Face-Off: Passport vs. No Passport

May 29, 2013 | By | 48 Comments

Cruise Passport Beach
A hot topic among our readers during the Carnival Triumph incident has resurfaced since news broke of the fire aboard Royal Caribbean‘s Grandeur of the Seas. Cruisers are exempt from needing passports if they are on “closed loop” sailings — sailings that start and finish in the same U.S. homeport. So the question remains: Should everyone start cruising with a passport?
Let’s start with what happens to passengers who don’t have passports, in the event of a cruise ship emergency…
You can safely set aside rumors that passengers are left stranded in foreign countries if they lack proper identification. Despite the mounds of paperwork and headaches sometimes endured when trying to obtain an emergency travel document, rest assured — cruise lines won’t leave you behind if an unexpected disembarkation is required.
Passengers onboard Grandeur of the Seas luckily faced no difficulties getting back to the states. Cynthia Martinez, director of global corporate communications for Royal Caribbean International, told Cruise Critic the line has been working closely with the Bahamas immigration department to get passengers back to Baltimore in a timely manner. Even those who didn’t wish to fly are being accommodated with ferry rides to Fort Lauderdale, from which they will have the option to continue by train, bus or rental car.
Of course, the downside to not having a passport is that a swift departure is not guaranteed. Lesser, more isolated incidents have left passengers stranded for longer than anticipated, and — unless you can see the glass half full in this case — it’s not a pleasant scene.
Whether your ticket home involves a plane, ferry or hopping onboard a nearby cruise ship, the $135 for a passport might be worth schilling out. Sure, the extra fee doesn’t sound attractive when you’re trying to book the most “bang for your buck.” But if you look at it from an insurance point of view, the $1 a month for a 10-year validity might not seem so bad if an emergency were to happen.
Where do you stand when it comes to cruising with a passport? Take the poll, discuss in the comments below and chime in on our message boards.

To see what others are saying about the current passport situation on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, follow our Message Boards.
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    48 Responses to “Face-Off: Passport vs. No Passport”

    1. Barb
      May 29th, 2013 @ 10:45 am

      I don’t understand why people are opposed to purchasing a passport. Cruisers from every other country get passports as a routine matter. It is only US passengers who are exempt from being required to get a passport, and when you consider how handy they are for other reasons it is silly.

      The US Government needs to do a better job at educating the population about what a passport allows a citizen to do. The passport is the one document that provides all the documentation needed to start work at a job, get a driver’s license, etc. When a US passport is shown, no other documentation is needed!

      The first thing potential cruisers should do, when starting to consider taking a cruise, is start the passport process. Once you have one, it is much easier to take advantage of last minute deals that are not closed loop cruises in the US.

    2. Elaine
      May 29th, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

      It is certainly worthwhile to get a passport. It makes it so much easier!

    3. Dave Clark
      May 29th, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

      There is nothing wrong with getting a passport. I have one and I need to renew it now. I guess the only reason Americans are so against passports is because it is giving the government more information than they need (especially the current administration). I say that if those on Capitol Hill want us to have a passport they they need to force the issue by demanding Obama produce all of his documentation without fail. Until such time then do not require Passports….however if you plan on travelling over seas and cruise back on a pre-positioning cruise (i.e. Italy to Fort Lauderdale/Miami) then you will need a passport to enter the foreign country and again when you disembark from the ship to prove you are an American Citizen. However, why doesn’t the State Department allow the DMV/BMV of each state issue it as part of their driving record and record it on the record. That would be less paperwork an individual would have to carry with them.

    4. Pepijn
      May 29th, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

      I never understood the practice of travelling on a birth certificate anyway because you (meaning US citizens) should not be able to get back into your country: I am amazed that Homeland Security, as strict as they mostly are, still tolerates this!
      If you travel abroad you should have a passport. No question about it. If the ship breaks down, if you miss a sailing, if you have a medical emergency causing you to be left behind, you should have proper documentation that allows you to travel home independently from any of the ports of call. And the cruise line should not even let you on the ship without it.

