Are you looking for a cheap way to see the Caribbean? If you don’t mind working and learning new skills, you can often find a position as a crew member on a private boat. If you have experience sailing, you might even make a little bit of cash. But don’t worry, some boats will take you even if you are a complete landlubber, although you might have to pay a small fee each night for the privilege.
The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler wrote an excellent article about his experiences as part of the crew on a schooner called the S.V. Illusion, which took him around the Caribbean for the bargain price of $55 per day. Go read the entire article…it sounds like he had one heck of a trip!
You may not need prior sailing experience to get a job on a schooner, but there’s one thing you definitely do need: a US passport. This is true even if you are just sailing to the Mexico, Caribbean or to Canada. In June of this year, the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) became effective, requiring that US citizens traveling to Mexico, the Caribbean or Canada by land or by sea carry US passports prove their identity and citizenship.
One of the exceptions to the WHTI is for cruise ship passengers on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same US port). However, joining the crew of a private boat is not the same as sailing on a cruise ship. You must have a US passport to re-enter the country.
Don’t let the ship sail without you-make sure to allow enough time for your new passport to arrive in the mail. If you apply with regular service, you should allow at least 6 weeks for it to arrive in the mail. The government’s expedited service takes about 3 weeks.
For faster passport service, a private passport expediting service like RushMyPassport.com is a great investment. With RushMyPassport, you’ll be assigned a case manager who will help you with the process of filling out your paperwork and gathering the necessary documents. Then, we’ll hand-deliver your application to the Department of State, for processing times as low as 24 hours.