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International Travel

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Before You Go

Cruise Ship Passengers

Cruise ship travel is an increasingly popular way for U.S. citizens to see the world. Millions of U.S. citizens embark on cruise ships without incident. However, it is important to be prepared so you can enjoy your trip with peace of mind. Here are some things to consider when planning your next cruise adventure.

Downloadable PDF card to take with you while you travel. 

Special Note for Cuba Travel: U.S. credit and debit cards do NOT work in Cuba. Bring enough cash to cover your stay. This includes hotels, restaurants, taxis, souvenir shops, etc. 

Before You Travel

Read our Traveler’s Checklist and make sure to:

  • Research your destination to learn about important health and safety precautions to take.
  • Apply early for your passport, or make sure your current passport will be valid at least six months beyond your travel dates and has two or more blank pages. Though some “closed-loop” cruises may not require a U.S. passport, we recommend bringing yours in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port in an emergency. Your cruise company may also require you to have a passport even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not require it.
  • Have the right foreign visas for all stops on your cruise, if required, even if you do not plan to disembark in those locations.
  • Take with you a list of U.S. embassies and consulates located in the countries you will be visiting, in case you have an emergency.
  • Sign up for our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive important safety and security information about the countries where you will travel. Follow @TravelGov on Twitter and/or Facebook for travel and security information as well.
  • Have medical, emergency evacuation, and other insurance to cover unexpected travel expenses when abroad. Check with your cruise line, travel agency, health/homeowner’s insurance providers, credit card companies, and other sources to learn what they do and do not cover overseas. Consider buying supplemental insurance.
  • Make color copies of your passport photo page, foreign visas, and itinerary. Leave one copy with a trusted family member or friend and carry one separately from your actual documents.

Check with your doctor to:

  • Find out if traveling abroad is medically safe for you and whether you need any vaccinations and/or assistive devices on your trip. 
  • Make sure all your medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) are legal in each country you visit and whether there are limits on the quantity or other special instructions for bringing them in. For some medications, you may need a letter from your doctor. Carrying it in the prescription bottle might not be enough “proof.”
  • Ensure you have enough of your prescription medications to last a week beyond your trip dates, in case of possible delays. Some countries may not have equivalents of your prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Carry a written copy of all your prescriptions with you in case a country requires it or you need to replace your medications.

During Your Cruise

  • Remain vigilant and exercise normal precautions aboard a cruise ship and on shore, as you would whenever traveling abroad.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. 
  • Ensure cabin safety and make sure the door and balcony are properly locked at all times. 
  • Consider storing your travel documents and other valuables in a secure spot, such as a room or ship’s safe.
  • Talk to the security personnel on board if you are the victim of a crime. The cruise ship will have procedures in place for handling a crime onboard.
  • When you come ashore, follow local laws and customs. If you break the law, you will be subject to the justice system of the host country
  • If you are the victim of a crime on shore, report it to local authorities, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, and to cruise ship security personnel.
  • If you lose your passport, report it immediately to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and make arrangements to get a replacement passport, for a fee.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

  • Check travel.state.gov to find out about additional challenges some travelers might face abroad, such as older travelers, those with disabilities, women, and LGBTI persons.
  • Ask your cruise line about:
    • What their procedures are in case of emergency.
    • How family members can contact you in an emergency, such as cell or satellite phone coverage and/or an e-mail address for emergencies.
    • What types of medical services your ship can provide, such as basic or urgent care, hospitalization, dialysis, etc.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I am taking a cruise. Do I need a passport?

Depending on where your cruise starts and ends, you may not need a passport, but we recommend everyone who takes a cruise that leaves the United States has a passport book. Also, your cruise company may require you to have a passport, even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection do not.

Check here to see if you are required to have a passport for your upcoming cruise.

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I heard you can get a passport card instead of a passport book for a cruise, is that true?

You can use the passport card to reenter the United States at sea ports of entry from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. However, if you are not able to return on the cruise ship, you will still need a passport book to fly back to the United States.

Additional Resources:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection - Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Frequently Asked Questions

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If I’m not required to have a passport for my cruise, why should I get one?

Unexpected circumstances can come up that make it impossible to return to the United States on the cruise ship. Here are some examples:

1. Illness or Injury – Depending on the severity of your illness or injury, you may have to be admitted to a local hospital overseas. If you cannot be discharged before the cruise ship is scheduled to depart, the cruise ship may leave without you. In this case, you would need a U.S. passport to fly home upon clearance from your doctor.

2. Damage to cruise ship – Occasionally cruise ships are damaged or have mechanical issues that cannot be fixed during your trip. In these cases, you would need a U.S passport book to fly home.


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