    5. Scott
      May 29th, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

      I’m an American who has lived overseas for 13 yyears, and I not only have a passport, but the passport card, which is great photo ID even though it isn’t valid for travel outside Canada and Mexico. Also, that $135 passport is valid 10 years. $13,50 per year is a bargain!

    6. Ken Murray
      May 29th, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

      Complaining about having to carry a passport is another example of our false sense of entitlement. If you can’t afford the cost of a passport then you can’t afford to leave the US. It’s that simple. Anytime I leave the 50 States I carry it regardless of whether or not it’s required. It’s just plain common sense.

    7. Jackie Ferguson
      May 29th, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

      I thought everyone leaving the US had to have a passport.

    8. Stephie
      May 29th, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

      Growing up, no matter how broke we were, my Mom always made sure we had passports. She would say, seriously, that ‘one never knows when they’ll have to flee the country’. Now, all of that aside, I always crack up when I see the nasty looks I get from the lines, and LINES, of people waiting to check in, sans passport, mostly because I can bypass those lines and breeze on through, quickly. The passport is worth the extra money – seriously.

    9. TPKeller
      May 29th, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

      It’s really not hard to understand. Each and every point you listed as a benefit for a passport is something that can be satisfied with another document or procedure.

      There are many decisions that we make, in all areas of our lives, where there are more expensive, more convenient options, but unless you are a Bill Gates, I would submit that in some areas you choose the less expensive solution.

      Many people do choose to invest in the convenience. But for others, it’s not a clear-cut choice.

      One specific example: there are certainly a number of folks who will take one cruise in their entire lives, and it will be a 3 night cruise to the Bahamas. When a birth certificate and driver’s license will do, would you really advise someone to incur a cost equal to 1/3 of the entire cruise fare in order to save 1 minute at the check-in desk?

      For now, the government has given us a choice. Everyone must make that choice based on their own circumstances. Obviously there are still a substantial number who choose to not get a passport quite yet.

    10. Scott F.
      May 29th, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

      I agree with Barb. A passport does cost what seems like a lot of money, but it is a recognized piece of identification world wide. You will need one even if you want to visit Canada. If there is a great deal for a 4 day stay at say Cozumel, then it is a good thing to already have. I think that a passport is the first step to widening travel horizons beyond the U.S., and is the first step to wonderful adventures waiting that you have not decided to take yet. Good for 10 years, it is the only civilian government I.D. that is good for that long.

    11. Wm H
      May 29th, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

      We have “Enhanced Drivers Licenses” in Michigan that suffice for Caribbean travel, only $45.

    12. Gina K.
      May 29th, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

      I am surprised that more people don’t have them. I scrambled this year trying to make sure everyone in our party had one. I thought they were required for the ports we were visiting even though it is close-looped. It is rather expensive considering the comparable cost of getting a copy of your birth certificate and a state issued identification card (or driver’s license). On top of that, we didn’t know that it in our area there is a one month wait list just to get into a passport acceptance office, so we had the added expense of expediting. But now it is done and we are good for 10 years (the kids are 5 years for renewal). But like Barb said, it is the only ID needed for most things, so it is better to have one than not. Plus, if we want to hop over to cruise in Europe, we are coved now.

    13. Sally Black
      May 29th, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

      We ALWAYS recommend that our passengers sail with a passport. Had passengers on Carnival Triumph all had passports, they could have disembarked in Mexico and flown home faster. Grandeur passengers were a bit luckier.
      Regardless of repeated instructions, we’ve had clients arrive at embarkation with birth certificate copies, no photo IDs etc. They were not allowed to board. We’ve had clients miss the ship in port with no way to fly home.
      Passports are very cheap investments to make in order to insure your vacations go without a hitch for the next 10 years (5 for kids).

    14. Nancy
      May 29th, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

      It seems irresponsible to leave the country without a passport, which is like a national id. Why should anyone expect a foreign govt. to consider a state issued id? How many institutions in the US accept a Mexican Drivers License, for example?

