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The Ultimate Royal Caribbean Cruise Tips You Need
Don’t miss our ultimate Royal Caribbean cruise tips! Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or explore new ports, we have the tips you need to make the best of your trip. Read on for advice on where to stay, what to do and see, and more!
Tips for Excursions
When planning a trip to a new cruise destination, it can be helpful to have a few tips ready so you know what to do. Whether you’re looking for information about the local culture or just want to see some of the best sights, read on for our top tips for visiting destinations on your cruise.
1. Pack a travel wardrobe that fits the climate where you’re heading. It’s important to pack versatile and comfortable clothes. This way, you can be confident that you’ll stay comfortable in the local weather.
2. Schedule your tours wisely. While each cruise destination offers different sights and activities, don’t miss out on important landmarks and attractions by booking too many tours at once. By taking the time to plan ahead, you’ll avoid missing out on anything important and save yourself time and money.
3. Take advantage of local transportation when you disembark. Buses and shuttles can be a cheaper and more convenient way to get around than renting cars or riding taxis. Not only will this save you money, but it will also give you a more personalized experience as you move from one destination to the next.
4. Bundle your sightseeing. If you have limited time in each port of call, consider combining a few different tours into one trip for a more comprehensive experience. This way, you’ll get to see more in less time and avoid feeling rushed or overwhelmed.
5. Make use of the sun loungers and other amenities. Don’t feel like disembarking at a particular stop? Spend lazy afternoons lazing by the pool instead of standing in line at the museum or zoo. With so much to see and do on your cruise ship itself, taking some time to relax will make all the difference.
If you’re one of the unlucky few who get sick on a cruise, don’t panic – there are plenty of things you can do to feel better. Here are some tips to help you get through your sickness without any hassle:
- Know the signs and symptoms of common illnesses. This can help you determine when to get medical assistance.
- Follow the cruise line’s recommendations for avoiding sickness, even if you think you know better.
- Let the ship’s doctor or nurse take care of you – don’t try to self-medicate.
- Make sure you have all of the emergency information you need – including the contact info for your cruise ship’s medical staff and for your physician back at home.
Scams are common at ports of call for cruises, so be aware of them. If you do find yourself falling victim to a scam, don’t hesitate to report it to your cruise line officials. Keep your passport, driver’s license, and other important documents safe while on your cruise, and don’t leave them unattended. Make sure you know the emergency numbers for your cruise ship, and be sure to use them if you need help.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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Closed-Loop Cruises: Everything You Need to Know
By Sue Bryant
Last updated: November 6th, 2023
- Find a Cruise
Have you ever found yourself with a few days to spare and an overwhelming desire to escape to the balmy Caribbean, or on an Alaskan adventure, then realized that you don’t have a passport, or your passport has expired? As a U.S. citizen, you can take advantage of the convenience of what’s called a closed-loop cruise—with no passport required.
What is a closed-loop cruise?
A closed-loop cruise is a cruise that departs and ends in the same U.S. port, for example, Fort Lauderdale to Fort Lauderdale, or round-trip to Alaska from Seattle.
Prospect Point in Stanley Park, Vancouver
These cruises have to meet certain criteria to qualify. Every voyage on a ship that’s not U.S. flagged, departing from and returning to a U.S. port must, according to maritime law, visit one foreign port of call. This is why you’ll find Alaska cruises stopping in Vancouver, or Western Caribbean cruises calling in at Cancun.
To qualify as closed-loop cruises, the places these itineraries can include must be contiguous territories of the United States. That includes Mexico and Canada, because both share land borders with the U.S., and several of the islands of the Caribbean .
Do I need a passport for a closed-loop cruise?
Key West, Florida
In most cases, you don’t need a passport for a closed-loop cruise. This is one of the reasons why these itineraries are so popular. You can, of course, use your passport or passport card as an ID if you have one. But in the case of closed-loop cruises, U.S. citizens are allowed to enter or depart the country with proof of citizenship.
According to U.S. Customs & Border Protection, this includes an Enhanced Driver’s License, which is a state-issued driver’s license that provides proof of identity and U.S. citizenship; a government-issued birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where the person was born) or passport; and if 16 or older, a government-issued driver’s license or picture ID denoting photo, name, and date of birth.
The Enhanced Driver’s License allows you to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean and is valid at land and sea border crossing but not airports.
Different documentation is acceptable for minors under 16, including an original, notarized, or certified copy of their birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization. Voter registration cards and Social Security cards are not considered proof of citizenship.
There are different rules still if you’re a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the U.S. While the U.S. government does not require you to have a passport, destinations on the itinerary may have different rules, so it’s always advisable to check. If you are an LPR, you’ll need your I-551, or Green Card, to re-enter the U.S. And if you’re not a U.S. citizen or a U.S. LPR, you’ll need a passport regardless of whether you’re on a closed-loop cruise or not.
