Cruises and Passports- Just because you don't have to doesn't mean you shouldn't!
Cruising is one of the most popular family vacations today, The opportunity to visit many different ports while having a cruise ship home base with endless activities for the week makes cruising a perfect getaway. There are 2 different types of cruises, open loop cruises and closed loop. An open loop cruise departs from one port and ends in a different port, often in another country. These cruises require a valid passport to sail. Closed loop cruises depart and return to the same port. With these cruises you do not have to have a passport to sail, you only need a birth certificate and a photo ID. While that may be all the cruise line requires there are some big reasons why you should use a passport when cruising!
There are some excursions such as the White Pass and Yukon Railway excursion on Alaskan sailings that require you to have a passport as you cross into Canada on the excursion. Also some smaller Caribbean islands require that cruise excursion guests have valid passports to take part in the excursion. You should be notified by the company hosting these excursions (either the cruise line or a third party excursion company) if passports are required for the excursion you have picked.
While no one wants to think about an emergency occurring on their vacation it is important to always be prepared. If yourself or someone you are traveling with are injured or become ill and need to fly home from a port a passport will be required in order to fly home from a foreign port. While this is unlikely it does happen. There are ways for you to get a temporary passport in the event of an emergency however this takes time which in an emergency may not be something you have. Another reason to have a passport would a mechanical failure of the ship requiring everyone to disembark. Again this is highly unlikely but has happened. Both of these instances are also reasons why you should always travel with travel protection!
While no one likes to have to fill out forms, pose for awkward pictures and pay the $135 passport fee (its less for kids!) the peace of mind you will have knowing that in an emergency there is one less thing to worry about is worth it!