Everything You Need to Know About Passport Requirements When Taking a Cruise

Sailing away on a cruise is one of the most exciting and enjoyable vacations you can take. But before you head off to those blissful waters, there are some important passport requirements that every traveler must consider.

Don’t let passport complications delay your next vacation – learn everything you need to know about passports for cruises so your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

Getting your passport ready for your cruise. Know that passport requirement for a cruise are largely the same as traveling on your own, with some key differences. By and large, if you can legally travel to Canada and Mexico by plane, you can do so on a cruise.

Here’s what you need to know in order to make sure that you’re prepared for your cruise:

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)

There was a time when regulations were a little more relaxed when it came to cruises and certain other forms of travel, but over time, the borders have been tightened, for better or worse. You have the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to thank for the fact that you’re going to need a passport in order to make certain cruises.

If you are traveling to or from popular destinations outside of the US like Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean Islands, or Bermuda, and you are not making a closed-loop trip, then you will need either a passport or a WHTI-compliant document. You can find a list of compliant documents here.

Unfortunately, there are no workarounds. Either you take the time to get a passport or some other WHTI-compliant document in order, or you skip the trip.

Closed Loop Cruises

While you need a passport for the kind of cruise where you get off the boat, rent a hotel room. Or, stay at a resort for an evening or two. Closed-loop cruises are a little more lax. As long as you have a valid proof of American citizenship, you can ride most closed-loop cruises without a passport or WHTI-compliant document.

Note that a social security card won’t be regarded as proof enough, nor will a baptismal paper or a hospital certificate. A laminated photo ID will usually work, as will a government-issued birth certificate.

In the event of air travel, you will always need a passport or WHTI-compliant document. This only applies to cruises where you board the ship in the U.S. Or, the final destination is within the US.

Green Card Holders

A Green Card will serve as valid proof for lawful permanent residents, however, renewal is very important. If your card is expired or about to expire, you may wind up leaving the country on the cruise ship. But, being denied reentry.

It’s important to get all of your documents in order well in advance of your cruise. Make sure that your photo ID is valid and up to date. If you are going to be doing some air travel outside of the US, make sure that you have a passport or a WHTI-compliant document on hand.

Even if you’re pretty sure that all of your papers are in order. You may want to use this as an opportunity to double-check all of your documents nonetheless.


Traveling on a cruise can be an exciting adventure and the perfect way to spend a vacation. Though passport requirements when taking a cruise may seem confusing, it’s important to take the necessary steps and double-check what type of ID is needed. In some cases, all you might need is a government-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license, but in other cases, you will need your original government-issued birth certificate with a raised seal and a valid passport.