Important Passport Information for Cruisers

When you set sail, do you really need a passport? Picture this scenario: each time you sail with Disney Cruise Line you will leave the port of origin, sail through international waters, dock in ports of call of various nations and then sail to your final destination (which is often your original port of departure). With all of that overseas travel, you might be surprised that a passport may not be required for you to travel, but that doesn’t mean that I would ever leave home without one.

Passport

What is Disney Cruise Line’s Policy on Passports and Travel Documentation?

This varies not only by port of departure but also by your country of citizenship. Instead of going through the myriad of port/citizenship configurations, here is the policy directly from DCL:

DCL: Passports and Travel Documentation

Disney Cruise Line produced this thorough document to provide guests with the most up to date information regarding international travel.

Disclaimer ** When it comes to this important topic, I will always defer to DCL policy as well as guidance from the United States Department of State. In this article I will provide my own opinions and experience with my own personal travel. **

Why Should I Get a Passport if My Cruise Doesn’t Require It?

Generally speaking, United States citizens on closed loop cruises – cruises which begin and end in the same U.S. port of departure – do not require passports for passage. Alternative proof of citizenship documents may be presented. Please see this list for specifics: DCL Passports and Travel Documentation

So, why should you go through the trouble and expense of obtaining a passport for your cruise if it isn’t required?

As long as you know the risk factors for traveling without a passport, and you are comfortable with that risk, then you can certainly sail with the alternate documentation that Disney allows for U.S. citizens on closed loop cruises.

What Are the Risks of International Travel Without a Passport?

If you choose to sail without a U.S. Passport please be aware of the following:

  • If there is any question of the authenticity of your birth certificate at the port, you could be denied passage.
  • If you miss the ship at a port of call (even if it is the fault of the Port Adventure provider), international air travel will likely be required to catch up to the ship – a process which is immensely expedited by having a passport.
  • If there is an accident or health emergency at sea, and you need to fly home, you will need a passport.
  • If there is an emergency back home, requiring you to disembark in a foreign port to fly home, you will need a passport.
  • Port Adventures which cross borders may require you to have a passport (it will be noted in the description of the excursion).

There are numerous other scenarios, but these are the most common.

Why I Always Travel With Passports

I am old enough to remember the old days of air travel. ID checks were done once at the check in counter, and the metal detector check was really just precautionary. Fast forward to 2017, where my drivers license is usually checked no fewer than twice, but often three times, before I board a plane. TSA checkpoints have massive lines. I have to take off my shoes – ew – and go into a full body scanner. And all of that is just for domestic travel.

Simply stated, travel (especially international travel) has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. When adding the additional factor of traveling to foreign nations and navigating customs upon return, having a passport makes sense. A passport is a 2-in-1 ID: it works as your photo ID plus your proof of citizenship, and it is valid in every port of call and port of departure around the globe.

Photo IDs for Minors (especially young teens)

This is a big deal for me. I like the peace of mind of having a government issued photo ID for my children who are too young to drive. Older teens often look like young adults. Passports are an instant way to provide a date of birth – and proof that they are in fact minors –  to foreign authorities should it be requested.

On our last family cruise, my oldest son celebrated his 17th birthday aboard the ship. The last day of the cruise was spent at Castaway Cay. Prior to returning to the ship he was stopped by the Bahamian authorities for an ID check (as were several other guests). He did have his learners permit, but children younger than 18 generally do not need any form of photo ID with them, but since he looks older than his age, he was stopped. Of course, he was allowed to pass without incident, and the authorities even remarked that he looked older than he was.

Our incident was benign, but I like having the peace of mind that that little passport book provides.

U.S. Passport Information

For the most up to date information on obtaining or renewing your United States Passport, pleases visit the U.S. Department of State’s Passports and International Travel site.

Processing time is approximately 6-8 weeks. Though, I will say our latest round of passport renewals took just over 4 weeks (and that was with issues regarding paperwork submission). In other words, give yourself plenty of time.

DCL Prep School Tip: Make copies of everything. Better yet, make two copies. If you are applying for passports, the State Department will require you to submit original birth certificates.

While the state department had my son’s birth certificate, his baseball league needed a copy. If I didn’t have one, it could have prevented him from playing. Copies to the rescue.

Final Thoughts

It’s up to each family to asses the benefits and risks of obtaining a passport. Many closed-loop cruisers sail happily without them. Others prefer to have passports at their fingertips. If you cruise without one, please read the Disney Cruise Line Passports and Travel Identification guidelines thoroughly to prevent a delay (or denial) at boarding.

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