Do You Have to Have a Passport or Birth Certificate for a Cruise?

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When you are setting off on a cruise, it's important to have all the right paperwork with you such as tickets and identification. In certain cases, you may have to have a passport or birth certificate for a cruise.

Federal Requirements

The requirements for documentation while traveling on cruises have changed several times over the past few years. As of July 2009, for cruises that begin and end in the same U.S. city (called closed-route cruises), cruisers need either a U.S. passport or a birth certificate for travel.

Cruise Line Requirements

Some cruise lines have stricter rules for documentation, requiring a passport instead of a birth certificate to stay ahead of the curve of changes with the federal government. Your travel agent or your cruise line's website is the best source for up-to-date requirements.

Obtaining a Passport

A passport may be obtained at any time with proper documentation. Post offices process applications. If your departure is in less than 10 weeks, you have the option of paying an additional fee for expedited service, which the Department of State recommends.

Last Minute Passports

For travel within two weeks, you need to make an appointment at a passport office. This can only be done within two weeks of travel. You will need to go in person and your application will be processed the same day. You will need documentation proving your identity and citizenship as well as two passport photos. There is an additional charge for same-day processing.

What If You Show Up Without Necessary Documentation?

If you fail to bring a birth certificate or passport when you board a ship, you will not be allowed to board. Furthermore, you will not be granted a refund.

Where to Store Your Documentation

While cruising, it's important that you keep your documentation safe as it's extremely necessary for leaving the ship--including when you return to the U.S. Store it in your in-room safe whenever you can, or carry it on your person in a secure body pouch.

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