Do you need a passport to go on a cruise?

need passport to cruise without caribbean
Surprise! There are some cruises you can take without a passport. - Photo by Yungshu Chao

In light of heightened border security and thorough Transportation Security Administration (TSA) searches, it seems like a given that you need a passport to go on a cruise. Surprisingly enough, the cruise industry has a loophole that lets American passengers soak in the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean and other destinations without a passport on “closed-loop” sailings out of U.S. ports.

If the ship begins and ends its voyage at the same domestic port, passengers can board by showing an official government birth certificate and — for anyone 16 or older — a government-issued photo ID.

Of course, there are some exceptions: Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Barts, St. Martin, and Trinidad and Tobago all require cruise passengers to have a valid passport in order to enter their countries. However, you can sail on a cruise that calls on these islands, as long as you stay on the ship at these ports. 

One point to remember: Just because you can cruise without a passport doesn’t mean you should. If you were to miss the ship, not having a passport would make reentry into the U.S. a nightmare. If it’s just a few weeks before your trip, consider taking advantage of the government’s passport rush service or a private service like for less hassle.

Tip: The laws governing international travel can be complex. Rules may vary based on the port of origin, the itinerary, and the home country of the passenger. If you have any questions about what documents are considered acceptable identification, the best thing to do is contact your cruise line

Join the discussion

Have you cruised without a passport?
MrChocoholic's Avatar

Posted by MrChocoholic 1 month ago

I have cruised with and without my passport. All cruises so far have been closed-loop anyway, but if I intend to get off the ship I bring my passport. NOTE: If you choose to bring a State-or-County-issued Birth Certificate be sure it's an original with raised seal. They look for that often enough to detect forgeries and will prevent you from boarding if you only show a copy. One time I did get away with showing a copy I made from my scanner, which looked good enough to pass. I had the original with me alongside in the same folder so it was easy to "accidentally" pull it out and see if it would pass.

KidA's Avatar

Posted by KidA 4 months ago

Sorry to hear that, Nailerman, but did you read the article? It clearly states that you need an official government birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID. Sounds like you only had the one. I also doubt anyone would accept a pdf of an official document as if it was the same thing.

Nailerman's Avatar

Posted by Nailerman 8 months ago

I just read this article and can tell you it is rubbish. Last Year I was refused boarding on a four night Royal Caribbean run to Nassau and Back as I had forgotten my Passport. Having ADHD is a pain in the butt at times. I did have a pdf of the pass port on my laptop as well as a Virginia driver’s license. I told them the pdf should do as the License, but no. I am out around $700.00.

Today I carry as well a former military ID issued by the state of Virginia and a DD214 with me as well.

So how do I get on to Royal Caribbean to make at least a credit toward another cruise?

larryGo's Avatar

Posted by larryGo 8 months ago

Many European countries require at least 3 months before a passport is to expire. My son in law was not able to make a cruise because of this requirement. Not readily publicized and the cruise agency and discount air agency did not advise him of this.

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