Do You Need a Passport for a Caribbean Cruise?

Traveling to the Caribbean on a cruise ship can be the perfect getaway, but along with any trip comes a few inconveniences along the way.  One of the most common questions is whether or not you need a passport to go to the Caribbean.  And people also ask if they can just get by with a birth certificate and photo ID.  This article will attempt to answer these questions but keep in mind that the rules and regulations of travel are always in flux.

Disclaimer: Information on passports and travel can change, so make SURE you talk with your cruise line before you make a decision based on tips or recommendations read online.  A representative from the cruise line should be able to assist you in knowing if you need a passport or not.  In most cases, it’s just easier to have one though.

Are you going on a closed-loop cruise?

Before June of 2009, you could visit the Caribbean and not need a passport but only would have to have a state issued photo ID and a birth certificate.  Now you must have a passport, and especially if you are going there by air.  However, if you are going on a closed-loop cruise you do not need to have a passport, even though it is advisable to get one.  A closed-loop cruise is when the cruise ship leaves from the United States and returns to the same US port.  Kind of like a round-trip cruise.  Full Details on the US Customs & Border Protection website

Keep in mind that you will need a passport if you have to do any air travel outside the United States.  This is why it’s a good idea to have one.  This way, in case your ship leaves without you, or you have to fly home from the Caribbean unexpectedly, you will have the means to do so.  You need more than just a passport card, you need an actual passport pamphlet.

Can I get by without a passport?

On my first few cruises to the Caribbean I did not need a passport.  I simply had a state issued photo ID (driver’s license) and a notarized copy of my birth certificate and I was allowed to go on a closed-loop cruise.  Right now, June of 2015, that is all you need to go on a closed-loop cruise, but almost every cruise line from Royal Caribbean to Carnival recommends you have a passport.  This will make the processing time quicker and easier and if the rules ever do change again and you need to have a passport you will be all set.

Where can I get my passport before my cruise?

Keep in mind that if your cruise is next week you will not be able to get your passport in time and you should just use your photo ID and birth certificate (as long as it’s a closed-loop cruise).  However, there are some companies that will expedite passports in as little as 24 hours for a costly fee.   Since you have to send out your birth certificate to get your passport, we don’t advise you send off for a passport if the time for departure is less than a two months away.

You can find places that will help you get started with your passport application by checking out this government website http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/.  Just enter your zip code and you will find places that will take photos for your passport and give you the information you need to get started.

email

Want to cruise like a pro? Check out some insider secrets to saving money on cruises and avoid the 20 mistakes that most cruisers make with the Intelligent Cruiser here.


Comments

    • JeanieH. says

      Debbie, this is an excerpt taken from the above section on “Are you going on a closed-loop cruise?”
      “Keep in mind that you will need a passport if you have to do any air travel outside the United States. This is why it’s a good idea to have one. This way, in case your ship leaves without you, or you have to fly home from the Caribbean unexpectedly, you will have the means to do so. You need more than just a passport card, you need an actual passport pamphlet.”
      Hope this helps.

  1. Beerman42 says

    Passport Card only good at CA and MX boarder crossings for daily work people or frequent work crossings.
    Just get the passport if you can afford the expense and end all the discussions. If you are doing cruise on a budget and cutting corners at all turns no you do not. Read above. Current story going on about Lady and child being stuck in MX has nothing to do with passport. Medical Bill has to be paid first before they will let them leave. The rest of the World has rules and they enforce them.
    But Example of Cruise were you need one, DCL Magic NYC to PU. You will need passport to board plane to US and get through customs in US. Not closed loop cruise.
    If you are going to be a cruiser and travel in this world you need to invest in a Passport.

    • Tracy says

      While you do require a passport for the DCL Magic sailing from NYC to Puerto Rico, it is not because you need a passport to board the plane home. It is simply because it is not a closed loop cruise. Puerto Rico is a US territory and a passport is not required to visit there.

  2. Dana Strickland says

    Having a passport makes it so much easier!! On my last cruise, they had a special line just for people who had passports. So during embarkation; I didn’t have to wait in such a long line like my sister did. I was definetly treated better. I had to wait an hour and half for my sister and her family to get their pictures taken and their cabin cards. It is always better safe than sorry by having a passport. You never know what may happen!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *