Monday, June 8, 2009

It's time to get a passport

On June 1, 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), was fully implemented (parts have been in effect for a couple of years - flying in or out of the US to foreign countries.) This final phase deals with land border crossings between the US and Mexico and the US and Canada but also cruises which is what we are about.

There is something called a "closed loop exemption" specifically for cruise passengers. In short, if your cruise begins and ends at the same US port, passengers will still be able to use a certified copy of a birth certificate and a gov't issued ID photo ID such as a driver's license (proof of citizenship and a photo to show you are who you say you are.) But it also depends on where the cruise goes.

If you are sailing a typical Caribbean cruise, for example - departing and returning to the same Florida port - this is a "closed loop." But if you were sailing a repositioning cruise from Boston to Miami for example, with several ports on the trip - Bermuda, Nassau, etc - this is not a "closed loop" and you would actually need a passport to board the ship. Another example is an Alaska Cruise North or South bound (Anchorage to Vancouver), again a passport will be required. Even Anchorage to Seattle does not fall into a "closed loop" by definition.

The place to read "the rules and requirements" is Yes, your agent should advise you properly but it is ultimately up to the traveler to present the proper documentation when checking in to board the ship.

Our best advise - "BITE THE BULLET" and get a passport. They are good for 10 years so it is a one-time expense for that time period (about $100), and then you do not have to worry about which cruise does or does not require one.