Do I have to have a passport to go on a cruise?
We get this question a lot from prospective first time cruisers. The answer is like any good answer…”It depends”. Here is what we tell our potential guests.
Generally, any travel outside the US requires a passport. Due to the events of 9/11/2001, the US government upgraded the requirements for traveling outside the US, but staying in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. Customs and Border Protection does have a provision for a “closed loop” cruise.
“U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship (referred to as a “closed loop” cruise), may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization).
Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents.”
Bahaman cruises that visit places like Nassau or cruise line private islands should have no issue with not having a passport. In our many cruises, we have never had to show our passport to get in or out of another country. We have only shown it to Customs to get back into the US. No stamps in our passport!
An adult passport cost $110 for a book and an additional $30 for a card (optional). The passport is good for 10 years. A child passport cost $80 for the book and $15 for the card (optional also). A child passport is good for 5 years. It can take 6-8 weeks to receive your passport once you apply for it (this is the current wait time and can change rapidly based on demand) or you can pay an expedited fee and get it quicker (2-3 weeks). We found when we initially applied for our passports that we had to get official raised seal birth certificates and certified marriage certificate for Whitney (name change). This took a little time to go get. You can also pay extra and order these online, which is useful if you do not live near your place of birth or state of marriage. It took quite a while to get our passports due to the change in laws that now required a passport to fly into Canada and Mexico. We even paid for the expedited fees.
What does a passport get you while on a cruise?
If you were to need to fly home due to ship breakdown or family emergency, you WILL need a passport to be able to do this. It also can make showing your documentation less of a hassle with a passport since all drivers licenses and birth certificates look a little different. I-4 Travel Company highly recommends you consider getting a passport if time and budget allows.
What do I need if I am going on a “closed loop” cruise and don’t have a passport?
You will need photo identification if you are an adult (a drivers license will work) and an official, raised seal birth certificate. We cannot stress enough that a copy of a birth certificate will NOT work. If it is not an official birth certificate issued by the county/state of your birth place, you will be denied embarkation onto the ship. We don’t want to see your vacation ruined.
How do I start the process of getting a passport?
Start by visiting the US Passport site (https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html) and determining which process you fall in. You can fill out the forms online and determine where you need to go to turn in the application. First time passports and renewal for children under the age of 16 must be done in person. If you are renewing, it can be done by mail.
Here is more information about the requirements from the major cruise lines we represent:
Disney Cruise Line – https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/guest-services/passport-travel-documentation/
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line – http://www.royalcaribbean.com/beforeyouboard/passportGuidelines.do
Norwegian Cruise Line – https://www.ncl.com/freestyle-cruise/cruise-travel-documents
Carnival Cruise Line – https://help.carnival.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/3409/~/travel-documentation%3A-u.s.-citizens
If you have any questions about passports or documentation needed for a cruise, please feel free to contact us. We will be glad to help get you an answer.