There wasn’t a question that we had to start the countdown with a reminder about Passports for your cruise. This one thing could determine whether or not you even board that magnificent cruise that you have planned. The reality of whether you need a passport to sail changes with every itinerary. So, we just say GET ONE! Make sure it is current! Don’t take any chances! Get Passports for your cruise!
Get a Passport for Your Cruise
Because the Passport laws change all the time it is hard to determine by the time you sail, if you will need one or not. There are some things called “Closed Loop Cruises”, that begin and end at the same US port. The cruise lines say that you do not need a passport for these, but you need a Birth Certificate with a Valid Government Issued ID. (And THAT is a whole issue…read below) Here’s why we say get a passport anyway!
If for any reason something happens to you on one of the ports out of the country, and you have to fly back into the US, you very likely will need a valid Passport to get back in. Yes, it is an if. But, it is one that is not worth daring. That is why almost all Travel Agents nowadays just tell their clients they need one to sail.
Example – We were sailing the Mexican Riviera and a friend became very ill while on the ship. The ship’s doctor decided it was best to get them to a hospital in Mexico and not continue their cruise. Guess what? You need a passport to get back into the US from Mexico! Luckily they had one. If they had only had a Government ID, they would not have been able to get back in the country without a lot of hassles!
Passports must be valid for 6 months past sail date. This is a stipulation people do not even realize. Why? Because anything can happen that will keep you out of the country past your cruise. So, you do not want to take any chances that your passport expires while you are gone. The Cruise Goddess was totally guilty of not looking at this until two months before our last European cruise. Needless to say, it was terrible stress and a total rush to get it renewed before our trip!
Birth Certificates – If you choose not to get a passport for a closed loop cruise don’t think that you can bring a nice tattered copy of a Birth Announcement and call it a valid Birth Certificate. It must be a Government Issued Birth Certificate issued by the Vital Records Department in the state that you were born. And you must have a valid Government ID to accompany it, Drivers License, et al. Now, what if you are married now and have a different last name? It can get crazy! Some cruise lines want you to bring your Marriage Certificate or License, some don’t. Sadly, there are so many angles to cover when you don’t have a passport, it is just not worth it.
Again, if you have a valid Passport you can avoid many many challenges at boarding or cruising out of the country.
So let’s say you are 30 days out and need your passport? There are numerous online websites and companies that can help. For faster service they will up-charge you. First ask your Travel Agent if they have a company they work with. That is what your Travel Agent is for! And believe me, your Travel Agent does not want to get that dreaded call that you are at the dock, decked out in all your best cruise wear and the ship won’t let you board. So, ask for their help. Travel Agents rock!!
If you need a quick service that we can suggest, we use FastPort Passport. We like that they will tell you when you can do it on your own or when you really need their help.
One last thing. For future cruises, think about getting Global Entry. It is a US Customs and Border Protection program that expedites those pre-approved for re-entry into the US. We first saw this as we stood in a huge line coming back from a cruise and watched people flying by us in the Global Entry line. For as many cruises as we take we made it a point to get it. It is not something you can get on short notice, we had to wait several months for our appointment with U.S. Customs. So, maybe not on this trip, but you can read more about it and decide for the future.