2010 has been a bad year for cruises. From the 2010 engine room fire that crippled the Carnival Splendor and left passengers with no power and not enough food to the severe storm that kept the Carnival Inspiration fromarriving in port on time, stories of bad weather and near disaster have become unsettlingly common.


In fact, some travel experts are even recommending that you pack emergency supplies like high-calorie non-perishable foods and satellite phones. Another thing to consider as you pack is whether or not your emergency cruise packing checklist should include a passport.


While passports are necessary for cruises outside the Western Hemisphere, they are not required for cruises to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean as long as the cruise begins and ends in the same US port. Instead, a cruise ship passenger on these “closed-loop” cruises can bring a copy of his or her birth certificate or naturalization certificate to use as proof of US citizenship along with photo ID.


However, passports are required for all international flights, even flights from our neighbors in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Packing a passport makes it much easier to get home if you need to, as long as you can get to an airport and dry land.


More importantly, having a passport in hand for your cruise protects you against more common personal emergencies. If the ship sails without you, you can simply book a flight to the next port and catch up with it there. If you have to fly home for an emergency, you can do so without worrying about how you’re going to get on the plane.


If you apply with normal processing, it takes the US Department of State about 6 weeks to issue a passport. Pay an additional $ 60, and you can have it in three weeks. If you need your passport more quickly than that, you can make an appointment a regional passport agency or consider using a private passport expediting company like Rush My Passport.


Alison Kroulek is a freelance writer and blogger with a focus on the travel industry.

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