Cruises are a popular way to travel. In 2018 alone, 28.5 million people went on cruises to locations around the world. If you’re considering going on a cruise, it’s important to find out which documents you will need and make sure you have them available.
Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise?
In general, U.S. citizens must have a valid passport in order to travel internationally. If you are an American, you need an international form of ID to enter a foreign country and to return to the U.S.
However, cruises are often the exception to this rule. Many cruise lines offer “closed loop” cruises, embarking and disembarking from the same port. If you go on a closed loop cruise, you will not need a passport to visit countries along the way or return to the U.S. You will be able to re-enter the U.S. using a government issued ID, such as a driver’s license or a birth certificate.
Keep in mind, however, that you may not be able to go ashore at some stops if you do not have a valid passport. It depends on the particular country and their requirements. While this is more of a concern for cruises that follow the coast up to Alaska or tour the Mediterranean, some Caribbean countries require a passport for entry, as well. For example, if you stop in Cuba during your Caribbean cruise, you will not be able to disembark using just a birth certificate. You will need to carry a valid, full-sized passport.
To apply for a passport, you will need an original or certified copy of your U.S. birth certificate. It takes around 4-6 weeks to process your application and issue your passport.
Can I Use My Birth Certificate as ID for a Cruise?
There are several different cruise lines that will accept a birth certificate copy as ID. However, they have different standards for what types of birth certificate copies they will accept.
The Carnival Cruise line will take just a normal copy of your birth certificate. It does not have to be certified or notarized. However, Royal Caribbean states that “all documents must be original or a notarized copy.”
Also, these rules only apply to adults. Any U.S. citizen 16 or younger can use a certified birth certificate copy. If you have a newborn whose official birth certificate has not arrived from the Vital Records Department yet, several cruise lines will also accept a hospital issued birth certificate. A Certificate of Naturalization or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, issued by the Department of State, can also be used.
So, before you book your cruise, be sure to verify that the cruise line will allow you to travel using your birth certificate. To ensure that it will be accepted, we suggest using a birth certificate copy that is certified and has an authentic state seal. Fortunately, it’s easy to apply for a certified copy of your birth certificate online. Many states also offer expedited service, so you can get a certified birth certificate copy fast.
What If My Current Name is Not on My Birth Certificate?
If you have legally changed your name and your new name does not match the one on your birth certificate, you will need to provide proof of a legal name change. For example, if you changed your name after getting married, you can show your marriage license. If you changed your name legally for another reason, you will need to show a court order for the name change.
Which Cruises or Destinations Require a Passport?
As previously mentioned, most cruises are classified as closed loops if they start and end in the U.S. If you are going on a closed loop cruise that will leave from and return to the same U.S. port, then you will typically not need a passport. For example, if your cruise leaves Galveston, Texas, stops at several ports in the Caribbean, then returns to Galveston, Texas, this is a closed loop and will not require a passport.
However, some cruises do not return to the same port they left from. If your cruise leaves from New Orleans, Louisiana, sails around the Caribbean, then returns to the U.S. at Miami, Florida, this is not a closed loop, and you will probably need a passport.
Make sure that you check the passport requirements for the cruise line, the cruise you are taking, and the destinations you will visit before booking. At this time, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) only states the document requirements for entry or reentry into the U.S. Some countries, like Cuba, still require a passport to enter, even when you arrive on a closed loop cruise. You can get additional information on requirements from the cruise line, your travel agent, or the country you will be visiting.
You can find more information on getting a passport here: Birth certificate requirements for passports