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Do You Need a Passport for a Cruise?

Whether you need a passport for a cruise depends on whether you are taking a closed-loop or open-loop cruise.

A closed-loop cruise begins and ends in the same U.S. port. An open-loop cruise begins in one port and ends in another. Most cruises are closed loop.

Do I need a passport for a cruise?People taking a cruise that begins and ends at the same U.S. port are usually not required to have a passport.

However, they will need proof of citizenship such as an original or certified copy of a birth certificate, a certificate of naturalization, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license (EDL) as well as a government-issued photo ID.

Children are also required to bring proof of citizenship, and if 16 and over, a photo ID is also required.

Official Definition

“U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization),” the U.S. State Department says on its Web site.

The Department of Homeland Security has issued its own definition

“Closed-loop cruises are defined as U.S. based cruises with itineraries that both originate and terminate in the United States, returning from contiguous territories or adjacent islands.”

"The U.S. State department and cruise lines strongly recommend that anyone taking a cruise of any kind travel with a passport."

A valid passport may not be required for a U.S. citizen taking a closed-loop cruise. But the U.S. State department and cruise lines strongly recommend that anyone taking a cruise of any kind travel with a passport

A common example of why it is important to have a passport is the possibility of missing the scheduled embarkation from a port or disembarking the ship in case of an emergency.

Cruise travelers in those situations will need their passports to use the local airport to fly back to the U.S.

Regardless, anyone taking a cruise needs proof of citizenship to board their ship. If they do not have it, they will not be allow to board and will not receive a refund.

Open-Loop Cruises

If a cruise begins and ends in different U.S. ports, or begins and ends in a foreign port, a valid passport or other recognized document is required.

Recognized documents are defined by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

Passports should be valid for at least six months beyond the end of the trip.

Travelers are advised to contact their cruise lines for updated information.

For more information or changes to the regulations, go to the WHTI Web site.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

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April 23, 2010

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