Smooth Sailing: The Benefits of Cruising with a Passport

By- Elizabeth Schaaf

One of the great things about cruising as a United States citizen is being able to cruise without a passport when the cruise begins and ends in a domestic port. It’s one less expense, one less thing to worry about, and some feel why get one if they don’t trave a lot.

But as a travel professional, I will always advise to get the passport book!

Why? There’s so many reasons cruising with your passport will be easier. At embarkation, the cruise line just scans your passport into the system, and that’s it! No questions like, “Do I have the right version of my birth certificate?” to worry about. It also makes disembarkation even easier as Customs and Border Control begins using facial recognition programs at some port terminals. With this new technology, those who traveled on passports simply walked through a constantly moving line to clear customs, while those who used birth certificates stood in a longer line to meet with an officer.

But the biggest reason isn’t just about the practical side of cruising, but for emergency purposes. No one plans for an emergency, but we should always be prepared for one! If a United States citizen is returning by air from a foreign country – even some place like the Bahamas or Mexico – they must have the passport book. A passport card (used to enter the US by land) nor a birth certificate will suffice. There are procedures in place to be able to get an emergency passport, but no one wants to go through an extra level of bureaucratic stress when dealing with an already stressful emergency situation. Having the passport already in hand is one less worry.

While passport books are an additional cost on top of an already expensive trip, adult passports are valid for 10 years, while those for children are valid for 5. Keep in mind that even if you already have a passport, most countries require that you have at least 6 months of validity left on your passport at time of travel. Passports do have a fee schedule that you should review when you begin the application process, and you can pay extra for expedited processing. First time applicants, all minors, and those who do have lost their passport have to apply in person at a passport acceptance office (usually a US post office). Visit the official US State Department passport information page for all of the details.

If you do choose to opt for sailing with your birth certificate and you have any questions about the document, please contact the issuing Register of Deeds.

So why go through all that? It’s the SAFEST and LOWEST RISK option. No worries of ‘what else do I need to bring?” and “Was the person I spoke to on the phone correct about my birth certificate?” Get the passport!

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