Do I need a passport to go on a cruise?

Last updated on July 11th, 2023 at 09:49 am

The short answer is: Get a Passport. But, most cruise lines allow U.S. citizens to cruise without a passport as long as it is a closed-loop cruise. This means the cruise must start and end at a port within the United States and passengers can still get off the ship for a day excursion in a foreign port.

Many people from the United States wonder if it’s possible to cruise without a passport and go on a cruise with only a birth certificate or passport card to show as ID.

BUT, if a situation were to arise and your cruise ended early before you got back to the U.S., you could find yourself in a situation where you might have a hard time navigating healthcare and transportation in whatever country you ended up in, as well as getting back to the United States. 

For example, ships are not equipped to handle serious medical emergencies and will try to get sick or injured passengers off the ship for proper medical attention as quickly as possible, and will require those travelers to disembark at the next port.

Or, in very serious circumstances, you may be airlifted off the ship by helicopter and could be sent to the nearest hospital, which might be a foreign country. 

Ships can also have mechanical issues which require them to deviate from the schedule and dock at the closest foreign port and if the captain decides the cruise can’t continue, a flight home is tricky without a passport, and a birth certificate or passport card won’t cut it. 

In March 2022, the Norwegian Escape was departing from a lovely day in the Dominican Republic when winds blew them off course and they ran aground on the seabed. After returning to the port to examine the underside of the ship for damage, it was determined the ship needed repairs and all passengers had to be flown back to the port of departure in the United States.

Due to the Dominican Republic’s foreign policies, passengers without passports were not allowed off the ship to go to the airport to fly home (on flights chartered by Norwegian) until speaking with the U.S. Embassy. 

It doesn’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to get a passport as long as you prepare for it a few months before your cruise is scheduled. It’s better to be prepared for the worst case scenario than risk being stranded in a foreign country.

To learn more about obtaining a US Passport, Click here. 


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