If you thought you needed a passport for every family vacation, then think again. You no longer have to worry about those long passport applications or renewals thanks to cruise vacations.
While it may come as a surprise, you can actually cross the U.S. border and visit a foreign country without requiring this important document, the secret? Closed-loop cruises.
Essentially, these are cruises that depart from U.S. ports and return to a U.S. port of entry. This loophole is the result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – allowing passengers to travel around North American countries on a cruise ship.
However, this doesn’t mean you don’t need any identifying documentation. In fact, passengers will still need to carry proof of citizenship (a certificate of U.S. naturalization or birth certificate, and a valid U.S. driver’s license.
With this information, you can now embark on international travels thanks to no-passport cruises – your ticket for an unforgettable experience all without the bureaucracy of long passport applications and renewals.
With this in mind, this guide will outline everything you need to know about traveling on a cruise without a passport and the top destinations to visit.
Let’s get started.
Can You Travel On a Cruise Without a Passport?
Yes, you can. Americans don’t require a passport if they’re sailing out of U.S. homeports. That said, you will need proper identification.
Essentially, you don’t need a passport if you’re traveling on any U.S.-based cruises which visit no other country.
For instance, this includes the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Hawaii sailings that take you on a roundtrip from Honolulu, as well as UnCruise (and other smaller ships) cruises in Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest that only operate within U.S. waters.
Outside the U.S. the types of sailings are uncommon; however, thanks to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) closed-loop sailings departing from U.S. homeports are becoming increasingly popular – where no passports are required.
Closed-loop sailings refer to a cruise that creates roundtrips from the same U.S. homeports and sails within ports in the Western Hemisphere – including Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.
These types of itineraries are very common. For instance, from Texas or Florida, you can make a round trip to the Caribbean or the Bahamas. Likewise, out of L.A., you can cruise to Mexico, and from Boston and New York, you can cruise out to Bermuda.
However, you should keep in mind that closed-loop cruises don’t require passports for sailing back into the United States. That said, some ports of call, including Guadeloupe and Martinique, may ask for your passport when entering their shores.
For additional information, make sure you always double-check the ports on your itinerary.
Likewise, you still need to adhere to all the documentation requirements that your cruise sets out, too.
While passports are a legitimate form of identification, this doesn’t mean it’s the only ones. For instance, you can show a government-issued photo I.D. (like a driver’s license) and proof of citizenship (including a certificate of naturalization or a birth certificate).
Furthermore, while you can enter and travel on these cruises without a passport, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
If you have your passport on you, you’ll be better prepared for emergency debarkation due to mechanical issues or health crises where you’ll need to fly from a foreign port.
Where Can You Cruise Without a Passport?
The good news is that if you’re looking to cruise without a passport, there are tons of options for you to choose from. These include the Bahamas, Alaska, Bermuda, Mexico, the Caribbean, Hawaii, New England, and Canada.
That said, you’ll want to check whether the cruise begins and ends at the same U.S. port, as well as double-check you have all the correct proof of citizenship documents and identification.
Florida’s ports of Port Canaveral (situated an hour east of Orlando), Miami, and Port Everglades (in Fort Lauderdale), provide most of the closed-loop cruises to the Bahamas.
Likewise, Carnival Cruise Line embarks to the Bahamas from Florida ports in Tampa and Jacksonville.
Similarly, Royal Caribbean set sails from Baltimore, Tampa, Galveston (Texas), Cape Liberty, and New Jersey.
Moreover, Disney Cruise Lines provides passengers with a three-night Bahamian cruise experience from Port Canaveral with the wonderful Disney Wish – here, you’ll spend a day at Disney Castaway Cat and Nassau before returning to Port Canaveral.
Most of the closed-loop cruises to Alaska depart and return to Seattle. However, there is an American Cruise Lines’ Southwest Alaska cruise that starts in Juneau and returns after making a stop at Glacier Bay and other Alaskan towns.
The Norwegian Cruise Line offers a seven-day cruise package that starts at Seattle – with the Norwegian Bliss – and stops at Skagway, Juneau, Glacier Bay, Victoria, and Ketchikan before returning to Seattle.
Likewise, Holland America Line offers a seven-day Alaskan Explorer experience which starts at Seattle with cruises to Stephens Passage and Puget Sound.
Situated 570 miles east of North Carolina within the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda is one of the best cruise destinations from the East Coast ports in New York City, Charleston, Baltimore, Miami, Port Canaveral, Virginia, and Norfolk.
You’ll spend two days at sea and three days in Bermuda with Carnival’s six-day Bermuda from Nortfolk experience.
Likewise, the Bermuda bliss offers a seven-day Oceana cruise embarking from New York City which stops at St. George and Hamilton in Bermuda – with two days at sea.
When it comes to closed-loop cruises to Mexico – these depart from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tampa, San Diego, Galveston, and Fort Lauderdale.
