Cruising with a passport will usually be the best option, if you have one. But, sometimes you can’t quite pull it off. Perhaps there is no time to get a new or renewed passport (or perhaps you forgot to bring them at all!). Or, perhaps there are other obstacles to timely acquisition of a passport. You may ask yourself, “Where can I cruise without a passport?” There’s no need to panic! You still have many options for a fabulous vacation! Read on for where you can cruise without doling out money for new passports.
Why You Don’t Need A Passport To Cruise To Some Countries
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) agreement entitles all US citizens to travel on closed-loop cruises to a limited amount of international destinations.
A closed-loop cruise is one that departs and returns to the same port U.S. port. So, for instance, all of those round-trip cruises out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale are closed-loop cruises. All closed-loop cruises embark accept any of the following WHTI-permitted forms of US identification: a passport card, Enhanced Driver’s License, Trusted Traveler Program ID (FAST, SENRI, and Nexus), or an I-872 American Indian ID in place of a passport book.
WHTI passport cards are convenient and affordable because you don’t have to travel with your birth certificate and ID.
However, a passport card is only a valid form of identification for a closed-loop cruise. It may not be used for flights to foreign destinations like the Caribbean, Mexico, Bermuda, or Canada. So, if your vacation plans include flying to any of those destinations, you would need a valid US passport book.
Should you travel with your kids under 16, they will only need an original or a copy of their birth certificate (preferably certified). Or other forms of identification like a Naturalization Document or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad document.
If you are planning on using any WHTI-approved forms of identification like a birth certificate and driver’s license. Please ensure that the full name on your cruise reservation is the same as your forms of identification. It could delay your boarding process if the variable names don’t correspond.
Most importantly, closed-loop cruise port entry requirements are not set in stone. So, review your travel itinerary in detail. Some Caribbean destinations like Guadeloupe and Martinique require valid US passport books or cards.
The Best Family Cruise Destinations Without A Passport
Now that you know how to conveniently travel to international destinations without the hassle of applying for passports, let’s look at the top travel destinations that are open to you.
Tropical Caribbean Cruises
With its sun-drenched platinum sandy beaches, aqua-hued balmy waters, fun water sports, and educational activities, the Caribbean is a prime family cruise destination.
There are numerous Caribbean cruise packages to choose from for 3-15 nights from several ports in Florida, Galveston (Texas), New Orleans (Louisiana), Charleston (South Carolina), and New York City, to name but a few.
Carnival cruises are ideal as they cater to families with budget-friendly rates. Although, should you be willing to spend a little bit more for better amenities and fun activities, consider booking a cruise on the Royal Caribbean or a Disney cruise.
While you can use WHTI identification for cruising to most Caribbean nations, especially US islands like Puerto Rico, St Croix, St. Johns, and the St. Thomas islands, it is still advisable to check your itinerary’s port entry requirements. Some Caribbean islands such as St. Martin, Haiti, Guadeloupe and Barbados still have rules that require that visitors carry passports. Also, different rules apply to non-U.S. citizens, including green-card holders and lawful permanent residents.
Cruise To Mexico
With its spectacular tropical beaches, delicious food, and abundance of cultural excursions to ancient Mayan ruins, our southern neighbor, Mexico, is an ideal family cruise destination.
Several 3-15 day closed-loop cruises depart from ports like Miami and Galveston to Mexico’s stunning Pacific and Caribbean coastal regions like Progresso and Cozumel.
Many major cruise line operators like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, offer Mexican Riviera cruises departing from Los Angeles ports all year round.
There are also seasonal Mexico cruises on the Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess, Disney, and Holland America cruise lines that depart from the West Coast.
Cruise To Stunning Hawaii
Many of you may be wondering why we would include Hawaii in this post. Although it is exotic, it is one of the fifty United States and no passport should be required. A cruise that sails exclusively among the individual islands of Hawaii will not require a passport. But, the analysis changes if your ship stops at any non-U.S. ports.
With its outstanding natural beauty, pristine tropical islands, and laid-back coastal living, exquisite Hawaii offers visitors a plethora of fun and cultural family excursions.
So, if Hawaii sounds like the perfect destination, you can choose between two closed-loop cruising options that vary in length.
If you have a limited time, you can fly to Honolulu and embark on a 7–10-night cruise on Norwegian’s Pride of America cruise liner.
