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Visas for Cruise Travel to the U.K. and Europe

Carolina Pirola

Last updated
Apr 11, 2024

Read time
4 min read

Each country has its own requirements about the paperwork visitors need to fill out before arrival. Figuring out what, if anything, you need to comply with as a cruise passenger can be bewildering, especially if your cruise itinerary includes multiple countries. Do Americans need a visa for Europe, even if they're traveling via cruise ship? What else is necessary? And what about the U.K.?

With news about changes (and subsequent delays in those changes) to European travel requirements, cruise passengers hailing from the United States often express confusion over whether they need visas for cruise travel to the United Kingdom and Europe.

Do U.S. citizens need a visa for the U.K. and Europe? What about those traveling on a cruise to these locations? Here's what we know about the latest travel requirements to head across the pond.

Do U.S. Citizens Need a Visa for U.K. Cruise Travel?

No, U.S. citizens do not need a visa for U.K. cruise travel. Unlike for travel to many other countries, U.S. citizens do not need a visa for U.K. cruise travel if their primary purpose is tourism.

The current U.K. entry requirements state that U.S. passport holders are allowed entry for up to six months for the purpose of leisure. Any cruise -- and most land vacations -- fall well within this window.

Although you are spared the hassle of getting a visa, there are a few things to bear in mind regarding your documents. Make sure your passport is valid for at least the duration of your stay in the U.K., and that it has at least one blank page. This will allow immigration officers to stamp it as you enter and exit the country.

If you are transiting through the U.K. enroute to the European Schengen Area, your passport must be valid for at least six months.

Do Americans Need a Visa for Europe Cruise Travel?

View of Delfshaven, in Rotterdam (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
The historical borough of Delfshaven in Rotterdam (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

No, U.S. citizens don't currently need a visa for traveling to Europe via cruise ship. However, starting in mid-2025, changes to the travel requirements are set to go into effect. Does this mean that Americans will need a visa for Europe? The answer is also no. The upcoming changes affecting U.S. travel to Europe is technically a pre-authorization.

The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is an "entry requirement for visa-exempt nationals traveling to 30 European countries." This translates to an online form that must be filled out before travel; it will take approximately 10 minutes to complete and will cover travel for three years. Note that there is a small cost attached.

The list of countries that will require the ETIAS includes many popular cruise destinations -- like Greece, Spain, Italy and France -- without internal borders, meaning travel between any of them won't require a visa. Although there is a lot of overlap, it's not the same as the European border-free Schengen Area, so make sure to check the U.S. Department of State before your trip for the most updated travel requirements.

It's unclear at this time whether cruise passengers will be required to complete the online registration on their own ahead of their cruise or if it will be completed through the cruise line during the booking process.

Do American Citizens Need a Visa for Non-Schengen Europe?

No, American citizens don't need a visa for Ireland and Cyprus cruise travel even though they are not part of the Schengen Area. Under the new requirements, you will be covered by the ETIAS if you are visiting Cyprus, while Ireland will not require any kind of travel authorization. Make sure that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay and that it has at least one blank page.

Am I Responsible for Tourist Taxes in European Cruise Ports Like Amsterdam?

Amsterdam houses and canal and boats
Amsterdam houses and canal and boats (Photo: Adam Coulter/Cruise Critic)

Yes and no. Tourist taxes to popular destinations, like Amsterdam, Dubrovnik and Venice, are not only being considered but in many cases, already implemented. The policy applies to day visitors -- including cruisers visiting on a port day -- and those staying overnight.

Amsterdam began charging a fee per cruiser on Jan. 1, 2019 (and has gone so far as to vote to ban cruise ships in the city center, just like Venice did). Dubrovnik followed suit at the beginning of 2021. A tourist tax for Venice was rolled out in September 2019 and has increased every year since.

Overnight visitors in Amsterdam, and select other cities, will notice a different form of the tax, typically included in the price of their accommodations.

So yes, the fee applies to all cruise passengers who visit ports with a tourist tax. However, it is ultimately absorbed into the cost of your cruise and therefore doesn't need to be handled separately or with any individual documentation -- at this time.

Publish date January 08, 2020
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