      Passports are easy to get, & in view of the price of cruises, very reasonable, if one can afford the cruise. This is a silly debate.

    15. kurt ullman
      May 29th, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

      People look at passports and getting home. However, you might also need it get from one place to another. If (for instance) you missed in one port, you would probably need it to get to the next port to rejoin the cruise.
      Another big plus, a passport takes the place of two or three things when you need to establish citizenship for a job or to replace lost drivers licences (this alone is worth the money to my mind). It isn’t just for going from one place to another.

    16. Jim D
      May 29th, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

      We never cruise without a passport.

    17. Amy
      May 29th, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

      As long as it’s a choice, folks can chose not to have one. That’s ok, so long as they understand not having one may at some point cause them inconvenience and they only have themselves to blame for not having one.

    18. B. J. Kendal
      May 29th, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

      Passports should be required whenever a person travels outside of their home country. Several years ago, I traveled outside the US with a group of students. Several of us had our passports and several of us did not. When it came time for us to return home, due to weather, we were sent to an alternate entry point. The students who DID NOT have passports, had a great deal more difficulty (plus several days waiting for proof of citizenship to be sent) passing through customs than those of us who did. Granted they had photo id’s from the state they lived in, but photo id’s DO NOT PROVIDE proof of citizenship. THE SAFEST AND BEST BET – GET A PASSPORT!!!

    19. Kim R
      May 29th, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

      Cruise lines should require them. Period. Or, short term passports (maybe 1 month) should be available for a smaller fee. I can understand people not wanting to pay the high cost, especially if they’re only taking a 3-day cruise, with no immediate plans for future international travel. But a passport simplifies the process so much and keeps your birth certificate from getting worn and tattered.

    20. Kathy
      May 29th, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

      Please! In this day and age…if you are going to travel…get a passport. It is one of the most powerful pieces of identification you can carry with you when you travel.

    21. MJ P
      May 29th, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

      National ID useful when traveling in the US, can help with identity theft, useful for setting up accounts, helps in replacing driver’s license and stolen credit cards… and that’s just at home! Why not have one? Ease of travel is the bonus!

    22. Georgiana
      May 29th, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

      I vote for passports after 9/11 my husband and I got passports just renewed, yes it is not cheap but worth it for the peace of mind.

    23. Carmina Ahmed
      May 29th, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

      I thought everyone traveling internationally needed a passport. Only makes sense to get one because a US passport makes entry to most country easy. We all have passports even my grandsons. One of them got his when he was 18 months old. I would be terrified to leave home with out my passport and a copy of it, in case it gets lost or stolen abroad a copy will make replacement easier at any US Embassy or Consulate.

    24. Cacky
      May 29th, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

      I carry my passport with me for identification even on domestic flights. I wouldn’t begin to consider international travel without it.

    25. Michael
      May 29th, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

      I’m from Australia and the only time we can leave the country is if you are on a cruise to nowhere i.e. a cruise that leaves Sydney and returns to Sydney without stopping anywhere. The problem seems to me not so much with the US Government but with the Governments of the nearby countries that allow US citizens to enter without a passport

    26. Karen
      May 29th, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

      Absolutely a passport should be required! There is no excuse for allowing any cruise ship to leave port without verifying the passengers passports.

    27. Chris
      May 29th, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

      Like Michael, I’m an Australian, and in Australia, our passport is used as one of the main ways used to prove identity in this country. And, as Michael said, we cannot travel without one, unless we are on a closed loop cruise. AND, in this country, a passport costs over $200 ($238).

    28. Phil K.
      May 29th, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

      The irony of anyone complaining about the cost of a passport when they are fully prepared to pay for the cost of a cruise is amazing. Of course I take my passport with me, no question about it. It’s just good preparedness in case of an emergency.

    29. MYRNA KANE
      May 29th, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

      Unbelievable, that in today’s world anyone would leave the United States without a passport. I was very proud to get my first passport which I have now renewed. We should appreciate how easy it is for US citizens to get a passport and if you figure the cost over ten years it is not expensive.

