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. 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 highly 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. All one way cruises will require a passport. 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.
The one exception to closed-loop cruises is if one of your port stops is in Cuba. If you are visiting Cuba on a cruise, then a passport IS required for that cruise.
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 (December 2017) 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.