In June, getting a passport became mandatory for Americans traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean via land or sea. However, there is an exception: You don’t need a passport if you are traveling to these areas on a closed-loop cruise, which is a cruise that begins and ends at the same US port.
Technically, all you need to go on a closed-loop cruise to any of these three regions is photo ID and a state-issued copy of your birth certificate or naturalization certificate to prove that you are a US citizen. In this article from The Washington Post, a representative from the US State Department also recommends bringing legal proof of a name change, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order, if your name has changed since your birth certificate was issued.
However, even if you don’t need a passport for your cruise, you should consider getting one anyway. For one thing, ALL US citizens returning from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean by air must present passports to re-enter the country. Hopefully, your cruise goes off without a hitch-but what if there were an emergency and you did need to fly home?
Plus, if your name has changed since you were born, you’ll have to tote around 2 important paper documents: your birth certificate and the legal proof of name change. If you bring your passport with you, that’s all you need-you can leave your birth certificate and other documents at home.
Getting a passport does take time, so it’s a good idea to apply well in advance. Right now, it is taking the Department of State at least 6 weeks to process a passport application with regular processing, and at least 3 weeks to process applications for applicants who request expedited service.
A private passport expediting company can make getting a passport easier and faster, too. They’ll help you with the paperwork, and offer checklists that prevent you from making common accidental mistakes that can hold up your application. Then, they will hand-deliver the application to the Department of State, resulting in processing times as low as 24 hours.