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Cruise Passport Requirements: Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise?

SmarterTravel

Cruise passport requirements vary depending on the type of cruise you take as well as where the cruise will be sailing. Generally speaking, however, for most international cruises you’ll need either a passport book (valid beyond at least six months from departure date and containing at least two blank pages for entry stamps) or a passport card. The passport book is more expensive, but meets more of the cruise passport requirements for a larger set of destinations and circumstances, including air travel in case of an emergency.

Cruise Passport Requirements

If you’re not on a closed-loop cruise (a cruise that departs and returns from the same U.S. port), you’re required to travel with a passport that is valid at least six months beyond departure date and contains at least two blank pages for entry stamps.

If you’re taking a closed-loop cruise, you’re only required to travel with a birth certificate or a government-issued photo ID. But, it’s recommended that you travel with a passport card or passport book as well.

A passport card is more affordable than a passport book. And, because a passport card is less bulky (it’s similar in size to a driver’s license), it’s easier to carry more securely than a passport book. However, a passport card is only valid for land and sea border crossings between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. A passport book may be required in foreign ports on your itinerary and is mandatory for international flights (in case of an emergency). Therefore, a valid passport book is the most recommended and dependable form of identification in all cases of cruise travel.

How to Get a Passport for a Cruise

Apply for a passport as soon as you know you’ll be taking an international cruise. The cost will be greater if you apply for a passport within three weeks of travel time and need an expedited application. You can learn more about the requirements and documents needed to obtain a U.S. passport at USA.gov.

So, Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise?

In summary: If your cruise itinerary takes you outside of the U.S., then yes, you will need a passport to take a cruise. However, depending on your itinerary, you may only need a passport card instead of a full passport book that is valid beyond six weeks from your departure date and contains at least two blank pages for entry stamps. In case of an emergency, however, the passport book is recommended as the passport card will not work for air travel.

Helpful Resources When Taking a Cruise

The U.S. Department of State provides smooth sailing with a handy Traveler’s Checklist of things to do for your next cruise, as well as passport recommendations and requirements.

Protect Your Passport

We recommend investing in a passport cover or wallet to protect your pages from bends, tears and spills. It’s important to keep your passport in good condition for easy inspection. 

On travel days, only take your passport out during inspection. Otherwise, keep it stowed away in a dedicated section of your bag (if you keep it in the same place every time, you won’t ever scramble to locate it). Once onboard, find a way to stow it securely. In-room safes or safe deposit boxes at the concierge front desk are generally good options, but if neither is available, you’ll need to decide how to keep your passport secure. You might consider keeping it in an under-clothing money belt that you wear, or leaving it in the room but locking it in your suitcase with a TSA-approved lock.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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