We get this question all the time... "Do I really need a passport to cruise?"
The technical answer: if you are sailing from and back to a U.S. port - no, you can travel with a birth certificate. HOWEVER, we will always - always say that YES you do need one. Our reason is simple really. You never know what could happen while on a trip and having a passport is the best method of identification - I will say that again - a passport is the BEST method of identification to make sure you can get in and out of the U.S. with as little hassle as possible.
I just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas and I witnessed a passenger and their family have to disembark the ship in Nassau. Get this...are you ready for it.... for a broken arm. While the ships have fantastic medical centers (I know personally, but that story is for another post), they cannot accommodate every type of medical need. Let's face it, accidents happen and none are planned, or they wouldn't be called accidents.
As I watched the family have their luggage removed, and an ambulance arrive at the port to take the passenger to the local hospital, I was instantly reminded and relieved that my entire family of 10 were traveling with valid passports. While yes, the Bahamas are only a short distance from the U.S., folks, you need a passport to enter and leave the country - as well as return to the U.S. Sadly, this is not the first time I have witnessed a passenger have to disembark a ship for a medical need. It happens. A lot.
"But Jenn, Passports are expensive." you may say.
Ok, let's take a look at that for a moment. A new passport will cost you anywhere from $135-200. This depends on how you send it, where you get your pictures taken, who prepares the forms etc. For adults, your passport is valid for 10 years, children 5 years. Of course, if you gain/lose lots of weight, get married/divorced etc. you would need to get a new one sooner, but for this argument let's assume that you will need one adult passport for 10 years. At a higher number of $200 per passport, over 10 years, you are looking at $1.67 a month for protection and freedom to travel safely. Even if you look at the yearly cost of $20 per year, it is very affordable, not to mention it's a trusted form of identification - EVERYWHERE.
So you purchase the passport - does that mean you only need to use it for cruises or international flights? NOPE! Use it when you can, going on a plane from Orlando to NYC.. use it instead of your drivers license for identification. Got a new job and need to provide proof us citizenship? BAM - you have a passport.
I know this can seem silly, but Nancy and I hear it often. We get it, one more hassle to deal with. Paperwork, time out of your day, an inconvenience of driving to a passport center etc. We would not recommend it if we did not know first hand why it is so valid of an argument. Trust us, be protected and breathe a little easier knowing you are one step closer to being prepared for anything.
We are here for you!
For more information on the process, prices etc. visit the U.S. Passports and International Travel website.