If you do choose to take advantage of this opportunity to travel without a passport, there are a couple of warnings to bear in mind. Say, for example, something goes wrong and you have to return to the U.S. by air. In this case, you’d need a passport to board a flight.
Also, if you miss the ship in one of the ports, you’ll have to make your own way home or to catch up with the cruise, which could be difficult without a passport. If you book an excursion through Celebrity Cruises, that won’t happen, since the ship is guaranteed to wait for you.
What are some of the best closed-loop cruise itineraries?
Fort lauderdale to bahamas, mexico and grand cayman.
Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas
Cruise from Fort Lauderdale on the fabulous Celebrity Edge, one of the most innovative and impressive ships afloat, bound for the Bahamas and the warm, blue waters of the Caribbean. You’ll spend a day in colorful Nassau, on New Providence Island, with plenty of time to hit the powder-sand beaches, snorkel over dazzling reefs, shop for crafts in the Straw Market, or enjoy an adrenaline rush on one of the dramatic water slides at the glitzy Atlantis Resort.
After a day at sea to enjoy the ship and its magnificent Resort Deck, you’ll arrive at Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico . A vast array of choices beckons here, like relaxed tubing at the freshwater Bacalar Lagoon, where you’ll drift over cenote-fed water that’s an astonishing shade of aquamarine.
Or you could try rafting, sail-and-snorkel tours, and even a healing session with an authentic shaman. There’s Mayan history here, too, at the Chacchoben Ruins, a short drive from the port.
Watch: Discover Cozumel With Celebrity Cruises
From Cozumel , you could join an excursion to the magnificent Mayan ruins at Tulum set against a backdrop of the turquoise sea. Try a salsa and margarita-making masterclass, or paddle a glass-bottomed kayak over rainbow-colored reefs.
This seven-night cruise also calls at Grand Cayman , where you can experience dazzling white beaches, pristine reefs, and unusual wildlife encounters, like swimming among stingrays in the warm, shallow waters of Stingray City.
Browse Caribbean Cruises on Celebrity Edge
Seattle to Alaska, the Inside Passage, and Dawes Glacier
Spend seven nights exploring the wild beauty of Alaska on Celebrity Solstice , the perfect ship for such dazzling scenery, with its abundance of outside space and top-deck Lawn Club.
You’ll visit pretty Ketchikan, from where you could join a bear-spotting tour, try kayaking, join an expedition to fish for king crab, or just explore the colorful town. Next, there’s a full day slowly cruising the 30-mile Endicott Arm Fjord , past tumbling waterfalls and chunks of floating ice that have broken off the magnificent Dawes Glacier, a 600-foot tall wall of blue-white ice. The spectacle of this vast river of ice meeting the sea is a highlight of the day.
Mendenhall Lake in Juneau, Alaska
You’ll also visit Juneau , the perfect spot for whale-watching, hiking, and thrilling flightseeing trips over snow-covered mountains. In Skagway, you’ll have the chance to ride the spectacular White Pass and Yukon Route railroad, heading high over rugged passes, following the trail of hardy prospectors from the Gold Rush days.
As Celebrity Solstice heads back to Seattle, there’s a day on board to relax as the ship threads its way through the narrow channels of the Inside Passage , between forested islands and rock-strewn beaches, with great opportunities for spotting whales and bears from your vantage point on deck.
There’s also a call at historic Victoria on Canada’s Vancouver Island, where you can experience a pleasing blend of elegant, British colonial architecture, cool shops, and craft breweries before you return to Seattle.
Browse Alaska Cruises on Celebrity Solstice
Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera
Watch: Discover the Mexican Riviera With Celebrity Cruises
Sail round-trip from Los Angeles to the glamorous Mexican Riviera on the recently revolutionized Celebrity Millennium. From buzzing Puerto Vallarta, you could join a whale-watching tour, browse the arty stores, or kick back at the beach to enjoy the soft sand and azure waters of the Pacific.
At Cabo San Lucas , there’s more whale-watching along the wild, rocky coast, or watersports ranging from kayaking to snorkeling. Explore the Art District and old adobe buildings in nearby San Jose del Cabo, or explore the Baja desert on a 4×4 off-road adventure.
Read: Where to Go Whale Watching in Mexico
From Ensenada, you could snorkel over underwater rock formations at Todos Santos island, or join a wine tasting tour to Calafia Valley, Mexico’s wine-growing region. Closer to port, join a walking tour of the cosmopolitan town to sample tequila and tacos .
Read: Best Things to Do in Ensenada
Celebrity Millennium Suite
You’ll have three full days at sea on this itinerary to soak up the Pacific sunshine and enjoy Celebrity Millennium . Why not upgrade to The Retreat for a true taste of luxury? You’ll enjoy a luxurious suite and dine in the beautiful, fine dining Luminae restaurant, exclusive to guests of this tranquil enclave.
