Many people who start cruising chose a cruise vacation because it is an easy and cost-effective way to travel to nice little islands in warm weather outside of the US with little to no hassle. As travel agents who specialize in cruises, a question we get often from our clients cruising from a US port (or more like a statement) is “we don’t need passports, right?” Here’s our two cents and our strong recommendation.
Absolutely travel with a passport ANYTIME you are going to be traveling to a country outside of the US. Why? It’s simple, you never know what may happen to you when you are in that foreign country. What if you get ill or hurt and need to be flown home or (gasp) you miss your boat and need to fly to the next port to meet up with the ship? Did you know all international flights require you carry a passport? This includes those small little tropical islands. This is the number one reason we recommend you get your passport and use it each time you cruise. It’s a small thing. Think of it as insurance but you only pay for it once every 10 years. You currently can board a cruise ship with a closed-loop itinerary using just your ID and original birth certificate or certified copy. A closed-loop cruise is a cruise that begins and ends in the same port in the US. For example, a cruise that leaves out of Ft. Lauderdale and ends in Ft. Lauderdale. A few years ago when the Carnival ship was towed back to the US, one of the determining factors as to why they didn’t just go to Mexico (which was very close) and fly everyone home was because about 900 people on the cruise ship did not have passports and so not everyone could have easily entered back in the US through a flight home. The requirements may change so if you have a question, talk to your travel agent or contact your local passport office.
Keep it current. Depending upon the country you are visiting, your passport may need to be valid for at least six months from your date of travel. Many people don’t realize that your passport doesn’t always work up until the expiration date.
And if you are applying for a passport, be aware you will need to submit your original birth certificate with your application. So if you are cruising during the time your passport is being processed, be sure you kept a certified copy of your birth certificate with you so you can still go on that cruise in case your passport doesn’t get back to you in time.
When you have your passport, you will gain a sense of freedom knowing you are armed and ready to travel the world. Make it a goal to get your passport if you don’t have one yet. Be sure to keep it current and explore the world!