Cruise Ship Passengers

Consider downloading this Cruise Ship Travel Tips PDF to take with you while you travel.  

Special Notes for Cuba Travel: 

  • Ensure shore excursions and purchases comply with U.S. regulations
  • U.S. credit and debit cards do NOT work in Cuba. Bring enough cash to cover your stay. This includes payment for hotels, restaurants, taxis, souvenir shops, etc. 

Before your cruise: 

  • Make sure you review the latest CDC guidance on cruise ship travel
  • Read our Traveler’s Checklist . 
  • Check our country information pages for the countries you will be visiting to learn about important health and safety precautions to take. Write down the contact information for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in case of an emergency. 
  • Always carry your passport book with you in case of an emergency. You may need your passport in the event of an unexpected medical evacuation or if the ship docks at an alternate port. You should bring your passport even if your cruise says you won’t need it. 
  • Apply early for your passport, or make sure your current one will be valid at least six months beyond your travel dates and has two or more blank pages. Your cruise company may also require you to have a passport even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or foreign port of entry does not. 
  • Have the right foreign visas for all stops on your cruise, if required, even if you do not plan to disembark in those locations. 
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You will get important safety and security info. Follow us @TravelGov on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for travel and security information. 
  • Make sure you have medical and emergency evacuation insurance that will cover your trip. Consider buying supplemental insurance. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover medical costs overseas. 
  • You may also need other insurance for unexpected travel expenses when abroad. Check with your cruise line or travel agency to see if they provide such coverage. You can also check with your health or homeowner’s insurance providers and credit card companies, which sometimes provide this coverage overseas. If not, consider buying supplemental insurance.
  • Have a contingency plan for returning home if you must remain in a foreign country longer than expected. 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. Make sure to take a photo of your travel documents with your phone to have electronic copies as well.

Medication and vaccination requirements: 

  • Check with your doctor to make sure that traveling abroad to your destinations is medically safe for you and whether you need any vaccinations and/or assistive devices on your trip.  
  • Check with the foreign country's embassy in the United States. They can tell you whether your medications are legal in each country you visit. Also, find out if there are limits or 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.” Remember, you are required to follow the local laws of the countries you visit, including with respect to medications, even if those laws differ from the laws of the United States.
  • Ensure you have enough of your prescription medications to last 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. 

Ask Your Cruise Line: 

  • 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. 
  • Check your cruise line’s prohibited items list when considering what to take with you. 

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 safe in your room or the ship’s safe. 
  • Talk to the security personnel on board if you are the victim of a crime. The cruise ship should have procedures in place for handling a crime onboard. 
  • Follow local laws and customs. If you break the law, you may be arrested and prosecuted.
  • 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 right away to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Make plans to get a new passport as soon as possible.  
  • Follow CDC guidance after you disembark.

Other Things to Keep in Mind:

Check our travelers page to learn more about specific issues you might face abroad. These include special considerations for older travelers, those with disabilities, women, and LGBTQI+ travelers. 


Frequently Asked Questions

I heard you can use a passport card for a cruise, is that true?

You can use the passport card to reenter the United States at seaports of entry from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. However, if you cannot return on the cruise ship for any reason, you will need a passport book to fly back to the United States. 

Unexpected circumstances that can make it important you have a passport book include:

  • Illness or Injury – Depending on how severe your illness or injury is, 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. 
  • Damage to cruise ship – Occasionally cruise ships are damaged or have mechanical issues that cannot be fixed during your trip. In these cases, you might need to go ashore in a country which requires a passport and/or you would need a U.S passport book to fly home.

Your cruise company also may require you to have a passport, even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection or the foreign country’s border agency does not. 

Last Updated: March 5, 2024