Do You Need a Passport to Take a Cruise From the U.S.

It’s sort of complicated.  The answer is yes you need a passport…and no you don’t.

Readers ask, “I’m a United States citizen taking a cruise from the U.S. to the Caribbean.  Do I need a U.S. passport”? After I received this same question again today, I decided to put together this passport advice article.

Do you need a passport for a cruise from the USMostly, whether or not a passport is required depends on your itinerary.  If you are going on what’s called a “closed-loop” cruise (for example, leave from Ft. Lauderdale then visit a foreign county (islands) and return to Ft. Lauderdale then technically you do not need a U.S. passport booklet.

On a closed-loop cruise and without a passport, U.S. citizens will be able to enter or depart the U.S. with certain proof of citizenship.  You will be required to present a government-issued birth certificate and a laminated government-issued photo ID, denoting photo, name and date of birth. You may also present an Enhanced Driver’s License (allows you to re-enter the U.S. only by land or sea and only from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean) or a Passport Card. Check with your state to see if it offers an Enhanced Driver’s License.  Passport Cards have the same limitations at an EDL.

Some Caribbean countries require a U.S. passport

Keep in mind that some Caribbean countries on your closed-loop cruise might require a U.S. passport to enter.  If this is the case, without a passport booklet you will not be allowed to cruise. Caribbean nations that require cruise passengers to have a passport include:  Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Bart’s, St. Martin and Trinidad and Tobago.  Note: Royal Caribbean’s private island, Labadee, though part of Haiti, does not require a passport.

If your cruise is not closed-loop and you board, for example, in San Diego for a one-way Panama Canal cruise to Ft. Lauderdale, you will need a U.S. passport. Period. End of discussion.

Why you should have a passport for a closed-loop cruise

Expect the unexpected.  Events can occur during your cruise that prevent you from returning to the U.S. on your cruise ship.

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  • You get sick or injured.  An injury or illness while on your cruise may require a doctor or hospital visit or worse, admission to a local hospital and you miss your ship’s departure.  The need for medical evacuation back to the U.S. also prevents a return by ship to your expected U.S. port.  When it comes time to fly home, you need an actual U.S. passport to reenter the United States.
  • Cruise ship damage or weather interruption.  The same situation applies here.  If you departed on a closed-loop cruise and the ship has a mechanical issue or weather takes a turn for the worse, you may have to disembark the ship somewhere in the Caribbean. Again, if you’re flying home rather than cruising back to where you started, you will need a passport to reenter the United States.

Temporary passports for emergencies

  • Limited Validity Passport

If you have a medical emergency and you’re not traveling with a U.S. passport, you must contact the local U.S. Embassy or consulate.  The same applies if your ship has mechanical failure and you’re stuck in a foreign country.   To get home, you will need a temporary passport.  Either of these two offices can arrange for a temporary passport (Limited Validity Passport) to get you home.  But it could take a few days, especially if you contact either government office over the weekend.

Speaking of unexpected events, you should also purchase travel insurance to cover any medical emergencies and evacuation .  You can buy travel insurance from your cruise line or from a third-party insurance vendor.  Prices vary but third-party insurance coverage provides many more and a higher level of benefits than cruise line insurance and acts as primary insurance.

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What you need to know

  • Your passport must not expire for at least another six more months from the date you return to the U.S.
  • There must be at least two blank pages in the booklet.
  • While an Enhanced Driver’s License or a Passport Card are handy, they are valid only for re-entering the U.S. at land borders or sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.  They cannot be used for air travel entry to the U.S.
  • Visit travel.state.gov/destination to know exactly what will be required for your cruise itinerary

How much does a passport cost

If you’re applying for your first passport, the cost is $145 – $110 for the passport and $35 for fees.  If you’re renewing a passport, you’ll only pay $110.  Apply or renew at least four to six weeks prior to departure.  Try to avoid the costly expediting fee if possible.

For more detailed info, visit:  https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/CruiseShipPassengers.html

Bon voyage and happy travels!

 

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4 Comments

  1. Sherry Laskin
    Author
    February 19, 2019 / 7:55 pm

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for your comment. Right…no passport needed as I would guess you stopped at a foreign port en route to NYC. If your ship had to end the cruise at a foreign port due to a mechanical issue or if you had an emergency need to fly home, a passport book would have been required for re-entry into the US from a foreign port. Good to know, though, that a passport isn’t required on that cruise itinerary.
    Sherry

  2. Dan K
    February 19, 2019 / 7:47 pm

    Cruised from Puerto Rico to a number of islands, ending in NYC. No passport required.

  3. Sherry Laskin
    Author
    February 14, 2019 / 3:28 pm

    Hi Kris,
    Thanks for reading the post. That’s a really good question. Unless, for some reason, the Captain makes an announcement to carry your actual passport with you (and that has happened to me but I don’t remember where…) I would take a color copy with me and stash it in an inside zipper pocket of my jacket or handbag. Thanks again for your question. Happy travels!
    Sherry

  4. Kris
    February 11, 2019 / 7:18 pm

    Hi! I just read your passport blog recently. Question I had was when you leave the ship, what is the best practice, do you bring your actual passport or a copy of it?

    Thanks!

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