Yet Another Reason to Get a Passport

I just read another tragic post on one of the cruise chat rooms from a gentleman who was taking his first big trip of his life to celebrate a milestone anniversary with his wife. When they got to the pier they learned that the documents that they had believed to be their actual birth certificates were actually just documents stating that the birth certificates were on file with the state.

I can’t imagine anything worse than to arrive at the pier thinking that I had the proper documentation only to learn then that it is insufficient, and it was too late for me to rectify the situation. How tragic to have such a wonderful experience ruined by an honest mistake.

The best piece of advice that I can offer potential cruisers is to get a Passport. The US Department of State list the following ID as acceptable for travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean:


  • U.S. citizens need to present either (a) a passport, passport card (available in spring 2008), or WHTI-compliant document; or (b) a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, along with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.


  • On June 1, 2009, the U.S. government will implement the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The proposed rules require most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have a passport, passport card, or WHTI-compliant document.

Passports are already required for travel from the US to areas outside the US other than the ones mentioned above.

While you might be able to travel with a driver’s license and a birth certificate until June 2009, don’t risk getting to the pier only to learn that you documentation is not exactly what you need. Sometimes people mistake hospital certificates for real thing, or in case of the man who inspired this article, some people mistake similar state documents for the real thing.

If you are even considering taking a cruise in the next year, go ahead and start the passport application now. It will take several months to get the paperwork processed, but when the passport arrives, you will have the gold standard, official documentation for foreign travel. Most cruise destinations do not require visas, but always check with your cruise company to make sure that visas are not an additional requirement.

For more information on the passport application process visit the US Department of State website.