Nothing embodies the idea of an island paradise like the islands of the Bahamas. With more than 700 tropical islands strewn across 100,000 square miles, and the closest island lying just 50 miles off Florida's coast, it makes perfect sense to take your vacation to this archipelago nation by cruise ship. Depending on the specifics of your cruise itinerary, you might be able to get away without bringing your passport – but it's usually a good idea to take it anyway, just in case.
Identification for Entering the Bahamas
As a general rule, U.S. citizens must have a valid passport to enter the Bahamas, along with two blank pages in your passport book for the entry stamp. Thanks to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, as long as you're traveling by cruise ship you can also enter the Bahamas with any Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative-compliant ID. This includes passports, of course, along with enhanced driver's licenses. You don't need a visa for tourist visits to the Bahamas of up to 90 days, nor do you need special vaccinations.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements are different for air travel than for land or sea travel. While you can use WHTI-compliant documents like an enhanced driver's license to enter participating countries by land or sea, if you travel by air you will need your passport.
Returning to the United States by Sea
Exactly what type of identification you need to re-enter the United States depends on where your cruise begins and ends. If you're on a closed-loop cruise, which means your cruise begins and ends at the same port of call, you can use an enhanced driver's license or another government-issued photo ID plus an official copy of your birth certificate to prove citizenship. If you're on a one-way cruise and plan to return by air, or you're taking a cruise that starts in one U.S. port and ends in another U.S. port, you'll need your passport to re-enter the United States.
Even though, technically, you don't need your passport to enter the Bahamas by cruise line or to return to the U.S. on a closed-loop cruise, it's still a good idea to bring it in case you have to return to the United States by air, whether because of an emergency like a hurricane, a problem with your cruise ship or a simple decision to extend your trip.
The U.S. State Department recommends exercising caution while visiting the Bahamas because of an increase in common violent crimes, including burglaries, armed robberies and sexual assault.