What is a Closed Loop Cruise?

The process of going on a cruise brings along with it a wide variety of different implications that many people don’t think about. When you go on a cruise, you are typically doing so through various types of international waters worldwide. As a result, the United States Customs and Border Patrol will treat the voyage the same way you would if you traveled internationally by plane, for example – and you will have to go through the same process.

What is a Closed-Loop Cruise?

A very specific type of cruise, however, is a “closed-loop voyage.” It has several benefits that frequent travelers and cruise fans want to know about. As the name suggests, a closed-loop voyage or cruise begins and ends in the United States. As a result, the process is much more straightforward if you are traveling internationally via cruise ship and are staying in one place for a long period.

Closed Loop Cruise Orginates and Ends in the US

The official definition of a closed-loop voyage originates and ends in the United States. However, it can visit contiguous territories or islands that are adjacent to the continental US at any time.

However, it’s important to note that for a cruise to be “closed-loop,” it must begin and end in the same port. Leaving the East Coast and returning to the West would not meet those requirements.

Related: Do You Need a Passport to Go to Mexico? [2023]

Do You Need a Passport for a Closed Loop Cruise?

Are you planning a closed-loop cruise and wondering whether or not you need a passport? The answer to that depends on a few factors. Generally, you do not need a passport if you are a US citizen and the cruise departs and returns to the same US port.

However, if the cruise stops at foreign ports, you may need a passport to enter those countries. Additionally, some cruise lines may require a passport as a form of identification for boarding, even if it is not technically needed for the itinerary. It’s always best to check with your cruise line and the countries you visit to confirm their passport requirements.

Contiguous Territories: What is the Contiguous Rule?

To understand the significance of closed-loop voyages. You must first understand exactly what contiguous territories and adjacent islands are. There is a special rule called the contiguous territory exception that applies to travel between the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.

This allows individuals to enter and exit the U.S. without needing to get a new visa stamp. These countries share a physical land boundary with the United States – in the case of the US, the two contiguous territories would be Mexico to the south and Canada to the north.

What are the Adjacent Islands to the United States?

The definition of adjacent islands is much broader and features various locations. Adjacent islands include the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Trinidad, Tobago, Jamaica, Miquelon,  and more.

Any islands that border the Caribbean Sea are called adjacent islands by the US Customs and Border Patrol.

Do Closed Loop Voyages Impact Electronic Travel Authorization?

Electronic Travel Authorization, also called ESTA, is a process that a person must go through to make sure that they are eligible to travel to their destination under the Visa Waiver Program in the United States.

The authorization does not determine who enters the US. Instead, it determines whether a person can travel from the U.S. through various means to their destination of choice.

One of the major benefits of closed-loop voyages is that the US Customs and Border Patrol has determined that. So, as long as the cruise in question meets all of the requirements and definitions of a closed-loop, Electronic Travel Authorization is not necessary for any passenger on board.

A large part of this decision came about due to the fact that these cruises begin and end in the continental US.

Related Read: Do You Need a Passport for a Cruise?


In conclusion, a closed-loop cruise provides a fantastic opportunity to explore the Caribbean or other areas near U.S. shores without dealing with visas and passports. There are so many unique places to discover and experience when stepping on board a closed-loop cruise vessel.

With so many options available, there’s something for everyone onboard these unique vessels. There is no better way to experience cruising than aboard a closed-loop cruise.

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