First of all, for those of you who are going on a cruise that starts and ends in the United States, you may not need a passport. For instance, if you are leaving from the port of Miami and you go on a cruise to the Bahamas and come back in 6 or 7 days, you will probably not need a passport, but just a birth certificate and a driver’s license. However, you should always check with your cruise line first because changes are being made all the time.
Traveling with a passport is a lot easier than trying to pack your birth certificate and keep it from getting bent or damaged, and it’s also important to have if you happen to miss your cruise ship while visiting a port and you need a plane ticket home. So even though there are many cruises you can go on without a passport, I highly recommend having one. Just make sure you apply for one way in advance to your cruise date.
But it’s also important to make a few copies of your passport. So, even if your passport is lost or stolen you can still use the information on your copy of your passport to provide to the authorities. This is much better than not having any passport at all to provide.
So where should you keep these copies?
I have heard some people recommend keeping a passport copy in your luggage, but I would NOT advise this. If your luggage is lost (which happens more often that you might think) you don’t want that information in the hands of someone else. You should, however, put a piece of paper with your address, phone number and any other contact information on your luggage in case it is lost.
You can keep a copy on your person at all times, especially on a port day when you are getting off the ship. You can keep your original in the safe on the cruise ship. This way you don’t have to have a bulky passport in your pocket all day. And if you plan on jumping into the water at the beach, make sure you put your copy of your passport in a waterproof plastic bag along with anything else you want to keep dry.
You can make the copy of your passport yourself from your home printer, or you can go to a Kinkos or Officemax to have one done with a little better quality. I would advise getting the copy laminated as well. This will protect it from water without having to worry about putting it in a bag.
So what about using passport cards?
In 2008 the U.S government began producing more affordable passport cards that are about the size of a credit card. Typically, you cannot use passport cards for flying across borders, but they can be used when traveling by land or sea. But you should still check with your cruise line to make sure you can use the card instead of a traditional passport. Most of the time they still want you to have a traditional passport booklet instead of a card.