Cruise Ship Passengers

If you are considering travel on a cruise ship, please review the latest CDC guidance.

U.S. citizens who choose to travel internationally should be aware that they may face unexpected challenges related to COVID-19 as they attempt to return to the United States. Travel delays or quarantines due to COVID-19 may result in unanticipated expenses for travelers. Have a plan in case you have to remain overseas longer than expected. This includes being ready to cover additional lodging costs, flight ticket change fees, and any other additional expenses they may incur due to the unexpected extension.

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

Special Note 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.


If You Choose to Travel:

  • Make sure you review the latest CDC guidance on cruise ship travel.
  • Read our Traveler’s Checklist .
  • Research your destination to learn about important health and safety precautions to take.
  • Check our country information for the countries you will be visiting. Make a list of the contact information of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in case of an emergency.
  • Always bring your passport in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port in an emergency, 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) 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) to receive important safety and security information. Follow @TravelGov on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for travel and security information.
  • 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. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover overseas medical costs.
  • 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.

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. 
  • Check with the foreign country’s embassy in the United States to 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 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:

  • People on cruise ships should wear a mask to keep their nose and mouth covered when in shared spaces.
  • 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. 

If you are returning to an international port or disembarking an international river cruise:

  • U.S. citizens who travel internationally should be aware that they may face unexpected challenges related to COVID-19. Some countries may require mandatory quarantine on arrival if a case of COVID-19 is identified aboard your cruise ship.
  • If you travel on a cruise ship or river cruise and disembark in a foreign port, you might not be able to receive appropriate medical care or be medically evacuated if you get sick.
  • Some countries might refuse to dock your ship or allow passengers to disembark.
  • U.S. citizens who do choose to travel internationally should make contingency plans, as they may have to remain in a foreign country longer than originally planned. 

After Cruise Travel:

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Check to find out about additional challenges some travelers might face abroad, such as older travelers, those with disabilities, women, and LGBTI travelers.


Frequently Asked Questions

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

We recommend that everyone taking a cruise from the United States have a passport book. 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. Also, your cruise company may require you to have a passport, even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not.


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 for any reason (e.g., for an emergency evacuation, you will 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


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 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.
Last Updated: April 27, 2022