U.S Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs
Cruise Ship Passengers
U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.
This is a fluid situation. CDC notes that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships. Passengers with plans to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information and continue to monitor the Travel.state.gov website and see the latest information from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/index.html.
Downloadable PDF card to take with you while you travel.
Special Note for Cuba Travel:
- Ensure shore excursions and purchases comply with U.S. regulations.
- U.S. credit and debit cards do NOT work in Cuba. Bring enough cash to cover your stay. This includes hotels, restaurants, taxis, souvenir shops, etc.
If You Choose to Travel:
- Read our Traveler’s Checklist and make sure to:
- Research your destination to learn about important health and safety precautions to take.
- Check our country information for the countries you will be visiting. Make a list of the contact information of the U.S. embassy and consulates there in case of an emergency
- Always bring your passport in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port in an emergency, even if your cruise says you won’t need it.
- Apply early for your passport, or make sure your current one will be valid at least six months beyond your travel dates and has two or more blank pages.. Your cruise company may also require you to have a passport even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not.
- Have the right foreign visas for all stops on your cruise, if required, even if you do not plan to disembark in those locations.
- Check our country information for the countries you will be visiting. Make a list of the contact information of the U.S. embassy and consulates in case of an emergency.
- Sign up for our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive important safety and security information. Follow @TravelGov on Twitter and/or Facebook for travel and security information as well.
- Have medical, emergency evacuation, and other insurance to cover unexpected travel expenses when abroad. Check with your cruise line, travel agency, health/homeowner’s insurance providers, credit card companies, and other sources to learn what they do and do not cover overseas. Consider buying supplemental insurance.
- Have a plan for returning home if you are removed from the ship and placed into quarantine.
- Make color copies of your passport photo page, foreign visas, and itinerary. Leave one copy with a trusted family member or friend and carry one separately from your actual documents.
Check with your doctor to:
- Find out if traveling abroad is medically safe for you and whether you need any vaccinations and/or assistive devices on your trip.
- Check with the foreign country’s embassy in the United States to make sure all your medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) are legal in each country you visit and whether there are limits on the quantity or other special instructions for bringing them in. For some medications, you may need a letter from your doctor. Carrying it in the prescription bottle might not be enough “proof.”
- Ensure you have enough of your prescription medications to last a week beyond your trip dates, in case of possible delays. Some countries may not have equivalents of your prescription and over-the-counter medications.
- Carry a written copy of all your prescriptions with you in case a country requires it or you need to replace your medications.
During Your Cruise:
- Remain vigilant and exercise normal precautions aboard a cruise ship and on shore, as you would whenever traveling abroad.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Ensure cabin safety and make sure the door and balcony are properly locked at all times.
- Consider storing your travel documents and other valuables in a secure spot, such as a room or ship’s safe.
- Talk to the security personnel on board if you are the victim of a crime. The cruise ship will have procedures in place for handling a crime onboard.
- When you come ashore, follow local laws and customs. If you break the law, you will be subject to the justice system of the host country
- If you are the victim of a crime on shore, report it to local authorities, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, and to cruise ship security personnel.
- If you lose your passport, report it immediately to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and make arrangements to get a replacement passport, for a fee.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Ask your cruise line about:
- What their procedures are in case of emergency.
- How family members can contact you in an emergency, such as cell or satellite phone coverage and/or an e-mail address for emergencies.
- What types of medical services your ship can provide, such as basic or urgent care, hospitalization, dialysis, etc.
- Check your cruise line’s prohibited items list when considering what to take with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
I am taking a cruise. Do I need a passport?
We recommend that everyone taking a cruise from the United States have a passport book. Though some “closed-loop” cruises may not require a U.S. passport, we recommend bringing yours in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port. Also, your cruise company may require you to have a passport, even if U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not.
I heard you can get a passport card instead of a passport book for a cruise, is that true?
You can use the passport card to reenter the United States at sea ports of entry from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. However, if you are not able to return on the cruise ship for any reason (e.g., for an emergency evacuation, you will need a passport book to fly back to the United States.
If I’m not required to have a passport for my cruise, why should I get one?
Unexpected circumstances can come up that make it impossible to return to the United States on the cruise ship. Here are some examples:
- Illness or Injury – Depending on the severity of your illness or injury, you may have to be admitted to a local hospital overseas. If you cannot be discharged before the cruise ship is scheduled to depart, the cruise ship may leave without you. In this case, you would need a U.S. passport to fly home upon clearance from your doctor.
- Damage to cruise ship – Occasionally cruise ships are damaged or have mechanical issues that cannot be fixed during your trip. In these cases, you might need to go ashore in a country which requires a passport and/or you would need a U.S passport book to fly home.