Do You Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise?
One of the most common questions among many potential first-time cruisers is a simple one: do you need a passport to take a cruise?
While you might think passport requirements for cruises would be clearcut, the answer actually depends on the cruise. This can cause some confusion about which cruises require a passport and which don’t. So we decided to provide some clarification on the topic so you don’t encounter a situation that stops your cruise before it even gets started.
Cruises That Don’t Require a Passport
Are there actually sailings where you can cruise without a passport? The short answer is yes. When the ship begins and ends its voyage at the same domestic port, it’s referred to as a closed-loop cruise. For example, if you leave from Miami, FL sailing to the Bahamas, if your itinerary returns you to Miami, you’re on a closed-loop cruise. There are some limitations when it comes to where you’re able to sail without a passport, but this is a great option if you’re looking for a last-minute cruise getaway and don’t have a passport.
If you're a US Citizen, a US Passport Card will serve as proof of citizenship for "closed-loop" sailings — cruises that embark and return to the same US port — to Mexico, Bermuda, Alaska or the Caribbean. While less expensive than a Passport book, the Passport Card is only accepted at land border crossings and sea ports when arriving from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
For these sailings, passengers can board by showing an official government birth certificate and — for anyone 16 or older — a government-issued photo ID. You can get more information on required documents for a closed-loop cruise from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Just remember, on this type of cruise you may not be able to enter some ports without a passport, such as Martinique. Contact your cruise line to see if the ports on your itinerary require a passport.
We Recommend a Passport, No Matter What
Though a passport may not be required, traveling without one does involve certain risks. For example, if you do find yourself in a situation such as missing your ship at your port of call, a passport will be crucial in getting back on track. Only an official passport will allow you to catch a flight in a foreign country.
A Passport Card will not allow you to travel internationally by air. If you miss your cruise ship and need to fly to the next port to catch up, or have a medical or other emergency during your cruise that would require you to fly back to the US from a foreign port, a Passport Card will not be sufficient.
If you’re still planning to cruise without a passport, we encourage you to contact your cruise line to make sure you have the correct documents. You won’t receive a refund on your cruise if you’re unable to board the ship due to problems with your paperwork.
Bottom line, cruise with a passport. It’s far less likely you’ll experience any issues with boarding or entering foreign ports when you have a passport in hand.
Getting a Passport for Your Cruise
If you need to renew your passport or just need to get one and you have a long time before your cruise departs, get the process started now. If you’re applying for your first passport or a new one, you will have to do it in person.
You can apply by mail if you’re renewing your passport and meet all of the following criteria: It was issued less than 15 years ago, you were 16 years of age or older when you got it, and it’s in your current name (or you can provide legal documentation of your name change).
Find out more information on applying for a passport at USA.gov.
How to Speed Up the Passport Process
If you find yourself getting close to your sailing date and don’t have a passport, don’t panic. You can get a passport quickly if you use the expedited service. If you’re able to provide proof of closely upcoming international travel, such as purchased cruise tickets, you qualify for application.
Through services such as the government’s expedited passport service or rushmypassport.com, you can receive your documents in a timely manner. It’s important to remember that timing to receive your passport can vary so get started right now.
Join the discussion
Have you cruised without a passport?