If you are looking to book a cruise you may be wondering if you need a passport to cruise. In this post, we explore which cruises don’t require passports and look at the guidance provided by the cruise lines. If you are in doubt, buying a passport is always a good idea.
Do You Need A Passport To Cruise?
You do need a passport to cruise unless you are from the US and taking a closed loop cruise, or are from Australia and taking a closed loop cruise. Closed loop meaning starting and returning in the same country. All other destinations require passports.
It is essential that you investigate the requirements prior to your cruise, this post is a great place to start. If you do not have a passport for a cruise which requires it you would not be allowed to board and it is unlikely you’d receive any sort of refund. Don’t let this happen to you!
Which Cruises Do Not Require Passports?
Closed Loop US Cruises:
Not all cruise lines have the same passport requirements and we will address these later in the post. The most popular cruises which allow cruisers to travel without passports are ‘closed loop’ US cruises. This only applies to US citizens.
“Cruisers are exempt from having to bring passports if they are on “closed loop” sailings – which start and finish in the same U.S. homeport and only travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.” – SOURCE.
Just because a cruise starts and ends in the same US port this doesn’t mean that it is possible to take the cruise without a passport. Some of the other stops on the cruise may be in countries which require a passport. It wouldn’t be possible to simply stay onboard that day!
Bear in mind that cruise itineraries can and do change frequently. I have another post about why this happens here, including how many times it’s happened to me (lots): Do You Get Compensation For Missed Cruise Ports? Do You Get Compensation For Missed Cruise Ports?
This means that at any point the cruise itinerary could change and you may be left visiting a country that you don’t have a passport for, eek!
You do need a passport for the following countries which are often on cruises which would otherwise be closed loop:
- St Barts
- St Martin
- Trinidad & Tobago
It is possible to take a river cruise without a passport in some circumstances. River cruises along the Mississippi, Columbia, Ohio, Tennessee, Hudson often don’t require passports.
Similarly, if you are in Europe and don’t have a passport it is important not to overlook river cruises. I have primarily been an ocean cruiser but recently took my first river cruise through France which was amazing. To learn more about river cruising check out my Emerald Waterways cruise diary which will give you an insight into what river cruising is all about. Emerald Waterways do require passports for all guests but some smaller river cruise lines do not.
Closed Loop Australia Cruises:
On some cruises from Australia, you do not need a passport.
What About Closed Loop UK Cruises?
According to forbes a little over 40% of US citizens have a passport in comparison to over 75% of people from the UK which may explain why there are passport-free cruises for Americans.
If you are cruising around the UK and you are from the UK you still need a passport. There are no similar rules in the UK in regards to ‘closed loop’ cruises. I took a British Isles cruise with Princess last year and it was BRILLIANT. I’d definitely recommend it to anybody. To check out where we went, loch ness, giants causeway and more, read this post that I wrote after returning from the cruise.
Which Cruise Lines Can You Cruise on Without a Passport?
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line has a dedicated section on their website which invites cruisers without a passport to cruise with them to certain destinations. Most cruise lines strongly suggest to passengers that they should purchase a passport so I find this an interesting marketing strategy!
“As luck would have it, you’ve suddenly got a few open days in your schedule and a yearning to travel somewhere exotic. Don’t let your lack of a passport stop you. Consider a cruise. If you take closed-loop cruises (meaning your trip begins and ends at a U.S. port), you can sail to a variety of dreamy destinations as a U.S. citizen without a passport.” – Carnival
Carnival Cruises You Can Take Without a Passport
- The Bahamas
- New England and Canada
- The Caribbean
- Baja, Mexico
Disney Cruise Line
There are a number of ‘closed loop’ Disney cruises. Disney’s website states that it is the responsibility of guests to check that they have the correct documentation in place.
Under My Reservations you’ll find important travel guidelines and regulations relevant to your individual itinerary. However, it is your responsibility to check with your travel agent, government agency, embassy or consulate to ensure that you have all the proper documentation to board the ship and enter each of the countries on your cruise.
It is possible to cruise with Royal Caribbean on a closed loop US cruise without needing a passport. Royal Caribbeans website states the following.
For US Sailings –
U.S. Citizens may sail using their:
- Official Birth Certificate and a supporting Government Issued Photo ID, like a driver’s license or an identity card. OR U.S. Passport book that is valid at least 6 months after your cruise.
There are many more cruise lines for which you do not require a passport if taking a closed loop cruise. However the three above are the only ones I could find that has a direct reference to needing a passport on their website.
What ID Do You Need For a Cruise Without a Passport?
If you do manage to find a cruise which doesn’t require a passport you will still need some form of government-issued ID. The requirements vary by cruise line but suitable alternatives may include a drivers license and birth certificate.
The below is based on the US system although others would be similar:
“U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship, such as an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL), a government-issued birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where he or she was born) or passport, and if 16 or older, a government issued driver’s license, picture ID, denoting photo, name and date of birth.” – SOURCE.
If you use your birth certificate as ID and have changed your name, for example by getting married, you would also need to bring evidence of this such as a marriage certificate.
Other options include:
- US Passport Card – The card can be used as an alternative for entering the USA from Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean and Bermuda. It isn’t valid for air travel and can only be used at ports. It is cheaper than getting a traditional passport book.
- Certificate of Naturalization – This is rarely used but sometimes is enough.
Cruise lines may require a combination of these documents. For example a passport card for proof of residency and a drivers license.
If you are not from the US and are taking a cruise from the US you will need a passport with at least 6 months on the expiry and a visa (ESTA). This is for ALL cruises regardless of if they’re closed loop or not.
Why You Should Buy a Passport:
If you are taking a cruise I would STRONGLY recommend that you buy a passport. I totally understand that it is an added expense and cruising is already expensive, however having a passport could end up saving you money in the long run.
You Might Get Stranded!
If you are taking a cruise and you miss the ship for any reason you would be stranded in a foreign country with no passport or way to fly back home. You would need to go to the embassy and get a temporary passport but these can be far away and getting a temporary passport isn’t an easy process. You would probably have to pay for a hotel while you get the situation sorted and then flights home, ouch!
This could be REALLY expensive. The closest US embassy office to Cozumel is reportedly around a 20-hour drive. Having to do that would be awful.
You Might Get Hurt…
If you were injured on the cruise or had some sort of medical emergency you may need to disembark and fly home for treatment. Not having a passport would make this extremely difficult and you may end up with less than ideal treatment in a foreign country. That isn’t something that I’d like to risk.
It’s Faster and Easier
Having a passport makes embarkation and disembarkation easier. Having to carry one form of identification is always going to be easier than carrying multiple things. Most cruise lines seem to strongly suggest passengers get a passport which makes me feel as though it is easier for them to deal with.
It’s a Reason to Cruise More
Once you’ve spent your money on a passport it gives you a reason to cruise again. Passports last for ten years and you won’t have to worry about this next time!
Do You Need Travel Insurance to Cruise?
Yes! Even if you do take a cruise without a passport you still need travel insurance. There are no exceptions to this rule. If, for example, you are taking a cruise from Australia which doesn’t visit any other countries you would still need travel insurance as you will enter international waters.
If a medical emergency did happen being airlifted off a cruise ship is not cheap!
Where to Next?
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