    30. Phillis Harrell
      May 30th, 2013 @ 9:56 am

      I think that it is very wise to get a passport. I don’t like the idea of carrying around a birth certificate. I got my passport and passport card the first time I set sail.

    31. Keith B.
      May 30th, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

      Except for our first cruise my wife and I have always carried passports when we cruise. It easier than worrying about having birth certificates, driver’s licenses, etc. And as silly as it sounds, we get them stamped at each port. Yeah we strange looks from the customs people questioning “Why?” but we’re having fun and we have something else to remind us of the wonderful time we had.
      On a serious note, if something happens (i.e. Fire on a ship in a foreign country) Passports can make everything a lot easier for everybody involved, ship personnel, passengers, customs/ immigration people.
      And don’t worry about what the government knows about you…they don’t need you getting a passport to learn anything they want to know about you.

    32. Terry
      May 30th, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

      We already have passports and they have come in handy on many occasions. Really makes thing easier all the way around. Much nicer when cruising to have a passport rather than carrying you r birth certificate and multiple forms of ID.

    33. Lori H
      May 30th, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

      I had a panic attack last year when I booked a closed loop cruise and then went to get the passports to do our online check-in. I had a vivid image in my head that I had a plastic bag with our passports, and other materials, that probably got thrown out as we were leaving our Florida home to come back to NJ. I was relieved when I learned I did not need our passports, and even more relieved when we went back to Florida 6 months later and found the passports in a drawer – that’s what I get for packing on 2-hours sleep!

    34. Dana A. Strickland
      May 31st, 2013 @ 9:46 am

      It doesn’t make a lick of sense to travel anywhere WITHOUT a passport!!! I have been telling my sister Jackie for the last few years to please get a passport because you never know what could happen on a cruise ship!! It just makes everything so much easier! The last cruise we went on; my nephew left his drivers license at home; we went thru pure hell trying to get him onto the ship; after 2 hours; he was allowed onto the ship; we had 5 mins to get on board; they told us to RUN!! We had to run with our some of our luggage thur the employees entrance; we barely made it before they closed the doors!! Hed he had a passport; it would have been so much easier and less time consuming!!

    35. Jennifer S
      May 31st, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

      My five year old granddaughter has a passport and I am getting ready to renew it next month. Even though a child has to renew every five years I still feel this is good investment as I do not worry if we would need to fly home from a cruise for whatever reason. It is also very handy to use as identification especially since she is not even old enough for a school ID. My husband and I take her with us on all of our travels and it is peace of mind to know that I can prove who she is with the passport picture and a notarized document from her Mom to show that we are allowed to travel with her.
      She has been on five cruises and numerous flights at her young age and we have never had an issue.
      I would not think of traveling without a passport and recent events should make everyone consider getting one.

    36. Ian Watson
      June 1st, 2013 @ 5:57 am

      I can not beleive that americans can leave their county with out a passport being australia we can not travel out side australia with out one. Inculding cruises it is just away of life. And to say it gives goverment more information is very hard to take as they can already tell every time you use you cell phone use your credit card I can not see why people are so against getting a passport I guess different counteys different standards.

    37. Deanna Blodgett
      June 15th, 2013 @ 9:59 am

      My family got passports for a trip to Canada several years ago. This has been a godsend for us. We were able to take a last minute cruise with them last year because already had all of their documentation. Also, in Ohio you can get non driver state issued id’s for your kids. Each of my daughters has one, it has helped us when flying and it also helps them prove their age when there are requirements.

    38. DWJoe
      June 16th, 2013 @ 10:07 am

      4th choice: I don’t judge other people’s choice to get a passport or not. And I don’t see why some posters feel compelled to do so. Know your ID options, and know the pros and cons. Isn’t that what CC should be about? Education folks as to their choices?

