Personal identification and travel documents you’ll need to go aboard for your cruise

Taking a cruise to foreign ports of call is an exciting and easy way to explore new countries. Not many other types of vacations allow travelers to visit two or three countries in one week. To do this, though, it’s imperative to have the necessary travel documents. Required documents may not be the same for each country, so ensure you have what you need to get on board.

Ready to board

For U.S. citizens boarding a ship that departs from and returns to the same U.S. city – a closed-loop cruise – the paperwork is simple: Bring an original or a copy of a birth certificate issued by a government agency (state, county or city) or Department of Health and Vital Statistics, plus a valid, unexpired government-issued photo I.D. for anyone 16 years and older. Before the cruise, all passengers should complete online check-in to enter their travel documentation, which expedites the boarding process at the pier. But everyone must bring the paper documents with them or risk being denied permission to board.

Other acceptable documents include:

  • valid U.S. passport – best if the passport doesn’t expire within six months of the cruise
  • U.S. passport card
  • state enhanced driver’s license, or EDL
  • original U.S. Naturalization certificate and a government-issued photo ID
  • Native American Indian tribal documents with affixed photo ID
  • Kootenai Tribe Enhanced Tribal Card with affixed photo ID

Military identification of any kind is not an acceptable document.

If a cruise originates in a non-U.S. port or starts and returns in different U.S. cities, a valid U.S. passport is required along with any travel visas required by the departure country. All travelers should check with their travel agents and the country of departure for the most current visa requirements for the specific departure country.

Exploring the ports 

Note that these travel documents are required to board a Carnival cruise ship only. They are not necessarily acceptable to enter each port of call on the cruise itinerary. It is important to check with a travel agent or the home country of the port to find out if additional documentation is required. Some countries, like Mexico and the Bahamas, are well-versed in working with Carnival Cruise Line and its passengers, so they permit passengers to enter and exit the country using U.S. birth certificates and government-issued photo identifications. However, not every country follows this practice, so be prepared to provide additional travel documents when visiting foreign ports of call.

A minor addition

Minors can board a Carnival cruise ship that departs from a U.S. port using a U.S. birth certificate and, for those 16 to 18 years old, their government-issued photo identification. However, if minor children are traveling without one or both of their parents or legal guardians, they should have original, signed documentation by one or both parents or legal guardians stating the minors have permission to travel with the other parent or individual in charge of the minor. This document helps expedite processing by the Department of Homeland Security, and may be required by the governments of some ports of call.

While these various forms of identification are acceptable to take a cruise and even to visit some foreign ports of call, Carnival Cruise Line highly recommends that every cruise passenger have a valid passport that does not expire within six months of the cruise dates. A valid passport is the best, most efficient way to prove identity and citizenship, and will be accepted wherever travelers go.

Visiting foreign lands is one of the major benefits of taking a Carnival cruise vacation. To ensure everyone gets to visit those destinations, make sure all passengers in your travel group have the necessary travel documentation.