Many travelers choose cruises for their holidays. In 2018, 28.5 million people took a cruise to various destinations around the world. American citizens also choose cruises these days, especially to visit the Caribbean Islands, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
If you are thinking about taking a cruise soon, you might be wondering what kind of documents will you need to travel and visit more than one destination.
Do I need a passport to take a cruise?
As a U.S. citizen, whenever you leave the United States, you will need an international form of identification. Both to enter a foreign country and to re-enter the U.S. Generally speaking, American citizens should have a valid passport to travel abroad. Passports take about 4 to 6 weeks to be processed.
For many U.S. travelers, it is possible to take a cruise without a passport. Most cruises operate as “closed loop” cruises, which begin and end at the same port. If you take a closed loop cruise, you are not required to have a passport to reenter the United States. Instead, you can return to the country with a government issued ID, such as a driver’s license, and a birth certificate.
However, if you are traveling to Cuba, you will need a valid passport. Bear in mind, that to request a passport you also need to have an authorized U.S. birth certificate.
What kind of birth certificate do you need for a cruise?
Several cruise lines will accept your birth certificate as a form of identification. Whether the document needs to be an original or a copy will depend on the cruise line.
While Carnival Cruise line states that a copy of the birth certificate does not need to be notarized or certified, the Royal Caribbean line says that “all documents must be original or a notarized copy.”
When booking your cruise be sure to check that you can travel with your birth certificate. We recommend that your birth certificate is notarized and has the official seal. Obtaining your birth certificate now days is quick and simple. You can complete an online application with your personal details. Several states offer rush service, which means you could get a certified copy of your birth certificate quite quickly.
Another thing to consider in regards to the birth certificate is that the hospital birth certificate, often called as “baby feet” certificate, cannot be used to travel on a cruise, unless it is for a newborn.
Any U.S. citizen under the age of 16 is also able to present a notarized certified copy of their birth certificate. If the child is a newborn and the actual birth certificate has not arrived from the Vital Records Department, several cruises will accept a hospital issued birth certificate. The United States will not require you to provide a passport (a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State or a Certificate of Naturalization is also acceptable).
What if my name has changed from my birth certificate?
In the case that you have legally changed your name, for example, after getting married, you will also need to take proof of the name change. This is because your details would not match the details on the birth certificate. In the case of marriage, bring your marriage license and if you have changed your name for other reasons, be sure to pack the documents that prove your name change.
Which destinations will require a passport?
As we mentioned above, most cruises that start and end in the United States are considered Closed Loop. These are cruises that depart from a U.S. port and return to the same U.S. port upon completion of the voyage. For instance, several cruises leave from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and head to the Caribbean. If they end in Fort Lauderdale, then they are closed loop cruises. A passport might not be necessary for this particular circuit.
Even though there are several closed loop cruise options, many other cruises leave from a particular port and end at another. For instance the cruise might leave from San Diego, California, an end in Miami, Florida. If this were the case, then it is not a closed loop cruise. It is likely that you will need a passport for this sort of cruise. In any case, the best thing you can do before booking your cruise is check whether the countries you will be visiting require a passport to enter their territory, such as Cuba.
Read more: Birth certificate requirements for passports
The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at this time only specifies document requirements for entry into the United States. Be sure to consult with the cruise line, travel agent, or the country itself about the documents you will need to enter their territory.