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Old 06-07-2011, 07:36 AM   #1
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Taking a Caribbean cruise w/o passports

We're taking our very first cruise in December. It is the NCL Spirit out of New Orleans to the Western Caribbean (Belieze, Cozumel, Coasta Maya, Roatan)

The deal is we are a family of 5 and do not have passports. I have read that on a closed-loop cruise (leaving and entering the same port) that you can cruise with just a photo ID (adults) and embossed, official birth certificates.

My question is, has anybody here ever cruised with just the birth certificates? Did it create any hassle when you got off the ship?

I am leaning toward not getting passports because of the shear cost ($500) for them... and then the kids' passports are only good for 5 years. We have a modest vacation budget in that we only vacay once a year, and it is usually by car. And we live 2200 mi from "home" where the rest of the grandparents/family are from, so every other year the vacation budget is blown on a trip home. So I just don't see us getting a lot of use out of $500 worth of passports in the next 5 years. I'd rather wait until we NEED the passports, and if we don't NEED them for the cruise, I don't want to spend the $$ for what may very well be a one-time use.

The ports I am not crazy about. Again, I had to be talked into this cruise, but what did it for me was 7 days of pure relaxation. I might get off the ship to go to the beach, but as far as excursions ($100/pp x 5!) I am not so interested in being crammed into a tour bus like cattle, and seeing tourist-traps. So "missing the boat" is highly unlikely.
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:39 AM   #2
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I someone gets sick, hurt, or for someother reason you need to fly home, you will have an extremely hard time. Also, your birth certificated need to be the official, embrossed ones, or you won't be able to board the ship.

JMHO, I'd never leave the country without a passport. It's just not worth the risk.
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:40 AM   #3
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The big issues with not having passports is if you get sick and need to go home early you need a passport, if you miss the ship on a shore excursion, you need a passport. I would at LEAST get passports for the adults in the group.
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:43 AM   #4
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I had a friend book a cruise last year out of ft. lauderdale. They wouldn't even allow them to board without a passport.
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:58 AM   #5
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An official, original birth certificate might be okay on a closed loop to allow you back into the US. However, don't you need a passport to enter Honduras, Belize and Mexico? If you don't plan on leaving the boat you should be okay. However, I would guess you would need a passport to actually enter the countries you are cruising to.
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:16 AM   #6
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I wouldn't risk it. You don't have to take the excursions but may just want to go explore on your own and without the passports you won't be able to get off the ship.
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:23 AM   #7
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As long as NCL doesn't have an issue with it you will be fine. I have read some cruise lines require passports even though they are not required by the Govt, not sure which cruise line(s) they were.

You can get off the ship at all those stops without a passport. Always a debate on taking your PP with you when you leave the ship or just taking a copy.

Yes you will have some delays IF for some reason you need to not complete your cruise, but that is probably a very small chance & your decision if it is worth $500.
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:26 AM   #8
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Read the cruise lines FAQs for the minimum requirement. But as an avid cruiser, I agree that it is worth the $$$ in the event something happened.

Also-the ports you are going to are AMAZING (OK, Belieze is a little sleepy unless you do an excursion). In Costa Maya, wear your bathing suit, shop around and spend a day at the big 'cruise pool' in the center of town (complete with swim up bars). Cozumel is great for strolling around and souvenier shopping. Roatan is small, but if you can swing it-go zip lining (you can easily arrange this on your own through a company call zip and clip (or is it clip and zip).


We leave on an Eastern Caribbean cruise Sunday!
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:58 AM   #9
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It's not something I would do.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:05 AM   #10
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I've never heard anything like that before. We had to have passports on the Caribbean cruises I've been on. I can't imagine not having one.

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Old 06-07-2011, 09:10 AM   #11
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I would not travel without them. I consider it part of the cost of a cruise.

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Old 06-07-2011, 09:18 AM   #12
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While passports are currently not required on closed loop cruises, I would never leave the US without a passport.

We took our passports with us on our closed loop cruise. It gave peace of mind in case an emergency would have happened.

We got them for our children, too, even though they didn't go on the cruise. As they become adults, it will make it easier for them to just re-new a passport instead of applying for their first one. Passports are the gold standard for ID.

It also makes jumping on that plane last minute to Paris a bit easier.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:35 AM   #13

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I cruise every year with a group; lots of them don't have passports.

It's not a big deal.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:47 AM   #14
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I got a passport last year for a cruise I took. I too questioned why I needed it, but everyone else in my group insisted we did.

The strange thing to me, is that when you get off the ship for an excursion, they tell you to keep it looked in your room safe. Then why do I need a passport? If I miss the ship, that passport isn't helping me at all.

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Old 06-07-2011, 09:48 AM   #15
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The very fact that you say you don't want to do official shore excursions makes it crucial to get passports, IMO. The ship will wait for those who are delayed on an official, booked through the cruise line, shore excursion. If you lose track of time on the beach, get stuck with a bad cabbie, or are otherwise delayed when you are on your own, the ship will NOT wait and you will have to fly to the next destination to meet the ship. Without passports, that could be difficult or impossible.

As others have pointed out, if anyone in your family gets sick or injured, or if God forbid anything bad happens back home, and you need to end the cruise early, you will need a passport to fly back into the U.S.

We would never dream of cruising without passports. Would you rather budget $500 now or take the gamble of needing twice that if an emergency should arise?

ETA: shirleyb, it's helping you by existing. The background checks, etc that are required for a passport take time. Once you're in the system, though, reissuing a valid passport is significantly less time-consuming. You're supposed to carry a copy of your passport when you leave the ship, or at least write down the number, and preferably leave a copy with someone at home. That way, if anything happens, you take a copy to the Embassy and they reissue the passport.

That said, we never leave the ship without our physical passports. It's required in some countries (not in the Caribbean), so we're used to being very careful with them. It's a personal choice though.
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