US cruise passengers catch a break with new passport rules


Many cruise passengers sailing from U.S. ports are exempt from new rules that take effect today requiring U.S. citizens to have a passport when returning from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and Caribbean nations.

The final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires Americans to have a passport or one of several new official documents, in order to return from these nearby countries that Americans could formerly visit with just a driver’s license.

Cruisers are exempt from the new rule if they travel on a “closed-loop sailing” cruise, or any itinerary that begins and ends from the same U.S. port.

So if you cruise from Miami to Los Angeles, you will need a passport. But if you take a round-trip cruise from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera, even thought you stop in Mexico, you don’t need a passport.

Most US cruises do begin and end in the same place. Notable exceptions are the Panama Canal cruises and some Alaska routes.

Cruisers on closed-loop itineraries however, will now need to have two forms of identification – a valid, government-issued photo ID and proof of citizenship. So you would need both a driver’s license and a birth certificate even on a round-trip cruise from Miami.

Despite the loophole, travel agents are still encouraging cruisers to get passports.

“It is strongly recommended to get the passport, as you are traveling to foreign countries and never know if you have to return early,” said Stewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert and president of “The passport will save a lot of inconvenience.”

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