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Can I cruise without a passport? I would think twice before trying

01 Jun 2024
Calista Kiper

Do you need a passport to go on a cruise? The answer depends, and could be yes and no.

Cruise without a passport?

Before you book that cruise you're eyeing and leave for your trip, it's important to make sure all of your documents are cleared for travel.

Can you cruise without a passport? What kind of birth certificate is required? Will an enhanced driver's license do?

You might be able to go on the cruise without needing a passport, but there are certain requirements to be able to do so. 

Driving to Galveston terminal

U.S. citizens can cruise without a passport and with just a birth certificate and photo ID, but only on certain cruises. It gets confusing for someone new to cruising.

Just because you can cruise without a passport doesn't mean you should, and there's plenty of misinformation out there about the identification needed to cruise.

Take this post as your informative guide to cruising without a passport—and if it's a recommended method.

Can I cruise without a passport?

Miami terminals

United States citizens can cruise without a passport on certain sailings.

As proof of citizenship, they need to bring a state-certified, United States birth certificate, issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where they were born.

Additionally, cruisers aged 16 and older need a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license or state ID that denotes the correct photo, name, and date of birth.

Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDL) are also taken as proof of citizenship and accepted in place of a birth certificate.


However, very few states currently offer enhanced driver's licenses, so don't assume that yours qualifies as proof of citizenship.

The only states that currently issue enhanced driver's licenses are Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington.

All documentation must have the same name, match the identification on the reservation, and be valid for the dates of the cruise. 

Guests who do not bring the required documentation will be denied boarding.

Read more: Guide to cruising with a birth certificate

Where can I cruise without a passport?

United States citizens can cruise without a passport, but only on specific sailings.

The only itineraries where U.S. citizens can cruise without a passport are closed-loop sailings departing from United States home ports.

Closed-loop sailings are round-trip cruises that embark and disembark from the same U.S. port. 

A one-way cruise that embarks from a U.S. port but disembarks in a different U.S. port does not qualify.

These ports must be in the U.S., and include the following:

  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Cape Liberty
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Galveston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New Orleans
  • Port Canaveral
  • San Diego
  • San Juan
  • Seattle
  • Seward
  • Tampa

United States citizens on these closed-loop cruises are required to travel with proof of citizenship and a government-issued photo ID.

Should I cruise without a passport?


Even though US citizens can cruise without a passport, we don't recommend it.

If you have a cruise coming up, I would think twice before trying to board with just a birth certificate and identification.

A passport is the very best option for any method of travel, including cruises.

Royal Caribbean's website also recommends that cruisers try to bring along a passport, writing: "A passport is the hassle-free, gold standard for traveling between countries."

A passport must be valid for at least six months after the last day of the cruise (it shouldn't expire anytime close to the date of travel).

The name on the passport must also match the name on the cruise reservation.

If you're planning a cruise, it's not too late to go ahead and renew or apply for a passport.

Passport on the bed

Even for guests who aren't required to, Royal Caribbean and veteran cruisers alike recommend that you travel with a passport.

Read more: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

The U.S. Department of State also recommends that everyone taking a cruise out of the United States have a passport in case of emergency, such as a medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port.

Why is it better to cruise with a passport?


Using a passport opens up the number of itineraries you can cruise on, and makes the process of boarding and disembarking through customs and immigration much faster.

Not only that, but a passport protects you in case of any travel issues or emergencies while exploring a foreign port.

Traveling to any foreign country (even on a closed-loop cruise) places you in the position of possibly needing a passport.

If you miss the cruise ship and are left at port or require emergency transportation back to the U.S., you'll be left in a stressful situation without a passport.

Read more: Will a cruise ship wait for me if I'm running late at a port stop? Here's what a captain has to say.

Both immigration at foreign ports and air travel back to the U.S. will require a passport. 

In the case of an emergency, you'll first have to travel to a U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain a passport, further delaying your trip and increasing travel expenses.

Radiance of the Seas

A vacation could quickly turn into a nightmare if you become stranded in a foreign country without a passport.

Not only that but disembarking the ship once the cruise is over becomes much less of a hassle with a passport.

When cruisers exit the ship into the cruise terminal, there are separate lines for passengers with U.S. passports and passengers with birth certificates.

Boston terminal

Cruisers traveling with a U.S. passport merely have to take a photo for security and facial recognition. The process takes less than two minutes, and there are usually multiple lines to choose from.

In contrast, cruisers with a birth certificate are delegated to just one or two lines, where they must wait for a security officer to thoroughly look over their documentation. This process takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

In case of emergency, it's much better to travel with a passport to speed up the travel process and open up a wider selection of cruise itineraries and international ports.

Can I cruise without a passport?

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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