One topic that gets brought up the most when planning a cruise is passports. So, I’ve spent the morning going through my emails, pulling the most common passport questions I’ve received, and answering them for you in this post.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), when fully implemented on June 1, 2009, will require all travelers to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda to present a valid passport or other approved document that establishes the bearer’s identity and citizenship in order to enter or re-enter the United States.
Common Cruise Passport Questions
1. What is a closed loop cruise?
If you are a U.S. citizen and you board a cruise ship at a U.S. port, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship, then you may present government-issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or certified copy of your birth certificate) rather than a passport.
2. Do I need a passport?
A passport isn’t always needed but is always suggested. If you are going on a closed loop cruise (same departure and return port) you do not need a passport, and your birth certificate and ID will work. If you’re going on a one-way sailing, such as a repositioning cruise or taking a Panama Canal cruise that starts on the East Coast and ends on the West Coast, then you will need a passport.
There is conflicting information on what cruise lines say vs. Custom and Border Patrol website, so always double check with your cruise line if you’re sailing a repositioning cruise within the United States.
3. Can I use my birth certificate?
If you’re going on a closed loop cruise you can use your birth certificate and state-issued ID (drivers license or ID card). This has to be the original birth certificate, not a copy. Cruise lines will not accept baptism or hospital certificates.
But, we need to emphasize how important it is for you to have a passport. If you miss your ship in a foreign port and don’t have a passport, it will require a lot of red tape to get you back home.
4. Do my children need passports?
If your child is under 16 years old, all they need is their original birth certificate with the raised seal. Still, Be sure to check with your cruise line.
5. What if I just got married and my name is different than my passport?
This is very common because usually the cruise is booked in your maiden name – months before you’re married. Just bring your passport, ID, and marriage license to the pier. Lately, it’s been rare that they ask for your marriage license but it’s better to be safe. A cruise vacation is an expensive investment.
This is just my advice, the cruise lines have the final say so when in doubt you need to call them.
You can find more about your passport, fees, and services on the U.S. Department of State website.