From West Coast ports, you can stop at destinations along the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, such as Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, La Paz, Loreto, Topolobampo, and Guaymas.
From East Coast ports, you’ll visit the island of Cozumel and the Yucatan Peninsula’s Costa Maya in the Caribbean Sea.
A popular package is the Celebrity Cruises’ 12-night New Orleans & the Caribbean which sets sail from and returns to Tampa after making stops at Key West, Honduras, and New Orleans, as well as Cozumel and Costa Maya.
Likewise, Princess Cruises provides travelers with a seven-day Mexican Riviera with La Paz experience that travels along La Paz, Ensenada, and Cabo San Lucas.
Closed-loop Caribbean cruises depart from Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Baltimore, Galveston, New York City, and New Orleans. Plus, they can also depart from Puerto Rico and San San Juan, too.
One such cruise is the Regent Seven Seas where you can travel on the Wonders in the Caribbean cruise departing from Miami and stopping at Mexico, Cayman Island, Honduras, Belize, and Key West.
Likewise, the Royal Caribbean’s seven-night Southern Caribbean Holiday experience sets sail from San Juan and takes you to Trinidad, Barbados, St. Vincent, Tobago, and St. Maarten.
The Hawaiian islands can be found approximately 3,700 miles from the West Coast – therefore, a cruise requires four or five days at sea in each direction.
This closed-loop cruise embarks from ports in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seattle. Likewise, other cruises in Honolulu take you to the other various islands.
For instance, the Princess Cruises’ 16-day Hawaiian Islands experience sets from San Francisco and stops at Honolulu, Hilo, Maui, and Kauai before traveling five days at sea – stopping in Ensenada before returning to San Francisco.
Likewise, the Norwegian Cruise Line provides a seven-day Hawaii inter-island cruise that starts in Honolulu and stops at Hilo, Maui, and Kona from the Big Island and stops at Kauai before returning to Honolulu.
Cruise Ports That Require A Passport
You’ll need a passport for any cruise that is traveling out of a foreign port or requires you to fly to.
For instance, cruises departing from South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia will require you to hold a valid passport.
Likewise, you’ll also need a passport for some places in the U.S. too. For instance, if you’re flying to the Caribbean islands, such as the Bahamas or Barbados. As well as Canadian homeports, including Montreal and Vancouver.
That said, cruise ports like Puerto Rico, San Juan, U.S. Virgin Islands, and St. Thomas are all a part of the United States, therefore, these flights can be treated like domestic travel.
Furthermore, if you’re embarking on your cruise from a U.S. homeport and disembarking from a different port at the end of your journey, then you will also need a passport.
For instance, a Panama Canal cruise that embarks from Miami but returns to Los Angeles will require a passport.
Canada And New England
Generally, Canada and New England are grouped together when it comes to cruise itineraries. Here, you can embark from New York City, Boston, New Jersey, and Cape Liberty.
Here, Norwegian Cruise Line provides passengers with a seven-day Canada & New England package that sets sail from New York City – visiting Nova Scotia, Saint John, Halifax, New Brunswick, Maine, Portland, and Bar Harbor with only one day at sea before returning to New York City.
Can You Just Take A Driver’s License On A Cruise?
The answer to this question depends on the cruise you’re traveling on and your driver’s license.
For instance, if you’re embarking on an entirely U.S.-based cruise line, including Hawaii or Alaska, then a driver’s license is an acceptable form of identification.
On the other hand, if you’re setting sail from a closed-loop cruise from a U.S. homeport, you’ll still need your driver’s license, but also proof of citizenship, too.
This could include your birth certificate. However, if you have an enhanced driver’s license, this form of identification would work like a passport, thus, you wouldn’t require additional documentation.
You should keep in mind that for any other type of cruise, a driver’s license wouldn’t be a sufficient form of documentation. As such, you are likely to run into trouble at a cruise port or airport.
Do Kids Require Passports For Cruises?
If your child is under 16 years of age and is traveling internationally by air, then they will require a valid U.S. passport.
On the other hand, if they are traveling to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, or Bermuda by cruise, then they can travel with either a U.S. passport card, passport, original birth certificate, or a trusted traveler card, as well as a certificate of citizenship or a naturalization certificate.
Children under the age of 19 can use these types of documentation as long as they are traveling with a church group, school, or any other organization with adult supervision.
Likewise, make sure to review all your children’s documentation, including notarized and signed letters for missing parents if they aren’t traveling with both parents – as well as written consent if they are under 21 and aren’t traveling with family.
It may have come as a surprise to learn that you can travel within North American countries without requiring a passport.
This is all thanks to a loophole that allows you to travel via closed-loop cruises. Essentially, these embark and depart from U.S. ports.
Hopefully, this guide has informed you on everything you need to know about traveling on cruises without a passport.
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