You've decided you want a vacation, but there's a problem -- you don't have a passport. Maybe you've never had the time, money or desire to travel abroad previously, or perhaps your old passport has expired. Whatever the reason, you still have choices.
One option is to take a closed-loop cruise -- a round-trip sailing that leaves from and returns to the same U.S. port. For that, you need only a birth certificate and a driver's license (or other acceptable, government-issued photo ID).
You can't cruise just anywhere on a closed-loop sailing, but the choices are more interesting than you might expect. Below, we've compiled a list of seven places to visit without a passport, from scenic Alaska to the beachy Caribbean.
If you love the great outdoors and want to surround yourself with nature, an Alaska cruise is perfect. Sail past glaciers; spot whales, moose and bald eagles; capture breathtaking photos on a mountaintop train ride; and cuddle with sled dog puppies. Or just enjoy a meal of fresh salmon or crab while you're ashore -- no passport needed.
Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles are the only U.S. departure ports that offer closed-loop Alaska sailings.
Home to beaches, water sports, casinos and the famed Atlantis resort, the Bahamas is great for travelers wishing to cruise -- sans passports -- on what are most often short, affordable sailings out of Florida.
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A number of East Coast and Gulf Coast homeports offer round-trip Bahamas cruises. They include Baltimore, Bayonne (Cape Liberty), Charleston, Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Galveston, Jacksonville, New York (Manhattan), Miami, Norfolk and Orlando (Port Canaveral).
For anyone who'd prefer a passport-not-required destination that can be explored during a short amount of time in port, Bermuda is a natural fit. It's a fairly small island, and since several itineraries offer overnights (some that span more than one night), you'll have time to learn your way around, have dinner in town and check out the nightlife.
Residents of the East Coast have several choices when it comes to homeports, which include Baltimore, Bayonne (Cape Liberty), Boston and New York (Manhattan). Additionally, Miami, Norfolk, Charleston and Orlando (Port Canaveral), sometimes offer one-off cruises to Bermuda.
Known for everything from shopping and sunbathing to history and adventure activities like ziplining, waterfall swimming and quad bike riding, the Caribbean is a solid bet if you'd like a wider variety of closed-loop itinerary choices and departure port options. The Caribbean can be broken down into the following sub-regions:
Eastern Caribbean: U.S. Virgin Islands, French West Indies, British Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, as well as ports like Grand Turk, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia and others
Southern Caribbean: the ABC Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, French West Indies, the Dominican Republic, Grand Turk, Antigua, St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Barts, St. Vincent, Bequia, San Juan, Dominica, Grenada and others
Western Caribbean: Jamaica, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba and others
U.S. departure ports vary widely; they include Baltimore, Bayonne (Cape Liberty), Charleston, Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Galveston, New York (Manhattan), Miami, New Orleans, Orlando (Port Canaveral) and Tampa. Los Angeles and Norfolk also offer occasional one-off, closed-loop sailings to the Caribbean.
One thing to note: Some ports, including Martinique and Guadeloupe, will not allow cruisers to get off the ship and enter the country without a passport. While you might not need your passport for the other ports or the cruise in general, you could find yourself needing one -- even on closed-loop voyages -- in order to visit these ports.
Canada and New England
Cruises to Canada and New England are every autumn-lover's dream. Known for their leaf-peeping opportunities, maritime history and ultra-friendly locals, these voyages don't necessitate passports.
Baltimore, Bayonne (Cape Liberty), Boston and New York (Manhattan) are the embarkation ports that serve these itineraries.
Part of America but still exotic enough for an ideal getaway, Hawaii offers black-sand beaches, volcanic vistas, surfing opportunities, amazing food and, of course, hula dancing. A closed-loop cruise to this part of the map often means flying to Honolulu, which you can do passport-free, but airfare can be pricey. Closed-loops from the West Coast are also available, but they involve a large number of sea days, and they must include at least one foreign port before returning to the West Coast, due to maritime laws for foreign-flagged ships.
Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America and UnCruise's Safari Explorer, both U.S.-flagged vessels, are the only cruise ships based in Hawaii. Pride of America sails round-trip from Honolulu, while Safari Explorer offers cruises between Molokai and the Big Island. Other lines and ships offer there-and-back Hawaii itineraries from ports like San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Mexican Riviera voyages are a great choice for passport-less would-be cruisers who live on (or cruise from) the West Coast. Not only does Mexico offer some spectacular food and culture, but sailings to the region tend to be more affordable than those to Hawaii, a region that's also frequently accessed via West Coast homeports.
Mexico cruises most frequently depart from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.