mechanical issues that can’t be handled during your stop in a port, you’ll need to go ashore in a foreign country which requires a passport.
- If your cruise line requires you to have a passport for a cruise, even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection doesn’t.
Though you may travel to certain destinations without a passport, it’s wise to have a contingency plan to come back home easily. To be on the safe side, take color copies of your passport page, visas, and itinerary.
Do I need a passport to go on a cruise if I am a U.S. citizen younger than 16 or a non-US citizen?
If you travel by sea with your family, these are the documents you’ll need to provide for your children under 16.
U.S. citizens younger than 16 may only provide proof of citizenship on their journey for domestic cruises or to countries stated in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative’s regulations. Among them are a government-issued birth certificate, a consular report of birth abroad issued by the U.S. Department of State, or a certificate of naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Non-U.S. citizens. To go on a cruise as lawful permanent residents of the US, please present a permanent resident card or a similar document. Non-US citizens will need to have a passport to go on a cruise line from a US port.
For citizens of neighboring foreign countries of Canada and Mexico, the rules slightly differ.
Mexican citizens must have a passport with a visa or a border crossing card to board a cruise ship.
Canadian citizens must have a passport, Trusted Traveler Program card, or an enhanced driver’s license for this purpose.
Unacceptable documents to go on cruise
Please note that some documents won’t be accepted on your cruise line. For example, U.S. military identification cards and U.S. Merchant Mariner documents are acceptable forms of identification when on official orders or due t official maritime affairs. Voter registration cards, social security cards, and baptismal certificates won’t do for proof of citizenship.
More tips when you need or need not to have a passport on a cruise line
Consider downloading the Cruise Travel Tips PDF to be best prepared for your journey: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/NEWTravelAssets/pdfs/Cruise%20Ship%20Rack%20Card_2018.pdf
If you visiting Cuba, ensure shore excursions and purchases comply with U.S. regulations https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-cuba/. U.S. credit and debit cards do NOT work in Cuba, so be sure to take enough cash to support your stay and purchases.
If you lose your passport abroad, report it immediately to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. You can find your location here: https://www.usembassy.gov/
If you need to apply for its replacement, please follow the link for instructions: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/emergencies/lost-stolen-passport-abroad.html
All this will be helpful in answering your queries on whether you need a passport to go on a cruise at the end of this year and the following year.