Cruises that don't require a passport
Cruises that begin and end at the same U.S. port
Also known as "closed-loop" cruises, these itineraries technically do not require U.S. citizens to bring a passport as long as the cruise stays within the Western Hemisphere. A typical example would be a cruise that departs from Tampa, Florida, visits the Bahamas, and then returns to Tampa.
In place of a passport, U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises have the option of bringing a state-issued ID card (such as a driver's license) and an original birth certificate. With both documents, they can re-enter the U.S. and disembark in some countries, such as Jamaica and the Bahamas. Other countries, such as Barbados, require a passport for all American visitors, and if a cruise stops in one, the cruise line itself will typically require passports.
While a passport is not required on many closed-loop cruises, AAA strongly encourages travelers to bring one for 2 reasons:
- Convenience: As noted above, travelers without a passport must present both a state-issued ID (to prove their identity) and an original birth certificate (to prove U.S. citizenship). A passport is an easier way to prove both in 1 convenient document, especially if you'll be presenting it at many different ports.
- Safety: If unforeseen circumstances arise during a closed-loop cruise, you may have difficulty without a passport. For example, if you become ill or the ship has mechanical problems and you must unexpectedly fly home from a foreign airport, not having a passport will be a major obstacle.
Cruises completely within the United States
If a cruise only calls at American ports, there's no need for a passport, just like if you're traveling between U.S. states by land or air. In practice, however, these cruises are very rare. A notable example is Norwegian Cruise Lines' inter-island Hawai‘i cruise aboard the U.S.-flagged Pride of America, which visits 5 Hawaiian islands on a round-trip tour that begins and ends in Honolulu.