Yesterday, I was perusing a few news articles, emails, etc., over lunch, and a marketing email came in from Royal Caribbean. It contained… wait for it…. tips for the first time cruiser. You might remember I wrote a little 3-part primer on the topic not too long ago.

The email reminded me that I failed to mention something extraordinarily important – travel documents. I can be excused a little (but not fully) because I have called a passport the cheapest travel insurance you can buy for your cruise on this blog more than once. I view a passport as something as natural to have as a driver’s license, so maybe I’m a little jaded about the idea. The truth is, the passport question is one I get more often than any other from new cruisers. It always surprises me, but perhaps it shouldn’t. According to this article from 2012, just over 1/3 of Americans actually have a passport, and that was celebrated in the article as a big improvement over past years.

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My advice to any cruiser, first timer or not, if you do not have a passport you should get one. Yes, I’m aware that “closed loop” cruises which begin and end in the same US port do not require them. Yes, I’m aware that getting a passport does have a cost in funds and in a little time. You’re leaving the country, you need a passport. What if you miss the ship in a port of call? What if you get sick, and need to be medivac’d out? You are now an American in a foreign country without a passport. Will you get home? Yes, I have no doubt you will. But the stack of paperwork along with the level of hassle and scrutiny you’ll no doubt receive strike me as exceeding the small amount of time and money you’ll invest in just getting a passport.

Going on a cruise? Please consider applying for a passport if you do not have one. You can learn more about passports and applying for one here.

-MJ, July 3, 2014