A longer, 14-18-night Hawaiian cruise, is offered by Princess, Holland America, and Carnival cruise lines. They depart from ports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. These cruises are longer as they need time to cross the Pacifica Ocean from California.
Although, if you are planning on traveling with WHTI documents, tread with caution regarding 20-night closed-loop cruises to Hawaii with the likes of Viking, Princess, and Holland America.
While they depart and return to the West Coast, their itineraries include South Pacific Island stopovers in locations like French Polynesia that require passports.
Balmy Bahamas Cruises
With its all-year-round sunny tropical climate, friendly locals, and fantastic beaches, the Bahamas are the perfect destination for scuba diving adventures and brightly colored cocktails.
Due to the Bahamas’ proximity to the US East Coast and its popularity, several cruise liners travel from Florida’s eastern ports in Miami, Port Canaveral, Jacksonville, and Fort Lauderdale.
There are numerous 2-15 night closed-loop cruises to choose from. In addition, if you reside in Florida, you may get significant discounts or benefit from other promotional packages.
Most of the more extended Bahamas cruise options stop there on the way to the Caribbean. They depart from ports in Manhattan, Bayonne, Charleston, Baltimore, Galveston, New Orleans, and Tampa.
You can shop around for Bahamas cruises at all the major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, and Disney. In addition, Holland America, Celebrity, and MSC Cruise offer closed-loop cruises to the Bahamas as well.
Canada and New England Cruises
North America’s breathtaking East Coast cruises are steeped in history with panoramic views from Nova Scotia’s rugged cliffs and drenched in Quebec’s fabulously French culture.
Most 7-night closed-loop cruises along the US and Canadian coastline depart from ports in New York City, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Boston, Bayonne, and Baltimore, and infrequently from Norfolk, mainly during the fall, albeit some 8–10-night cruises operate during other times of the year.
There are also several cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Holland America, and Princess cruises, that also offer East Coast routes, so you can compare their rates to get a great deal.
Why Cruising With A Passport Is Still A Good Idea
Even though you can legally cruise to several prime destinations without a passport, it’s essential in emergency medical evacuations or when your cruise ship is forced to stop over unexpectedly in a port that does not recognize the international WHTI agreement.
Another benefit of having a passport is if you miss your cruise embarkation, you can fly from the US to the ship’s first scheduled port stopover.
And in case of a family or business emergency, you will be permitted to disembark the ship earlier than expected and fly back to the US if you have a valid passport.
In stark contrast, should you not have a passport, you may be stuck in a foreign port and need to apply for a temporary passport to fly back home.
Frequently Asked Questions
So, now that you know the benefits and risks of traveling without a passport, the following information will address any lingering questions you might still have.
Do You Need A Passport For An Alaska Cruise?
Like all the previously mentioned travel destinations, you only need WHTI-certified forms of identification for close-looped cruises to Alaska from San Francisco and Seattle, including ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles, in southern California.
Although, should you travel without a passport, and book shore excursions between Alaska and Canada, like the Yukon Route and White Pass train rides, they will be limited to only 3 hours.
Do You Need A Passport To Go On A Disney Cruise?
Fortunately, you don’t need a passport book to travel to the previously mentioned international destinations on Disney cruises.
While you will need the WHTI-approved identity documents, reviewing your itinerary’s port entry requirements before departure is essential.
Do You Need A Passport To Go To Bermuda On A Cruise?
If you are cruising to Bermuda, you don’t necessarily need a US passport. Instead, you can use the following documents: a US passport card, a Trusted Traveler card (Nexus, SENTRI, or FAST card), or an enhanced driver’s license.
Do I Need A Passport For A Cruise To Cozumel?
Cozumel is one of the most accessible cruise destinations for US citizens. You don’t need a passport to embark on any round-trip cruise, and you can step on board with any government-issued proof of identity document. It’s as easy as that!
Do You Need A Passport To Go To Jamaica On A Cruise?
Even though a US passport is not required to take a cruise to Jamaica. The US embassy advises against traveling without one as it may delay your disembarking process upon your return.
It turns out there are quite a few options for where you can cruise without a passport. Book a closed-loop cruise, and you can cruise to the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Mexico, to name a few. Of course, we always recommend confirming any travel plans and documents required with your chosen cruise line.
Founder & Crew Chief