Do I need a passport?
All cruise lines strongly recommend you get a passport, but it's not strictly required for "closed loop" cruises in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. citizens, where guests board the 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. Proof of citizenship is an original or copy of your U.S. birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization. (Customs and Border Protection site here.)
However, even if you are U.S. citizen on a "closed loop" cruise, it's definitely best to have a passport, for two reasons:
- If for some reason you cannot return on the ship (you got mugged / drunk / lost and missed the ship, or you had to be medically evacuated) you WILL need a passport to get home.
- You may still be required to
present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is
visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate
All international air travel requires a passport. This includes flights to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
What are my passport options?
1. Passport Book
A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries.
A passport costs $100 for adults or $85 for minors under 16. Processing time is usually 4-6 weeks. A passport can be expedited and processed in 2-3 weeks for $60 more. Passports are valid for 10 years for adults, and 5 years for minors under 16.
You'll need to apply in person if you are applying for a U.S. passport for the first time; this can be done at a post office or courthouse.
See the U.S. State Department's site for full details on getting a passport.
2. Passport Card
The passport card is a new option (available Spring 2008) designed to facilitate travel land and sea travel to the U.S.'s neighbors: Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. The passport card cannot be used for international flights, even to these neighbor countries.
The passport card is cheaper than a regular passport. It costs $45 for an adult and $35 for a child. If you have a passport that is expiring you can renew with a passport card for $20 for adults or $10 for children.
See the U.S. State Department's site for full details on the Passport Card.
What if I need a passport faster?
As of February 2010, the State Department is processing routine applications within four to six weeks of receipt, and requests for expedited service within three weeks.
If you are traveling or need your passport in order to get a visa within the next 2 weeks you can call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) to schedule an appointment to apply in person at a Passport Agency, which are located in major cities.