Cruise Diva's FOCUS
Cruise Travel Safety & Security
Yourself With A Passport
Updated: May 2009
It's official. The United States Dept of Homeland Security
has stopped dithering with dates and announced that travelers will
be required to present a passport or other approved secure document
denoting citizenship and identity for all land and
into the United States effective June 1, 2009.
From their perspective, most
Americans haven't seen much need for identity "papers" in
the past. They've moved about the United States freely and even
ventured into Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean with ease. Proof of
citizenship was only necessary when crossing the U.S. borders to the
north and south and, even then, it was usually an effortless
For travel to more far-flung
foreign regions, a passport has always been a necessity. However, to
most cruise passengers, the need hasn't been great.
Why not spend
that passport fee on piña coladas instead?
Because things have changed and you
must now have a passport to fly out of and back into the United States from almost
everywhere, including those countries previously exempted. Plus, the
Dept of Homeland Security's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
(WHTI) requires "all citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico,
and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted document that
establishes the bearer’s identity and nationality to enter or depart
the United States from within the Western Hemisphere."
However, your cruise may be exempt.
Cruises to the
Bahamas, Bermuda, Mexico & Caribbean
It's every passenger's
responsibility to have proper identification. Arrival at port
without it means that boarding can be denied and no fare refund will
be issued. Most travel agents know the requirements and can guide
you to the proper agency to obtain what you need if you don't have
U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises
(cruises that begin and end at the same port in the U.S.)
will be able to enter or depart the country with proof of
citizenship, such as a birth certificate and government-issued photo
For the present, a closed-loop cruise to the
Bahamas, Bermuda, Mexico, and most Caribbean countries requires
proof of citizenship for Americans in the form of a passport OR:
- A certified birth certificate
copy, preferably with a raised seal (although some are currently
issued with a stamped seal)
- A government-issued photo identification card,
such as drivers license, military or government employee ID
Canadian citizens need
identification similar to Americans and resident aliens of the U.S.
need their valid passport and Alien Resident Receipt Card (form
I-551). To embark in U.S. ports, passengers from foreign countries
must carry a valid passport and a visa waiver or multiple entry visa
for the U.S.
Even when embarking on a cruise in a U.S.
port, you should be aware that you may still be required to present
a passport when you dock at a foreign port, depending on the islands
or countries that your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your
cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents for the
stops you’ll be making on your cruise.
In addition, for admission into
Mexico, minors under the age of 18 who are not traveling with both
parents require a written, notarized letter of consent to travel
signed by the absentee parent or both parents if neither is
accompanying the minor. For a sample parental consent letter that
can be modified for individual purposes and printed, CLICK
The Rest of the
Everyone needs a passport. No ifs,
ands, or buts about it. It is each passenger's responsibility to
have a passport and, in some instances, it must not expire for two
to six months following your return date.
Some countries also require entry
visas and those can be acquired through their embassies or
consulates. Private visa services, such as Travisa,
can also expedite the paperwork. Be mindful of visa requirements;
some are valid only if your trip begins within a certain number of
days from issuance. Consult the embassy or consulate of the country
you plan to visit for details--some visa applications must be
accompanied by passport-style photos and proof of transportation to
leave the country within a specified period of time.
Without a passport and proper
visas, you won't get any further than the airport. Foreign countries
are very strict about their entry requirements and air carriers are
scrupulous when examining identification before allowing flyers on
Once on board their cruise ships,
passengers are often required to turn passports over to the Purser.
This is not only for safekeeping, but also to expedite
"clearing" the ship upon arrival in each port of call. At
the end of the voyage, cruisers often find "stamps" in
their passports, indicating they were examined by local officials.
Before leaving home, make a sharp,
color copy of the inside photo/signature pages of your passport to
carry ashore. It will make money changing and use of your credit
card simpler when identification is necessary. Some travelers also
carry two extra photos just in case their passport is lost or
stolen. It makes issuing a replacement easier.
My personal theory is that the
American aversion to obtaining a passport has a lot to do with the
photographs. Good news! They no longer have to look like a prison
mug shot. Although in years past we were told to "look
natural" (meaning: don't smile!), that has changed. You can
smile for the birdie and obtain passport photos at many office
supply and service outlets, such as Kinkos and Mail Boxes, Etc. For
the truly picky, some professional portrait studios will also shoot
your passport photos and do them over right on the spot if you're
unhappy with the results.
With two copies of the passport
photo in hand, you must apply for a passport in person if,
- You are applying for a U.S.
passport for the first time.
- Your previous U.S. passport was
lost, stolen, or damaged.
- Your previous U.S. passport has
expired and was issued more than 15 years ago.
- Your previous passport has
expired and it was issued when you were under 16.
- Your name is changed since your
passport was issued and you do not have a legal document
formally changing your name.
- You are a minor child.
to Apply in Person for a U.S. Passport for complete
instructions and links to additional information, including the
searchable data base of more than 4500 passport facilities
nationwide where you can apply. These include many convenient
locations such as Federal, state, and probate courts, many post
offices, some libraries, and a number of county and municipal
Yes, there are benefits. Passport
holders can be ready to travel at short notice and take advantage of
late-breaking cruise bargains. A passport is the ultimate
identification and is accepted at airline check-in counters and by
merchants and banks worldwide. They are sometimes even required by
banks in foreign countries for simple currency exchange
Additionally, if you must
permanently disembark your closed-loop cruise early in a foreign
port and return to the United States by air, your passport will be
worth its weight in gold.
Passports are valid for ten years
and can be conveniently renewed by mail. Their annual cost can be
less than your drivers license over the years.
Now... isn't your peace of mind
worth the price of a few umbrella drinks?
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