Woman holding passport, map and luggage bag by a cruise dock

We understand the question: Do you need a passport to go on a cruise? Traveling by sea is often a new experience, and it can take time to navigate documentation. The confusion is partly run by how different the requirements are to travel by plane. All international flights require a valid U.S Passport to be presented at boarding. Cruises have exceptions. 

Cruises differ from a flight, considering you spend most of your time on a cruise ship in international waters. Depending on your destination and where you board, you might not need a passport to get past the port and onto your cruise! But you still might want to invest in one anyway. Read on to find out what you need for your next cruise. 

Cruises that do not require passports

For one, if you are boarding a cruise that isn’t making any stops abroad, you won’t need a passport. In addition, you won’t need a passport book if your cruise starts and ends in the same U.S. port and docks in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and The Caribbean. A valid ID or birth certificate should work in this case. However, some cruises spend their time in U.S. territory but will technically require you to have a passport because of where they begin. For example, many Alaskan cruises depart from Vancouver, Canada. Because Canada is not the USA, you must present a passport to make it to the gangway.

Closed loop cruises (Cruises that begin and end in the U.S. but may make stops abroad along the way) often don’t require a valid U.S. passport, depending on the destinations. For example, while most Disney cruises go to international locations, these locations tend to be owned and operated by the Disney cruise line. That means they are tightly secured and often on islands separate from the country you are visiting. Because of this, you won’t need to present a passport for most Disney cruises.

This is true for most cruise lines that go to the Caribbean, though we always encourage everyone to check with their cruise lines to confirm! Policies can change at a moment’s notice, and this can be because of international law, U.S. Department of State regulations, or even just cruise line policy! Even if a country or the U.S. doesn’t legally require you to present a passport, a cruise line can enforce stricter rules on their private property.

If you still need to decide what cruise to go on or need more time to be ready to shell out for a passport, read or blog Top Cruises to Sail on With No Passport.

Cruises that Require Passports

Cruises that begin in the U.S. but end in a port outside the U.S. will require a passport in almost all cases. As mentioned above, cruises can require a passport regardless of whether the country you travel to requires a passport. This could be for various reasons; consider if there are rough seas, a ship might try to make an impromptu stop at a port not listed on your itinerary that might require a passport for every passenger!

Should You Get a Passport?

While you may only sometimes need a passport book to get on a cruise, the U.S. Department of State highly recommends getting one. Just to be safe. Some Closed-loop cruises do not require a U.S. passport, but unexpected things happen while traveling all of the time. For example, your ship may have to dock quickly, and the port may be in a different country. Or, you may have a medical emergency that may require you to fly back into the U.S.. In this case, you will need a passport to enter the country. In addition, some cruise companies just require you to have your passport book, and you want one. 

Can You Use a Passport Card to Get On a Cruise?

Actually, yes! A passport card can be used to reenter the U.S. at sea ports of entry from Bermuda, Canada, The Caribbean, and Mexico. Again, you’ll still need a book just in case you need to fly back to the U.S. Otherwise, a passport card will do just fine if you travel to those locations. Read our blog, Passport Books VS Passport Cards, if you still can’t decide which one to get. 

How to get a passport before your cruise

If you need a passport for your cruise and it’s more than three months out, you can apply for a passport traditionally through a courthouse or post office. Standard processing times for a passport are anywhere between 6-10 weeks. The State Department does offer an expedited service that will expedite your passport in 3-6 weeks.

We understand that you may not have the time to wait for a passport. If you’ve got plans booked for a cruise that does require you to have a passport and need that process sped up– Look no further! The Passport Office processing speeds as fast as 3-5 business days! We offer services for those needing a new passport, passport renewal, child passport, name change services and so much more! Our Orlando Passport Office offers a walk-in service for those needing an urgent passport. Book your appointment today, with a trusted American passport agency like The Passport Office!

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