Norwegian Cruise Line is taking extra steps to ensure all travelers are aware of paperwork requirements prior to sailing on select voyages. Guests booked on one-way trips have received reminders that valid passports are required, even though the cruise does start and end in a US homeport.
The fact that the beginning and ending homeports differ is the critical fact, and federal law requires travelers to have a valid passport for such sailings.
Guests Need to Bring Passports
Many cruise travelers are accustomed to setting sail with a birth certificate (or other proof of citizenship) and valid driver’s license (or other government-issued photo ID) to prove their identity, but that documentation is not sufficient when a cruise begins and ends in different homeports, even when both ports are within the US.
To ensure that travelers understand the documentation requirements, Norwegian Cruise Line has sent email reminders to guests booked on such sailings, as well as to travel partners and agents with a request to ensure the information is shared with impacted guests.
“As a reminder, a valid passport is required on all sailings that begin in one US port and end in another US port,” the email reads. “Guests who fail to present a passport at embarkation will be denied boarding.”
The information is also easily available with identical wording on Norwegian Cruise Line’s website.
Furthermore, the website outlines why valid passports are strongly recommended for all guests. If a guest were to miss the ship at an international port of call, for example, a valid passport would be necessary for air travel to return to the US or to catch up with the ship at the next port of call.
If a guest were to “unexpectedly need to depart the ship from a foreign port prior to the end of sailing,” a valid passport would also be required for any subsequent air travel. This could happen do to an illness or injury to the guest or a member of their traveling party, or an emergency back home that required the guest to leave the cruise early.
Finally, the cruise line notes that “international ports of call can change their travel requirements at their own discretion and may unexpectedly require all guests to have a valid passport to go ashore.”
It must be noted that the documentation requirements for cruises has not changed recently, but cruise lines are being more proactive about reminding guests of the necessary paperwork in light of recent cases of guests left stranded or struggling without passports.
These incidents, such as the two women left in Mexico in mid-September after a scooter accident, are rare, but do occur and can happen to any traveler.
Despite online and social media “tips” about carrying photocopies or photos of passports, only the original, valid passport can be used for travel. Photocopies or pictures of official documents are not acceptable.
Carnival Cruise Line recently issued similar paperwork reminders for their guests. Guests should also note that any traveler who is not an official US citizen is required to have a valid passport that does not expire until at least six months after the end of the cruise vacation.
When Is a Passport NOT Required?
The only sailings from US homeports that do not require all cruise guests to carry a valid passport are closed-loop cruises that depart and return to the exact same homeport.
Read Also: What Is a Closed-Loop Cruise?
There are even exceptions to this guideline, however, depending on where a cruise ship visits during the sailing. If the cruise calls on ports in South America or Panama, passports are still required even if the voyage is a closed-loop cruise from a US homeport.
Because travel documentation requirements can change at any time, travelers should be aware of the proper paperwork not only when they book their sailing, but should also double-check those requirements in the weeks leading up to their cruise in case changes are made before they set sail.