Lorraine’s “cruise terminal buddies” are still reporting that cruisers continue to show up for embarkation without proper documentation. Even with a cruise ticket, improper or incomplete documents can be cause for your being denied boarding – and DO NOT LOOK FOR A REFUND!
While it has been mandatory since 2009 for American citizens (including minors) traveling to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean to hold a valid passport, a loop-hole in the Northern Hemisphere Travel Initiative makes an exception for “closed-loop” cruises – those departing from and returning to the SAME U.S. port.
For “closed-loop,” proof of U.S. citizenship such as birth certificates (state-issued with valid seal), along with current photo identification (driver’s license, etc.) will usually suffice. Lorraine says “usually” because cruise lines can and do differ on just what type of alternative documentation THEY will accept. Some require that if your present name does not match that on your birth certificate, you must provide proof of change (marriage certificate, court document, etc.) while others do not. The onus is on YOU to check your cruise lines’ FAQ’S and get your ducks in a row before arriving at the terminal – otherwise you may be waving “bon voyage” from the dock!
Trust Lorraine, cruise lines do not take pleasure in denying boarding – in fact, they only about “break-even” on your cruise fare! Their “real money” comes from your onboard “incidentals” (beverages/casino/specialty dining/shore excursions, etc.). But – they have no choice – all must comply with the rules and regulations of every country they sail from or visit.
Consider a passport as insurance – insurance that you can get home just in case something unforeseen prevents you from completing that “closed-loop!” Yep - It has been known to happen. An illness or injury resulting in evacuation to a nearby land-based hospital – staying too long at Senor Frog’s and missing the ship –without a passport you’re up the proverbial creek! You cannot re-enter the United States without one.
So go ahead and spring for the $135 (less for minors) and get a passport – they’re valid for ten years - and well worth your peace of mind when traveling!