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Do You Need A Passport For A Cruise?

Taking a cruise can be a fun and exciting adventure. However, before leaving, there are a few things passengers should know about the requirements for leaving and re-entering the United States if their cruise involves international waters.

One of the required documents may include a passport under the right conditions.

A passport is a document which is issued by a national government as a means of identification for the person who holds it. It certifies the identity and nationality of the person listed on the document, which is important when traveling internationally.

In the United States, passports are issued through one of the State Department's 14 passport issuing centers. They also can be issued through clerks at federal and state courts, designated post offices and U.S. consular authorities in foreign countries for citizens who are living abroad.

Passports expire every 10 years for citizens over the age of 18 and every five years for those under 18. Upon expiration, passports must be replaced if the holder wishes to continue having one. Because people change in appearance with age, passports cannot simply be renewed, but must be completely replaced, including with an updated photo of the passport holder.

Passengers who are taking a “closed loop” cruise will not be required to carry a passport in order to leave the United States or re-enter it. Closed-loop cruises are those which begin and end at the same United States port. A certified birth certificate and valid photo identification, such as a driver's license, are all that is necessary.

Closed-loop cruises are the only kinds of cruises which do not require the traveler to possess a passport for re-entry into the United States.

If a traveler intends to take a cruise that departs from Florida but returns to a destination in California as its return port, it is not considered a closed-loop cruise and passengers will be required to provide a passport for re-entry.

Other situations which may require a passport include visitation to islands within the Caribbean. There are 26 islands in the Caribbean, and they are among the most-visited destinations in the world. Each year, over 20 million travelers visit these islands. While the U.S. does not require a passport for re-entry by cruise guests who visit the Caribbean, in order to leave the cruise ship and step foot onto any island within the Caribbean, visitors will need a passport. This is a requirement of the government which controls the Caribbean islands, not the United States. So if your cruise ship will be visiting the Caribbean, be sure to pack your passport or be prepared to stay aboard the ship the entire time.

Another cruise situation which may require a passport is if the traveler is a legal permanent resident of the United States – meaning they hold a green card – but not a citizen. While the United States does not require legal residents to possess a passport for re-entry into the states following a cruise, foreign countries which may be visited as part of the cruise do require a passport.

Even if yours is a situation which likely will not require the possession of a passport, cruise goers may want to apply for and carry one with them anyway during the trip. In the event of an emergency, passengers may find themselves needing to fly back home or to another location, which would require a passport. Not having one could complicate the situation.

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