Browse Mexican Riviera cruises on Celebrity Millennium
Fort Lauderdale to Key West, Belize, and Grand Cayman
Set sail from Fort Lauderdale on the brand new Celebrity Apex , the second in Celebrity Cruises’ award-winning Edge series. You’ll spend a day at quirky, colorful Key West, where you can try stand-up paddleboarding or join a cycling tour through the palm-lined streets of this happily eccentric place. Explore Ernest Hemingway’s former home, and don’t miss a chance to sample the island’s iconic key lime pie.
Tropical Belize is all about adventure, from cave tubing to ziplining high above the rainforest canopy. Mayan antiquities have been absorbed by the forest, making their setting even more dramatic. Visit mysterious Lamanai, one of Mesoamerica’s largest ceremonial sites, or join a tour to the ancient hilltop ruins of Xunantunich and the temple of El Castillo.
Read: Unforgettable Adventures in Belize
Stingray City in George Town, Grand Cayman
This cruise also visits the beach paradise of Cozumel , for all manner of watersports, shopping, and sizzling Mexican cuisine. There’s even a chance to join a taco-making class.
Celebrity Apex then sets a course east to the island of Grand Cayman, famed for its magnificent beaches and marine life, like the tame stingrays that congregate around the Stingray City sandbar waiting to be fed tidbits of squid.
Celebrity Edge Magic Carpet
You’ll have one more day at sea to soak up the tropical sun on deck and enjoy the many features of the ship. Lounge at the Magic Carpet with a cocktail; this multipurpose platform is cantilevered over the side of the ship, with water on three sides, so you’ll feel as though you are flying. Or relax in the leafy serenity of Eden, or dine al fresco in the lovely Rooftop Garden Grill.
Browse cruises to Key West, Belize & Grand Cayman on Celebrity Apex
Cape Liberty to Bermuda
Charge your champagne glass and raise a toast to Lady Liberty on this seven-night voyage from Cape Liberty, New Jersey to chic Bermuda and back. As your ship, Celebrity Summit, edges out of port, you’ll have magnificent views of the Manhattan skyline as you sail right past the Statue of Liberty and then out under the iconic Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, setting a course south-east to balmy Bermuda .
Jobson’s Cove Beach, Bermuda
Here, on this enchanted island where the sand is pink and the policemen wear knee-length shorts, you’ll have two and a half days to explore, which means two overnight stays .
There’s plenty to do, from snorkeling to golf, exploring the shops and galleries in Hamilton, the pastel-hued capital, and visiting the island’s forts. Hike the historic Railway Trail, consisting of 18 miles of scenic pathway following the course of an old railroad line.
Set sail on a catamaran trip at sunset, or join a pub crawl of Hamilton’s bars after dark. One of the most unique things to do in Bermuda is to sample a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, the powerful local specialty made of dark rum with ginger beer and a slice of lime.
Browse Bermuda cruise itineraries
Fort Lauderdale to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Kitts
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Sail to the sun on Celebrity Apex, departing Fort Lauderdale, Florida for vibrant Puerto Rico , where an afternoon and evening in port mean you’ll see two faces of charismatic San Juan. Explore the chunky fortress, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, and the brightly colored streets of Old San Juan, or visit the Bacardi distillery to learn about and sample the famous rum.
Mount Liamuiga, St. Kitts
You’ll find plenty of military history at St. Kitts , like the rugged Brimstone Hill Fortress, a massive compound built by the British in 1690. This tiny island packs a real punch, with an enormous variety of things to do.
Trundle through the sugarcane fields on a scenic train journey, or hike Mount Liamuiga, a dormant volcano at the island’s center. Learn how to make your own gourmet truffles at a chocolate workshop. Visit neighboring Nevis and see the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the U.S.
At Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas , you’ll find it impossible to resist exploring the crystal-clear water via snorkeling, kayaking, or sailboat. For an afternoon basking on the gorgeous Honeymoon Beach, the lush, low-key island of St. John is an easy hop across the water.
Browse itineraries to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Kitts on Celebrity Apex
Start planning your closed-loop cruise today and browse cruise itineraries on our website.
Sue has been writing about cruising for 20 years and is lucky enough to have sailed all seven continents. She lives in London, where she is cruise editor of The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers, as well as a freelance contributor to magazines and websites worldwide.
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Ever Heard of a Closed-Loop Cruise? Here’s What to Know About These Unique Sailings
A lesser-known rule allows u.s. travelers to sail to some international destinations without a passport as long as they are on what is known as a “closed-loop cruise.”.
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You don’t need a passport to sail through Canadian ports en route to Alaska as long as you start and end your cruise at the same U.S. port.
Photo by Heather Shevlin/Unsplash
A closed-loop cruise is a cruise that departs from and returns to the same U.S. port and remains in the Western Hemisphere. As such, it does not require the passengers to have a U.S. passport—even if the itinerary visits some international ports along the way.
