One of the most frequently-asked questions for newbies is, “Do you need a passport to go on a cruise?”
There’s one answer that you’ll get from your cruise line, but as an experienced cruiser I’m here to give you the whole picture, so let’s walk through this together, shall we?
What The Cruise Lines Say
Technically, if you are on what is called a “Closed Loop” cruise (beginning and ending in the same US port, with stops in Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas or Bermuda), you can re-enter the US at the end of your cruise with your birth certificate or select other forms of government-issued ID. For more details, check for information from the US Customs and Border Protection website.
Many people will stop right there, think that they can avoid some hassle and expense, and ignore the passport issue.
In fact, if you go into a cruising forum and ask this question, you will get a lot of people answering things like “bring your birth certificate, we’ve done it before with no problems”.
I’m here to tell you that’s a bad idea!
What Experienced Family Cruisers Say
The big risk you take by cruising without a passport comes with the uncertainty of completing your cruise. Life can take funny bounces sometimes, and accidents happen.
If you aren’t able to get back on your cruise at a foreign port and they leave without you, you need to fly back to the US on your own, and you cannot do this without a passport.
You could be on an island tour and the bus breaks down, or taking a hike and you fall, injuring yourself. Life happens, folks!
If you don’t have a passport in those situations,you have to find a local US consulate and work with them to get an expedited passport processed so you can eventually fly back home. If you’re already dealing with the fact that you’re missing the rest of the cruise, who wants all that extra hassle?
Instead, get passports ahead of time for your entire family. For adults, they will last 10 years, and for kids, they will expire in 5. That’s long enough for you to use them on multiple cruises, right?
Getting Passports Is Easy!
If you’ve never done this before, you may think getting passports is hard or expensive, but it really isn’t.
We’ll walk through the details of this in another article, but the basic idea is that first you get a passport photo (your local drug store that includes a photo department is usually a safe bet, like CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, etc.).
Second, you go to your local post office with the required documentation, fill out the forms, and pay a fee. This takes just a few minutes.
Wait a few weeks, and your new passports arrive in the mail.
And most importantly, get the “passport book”, not the passport card! While the card is cheaper, in reality it’s not much more useful than your state-issued birth certificate. A passport card will not get you on an airplane back to the US!
The only trick here is to start the process early, as it does take a while. If you can, apply for those passports two months or more before your cruise. For full details, consult the State Department’s website.
Do You Need A Passport To Go On A Cruise?
Let’s say it again… heck, yeah! It’s really not that tough to get a passport, and the benefits are enormous if the need arises.
Many people will say that you don’t need one, but that’s because the majority of people make it through their cruise without any problems. Be prepared!
Do you have any further questions or comments about passports and family cruises? Let us know in the comments below, or send us a note through our Contact page!