US Passport Requirement for Cruises


The United States and residents who enter or re-enter the country via air, land, or sea must be in possession of a valid U.S. passport. However, there is one exception to this rule. U.S. citizens on what is commonly referred to as “closed loop cruises” that travel through Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Canada, and Mexico will be able to re-enter the U.S. without a passport provided they are in possession of adequate proof of citizenship.

Closed loop cruises are those that depart from U.S. ports and return to U.S. ports. Nonetheless, it is recommended that all cruise travelers obtain a passport even if they are only taking a closed loop cruise because of the possibility that unforeseen events may arise. For instance, if a cruise ship passenger were to fall ill in a foreign country or have an urgent emergency back home, he or she may encounter extreme difficulty getting a flight back to the U.S. without a passport. Furthermore, different countries have varying regulations, and some will not allow cruise passengers to disembark unless they have valid passports, and no one wants to spend their time in the port cities sitting alone on the ship.

The Passport Application Process

Fortunately, obtaining a passport is a relatively simple process for those who have the necessary documentation in order. The first step to getting a passport is to fill out a passport application, which is called a DS-11. This form can be accessed via the U.S. State Department’s website and can either be filled out online or printed out and filled out by hand. It must then be taken along with proper ID to the nearest passport processing office. Applicants are also required to provide a two-by-two inch photo against a plain white background to be used as the passport photo. These can be taken at many U.S. post offices as well as at photo processing retailers.

Identification Requirements

Applicants for U.S. passports must be able to provide proper identification at the time of application. Acceptable documents include state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards, military ID, birth and naturalization certificates, previously issued passports. Photocopies of Identification items must be presented along with the filled-out passport application and applicable fee. If it has been more than 15 years since the last passport was issued to the applicant, the applicant must apply for the new passport in person.

Having a valid passport in possession ensures that passengers on closed-loop cruises will not face unnecessary obstacles if things do not go as planned. Those on open-loop cruises, which depart and/or arrive from at least one foreign port, have strict requirements concerning passports and will not allow passengers to board without them.