    39. Jim F.
      June 25th, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

      Ok, I understand that rules are rules. Now someone tell me WHY a passport card is not valid for air travel from Caribbean countries back to the states. I know, that’s the rule. Now someone tell me WHY that’s the rule. I had to fill out the exact same background information about myself as with a passport booklet. So why the no-fly rule? Other than the government pocketing the fee which is twice as much. Ridiculous.

    40. Milt
      August 4th, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

      Woowwwww, people sure do love exercising their freedom of speech. I know the laws, but stopped by this dandy of a site, merely to get clarification on the closed-loop stuff. Yes it is only $135 for a Passport…that’s not even a point of argument. Our vacation is in two weeks, and we’re trying to get some travel ideas. An Expedited passport is a whole lot extra and takes 2-3 weeks. So my choices are go on a closed trip or don’t go at all. Intelligently, I’d pick the latter, but some other people may just want to take that risk and go anyway. I myself am not that adventurous, but thank you ever so much Gina for providing this information. ON TO VEGAS!!

    41. Aaron
      August 7th, 2013 @ 9:57 am

      I have cruised twice without a passport and found no difficulties at all, of course we just go to Mexico which is very easy to enter or leave the US without a passport anyway so I figured why bother paying the extra money? It only cost us $199 pp for our last cruise, it would nearly double the price to get them. If an emergency comes up and we had to go to an embassy, well so be it.

    42. michelle
      September 2nd, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

      Well, I agree that you SHOULD have a passport but I recently had a vacation canceled but time off and found a really cheap cruise and I am going without a passport because it would cost almost DOUBLE what the cruise cost just to get it in time. So while I have applied, I am not waiting for my passport to arrive before I leave, I will have to take my chances and hope for the best. But on the flip side, if anything happens, I will not blame anyone but myself for not having one ahead of time when I’ve been dreaming of cruises for the last few months. Just keep in mind that not everyone is against them if they don’t have them.

    43. Pat
      September 9th, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

      Passports are very expensive for some people. There are 4 people in my family and I cannot afford to buy passports for 4 people. I think the chances of us needing one on our upcoming Caribbean cruise is so small that I will have to pass. Not everyone can afford to buy one!!

    44. Pat
      November 6th, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

      The reason that I’m reluctant to purchase one is that we are a family of 4 and that will be $540. It was already hard to shell out the 3K for the cruise, not to mention saving up for the shore excursions and other expenses. And now I have to pay another $540 for passports that I don’t absolutely need?? We don’t have a lot of money, and that’s a big added expense so I’m not sure we will do it.

    45. Jacqueline
      February 21st, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

      My husband and I keep going back and forth on this issue. We are a family of 6 and are only able to take a big vacation every other year. Our children range from 12-16 and we are doubtful we would use a passport again. I agree that there should be some type of temp passport at a reduced cost for these instances. I have been reading lots of blogs about people cruising without them, they always do etc. I’m still hesitant but my husband says why pay almost an additional $1000.00 for something that will probably not be used again……

    46. Tracy
      March 11th, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

      There are some really arrogant replies in here about people who don’t have a passport. Did it occur to anyone that the cost passports for a family of four is as much as the cost of an additional person on the cruise? And before anyone says ‘if you can’t afford it don’t go’ I should remind them that that’s a very snobbish way of thinking.

    47. Azzitude
      September 14th, 2015 @ 8:34 pm

      So in case all you people don’t know why some people like myself don’t get a passport it’s simple

      if you get married, have a kid and get divorced you will owe child support ….. as long as you owe child support weather current on payments or not you will be denied a passport.

      This is our wonderful gov’t @ work

    48. MM
      September 30th, 2015 @ 6:32 pm

      I agree with Azzitude here… I arrived at this page while looking for passport requirements for a cruise. My fiancé is paying back child support from when he was unemployed during the recession. He’s been paying as agreed for quite some time, but still cannot get a passport until paid in full. Some people don’t realize that it is not always a choice. If the US wants to make it a national ID requirement to travel anywhere, then they should not be able to revoke it so easily either.

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