Travel insights from Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass
Cruises often take exciting routes, visiting multiple countries or even continents along the way. The required travel documents may be different at each port of call and it’s up to the cruisers to bring the appropriate travel documents when they embark on the cruise. It is of utmost importance for you to make sure you are prepared so that you can successfully get on and off the cruise ship and, most importantly, get back home! So save yourself the headache of trying to figure it what’s needed on your own and make a list.
Cruisers traveling without the required documentation may encounter some dilemmas. For example, you may not even be allowed to board the ship and may not get a refund for their trip if you don’t have the right stuff (of course each cruise line has their own policy, but in this case, it’s really better to be safe than sorry). Or when you arrive in a different country, you may not be granted entry if you don’t have a travel visa for that country. An example of this is if you are flying to Canada to begin their cruise and they do not have a U.S. passport, you need a Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada. Without this, they may not be allowed to board the flight by the airline.
Don’t be freaked out by any of this. Instead, arm yourself with information.
Check That Passport Validity
Cruise lines highly recommend that all cruisers travel with a passport that’s valid for at least six months beyond completion of travel (unless otherwise noted, as some countries require an even longer validity for entry). This is recommended because it could prevent delays for cruisers returning to the U.S. if their passport only has two months of validity left, for example. Also, it will help prevent delays or issues if a cruiser misses their scheduled embarkation and needs to fly to meet the ship at the foreign port or if they need to unexpectedly leave the ship before the cruise is over and fly back to the U.S.
Have a General Idea of the Required Documents
The required travel documents for a cruise vary depending on your U.S. citizenship and where you are traveling to. This list will give you a general idea of the basics that are needed, but always check with the cruise line to be absolutely certain and to see what additional documents you need.
- A valid U.S. passport
- Other proof of citizenship is acceptable in lieu of a passport, including Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) documents, along with Trusted Travel Program documents. Find a list of those here.
- A REAL ID if your clients are traveling domestically by air
U.S. permanent residents
- U.S. Permanent Resident Card (also referred to as a Green Card or ARC Card)
- A passport from your home country (not required, but many cruise lines strongly recommend this)
Additionally, cruisers may need a travel visa or to fill out an entry form, based on the country or countries they’re traveling to. Go to that destination’s page on VAX for a direct link to their entry requirements, or search the country on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
Ask If You’re Uncertain About Anything
No one wants to assume anything, especially if your experience (and vacation investment) is on the line. Most cruise lines have pages dedicated to the required travel documents, often broken down by their citizenship type, where cruises are leaving from and the cruise destination(s). Before making any assumptions about the required travel documents for your cruise, double and triple check what the cruise line advises.
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