According to U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP), rules established by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative require that U.S. citizens who are traveling abroad hold a valid passport—unless they are on a closed-loop cruise. Those sailing on a closed-loop cruise can enter or leave the country with an alternative proof of citizenship, such as a government-issued driver’s license or birth certificate.
If your sailing does not end at the same port where you began—for instance, if you are thinking of booking a one-way Panama Canal itinerary from San Diego, California, to Miami, Florida—you will need a passport. And be aware that some Caribbean islands (more on this in the Caribbean listing below) do require a passport, which means your cruise line will require a passport before you board the ship if you are sailing to a destination that independently requires it.
Do kids need a passport for a closed-loop cruise?
Kids do not need a passport if they are sailing on a closed-loop cruise. If there is a passport requirement, each person in your party needs to have a passport, including infants and toddlers. All cruises throughout the world that sail in destinations outside the United States and that are not closed-loop cruises require a passport.
What form of I.D. do you need for a closed-loop cruise?
If you are on a closed-loop cruise that begins and ends at the same port in the United States and visits Canada, Mexico, or much of the Caribbean, you do not need a valid passport. According to CBP, all you need is documentation proving you are a U.S. citizen. In lieu of a passport, you can present these alternative documents on a closed-loop cruise:
- Enhanced driver’s license, which is a state-issued driver’s license that provides proof of U.S. citizenship (currently available only to residents of Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington)
- Government-issued driver’s license
- Government-issued birth certificate
- Official certificate of naturalization
Where do closed-loop cruises sail?
Closed-loop cruise itineraries that do not require a passport include:
- Alaska: Cruise to Alaska on closed-loop sailings that typically start and end on the West Coast, stopping in Canada along the way.
- Bahamas: There are numerous closed-loop cruises to the Bahamas from ports up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
- Bermuda: Sail to Bermuda on closed-loop cruises from East Coast ports, including Baltimore, Boston, New York City, and Port Canaveral, Florida.
- Canada: You can sail round-trip to Canada on a closed-loop cruise from Boston, New York, and New Jersey.
- Caribbean: Start and end your Caribbean sailing in ports like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Tampa in Florida; Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans; or Galveston, Texas. Keep in mind that some islands—including Martinique, Guadeloupe, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Bart’s—do require a passport.
- Mexico: Sail down to Mexico on a closed-loop western Caribbean cruise from Florida ports, New Orleans, or Galveston, or to the Pacific side of Mexico to destinations such as Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlán from California ports—without a passport. Belize and Honduras, which are sometimes included on these itineraries, also waive their passport requirements for cruise ship passengers.
The risks of not bringing a passport on a closed-loop cruise
Even though a passport is not required on a closed-loop cruise, there’s a reason why cruise lines often strongly encourage passengers to bring a passport. While you are in a foreign port, if you run into any problems and need to cut your trip short and fly home, you will need a passport to fly back into the United States—passports are required for international air travel. It can also be an issue if you miss your embarkation due to a flight cancellation or delay and need to fly to an international port of call to catch up with your cruise.
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Places to Cruise Without a Passport
By Carnival Cruise Line
New England and Canada
- The Caribbean
As luck would have it, you’ve suddenly got a few open days in your schedule and a yearning to travel somewhere exotic. Don’t let your lack of a passport stop you. Consider a cruise . If you take closed loop cruises (meaning your trip begins and ends at a U.S. port), you can sail to a variety of dreamy destinations as a U.S. citizen without a passport.
For “closed-loop” cruises, U.S. citizens will need to provide:
- A boarding pass
- A government photo I.D. if 16 years of age or older
- And a certified birth certificate or certificate of U.S. naturalization
Starting and ending in Seattle or San Francisco, an Alaskan cruise takes you to charming waterfront cities and villages like Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. In Alaska, also known as the Land of the Midnight Sun, you can see spectacular, icy glaciers by boat or seaplane, watch for whales and try your hand at dog sledding.
A stop in Victoria, British Columbia offers a whole new set of adventures. Visit castles, take a ride on a horse-drawn trolley, stroll through beautiful Butchart Gardens or get your fill of shopping and dining downtown. When you arrive back in Seattle or San Francisco, take time to explore those cities for even more vacation fun.
You can cruise to The Bahamas from a number of U.S. ports along the Atlantic Coast. Located just southeast of Miami in the Atlantic Ocean, The Bahamas offers an ideal island getaway. With soft-sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and pastel-colored British colonial architecture , the Bahamian capital of Nassau makes a popular port of call for cruisers. In Freeport , you can shop till you drop at the Port Lucaya Marketplace or kayak through the mangroves at Lucayan National Park. At the south end of the island of Eleuthera, Princess Cays offers island resort living at its finest.
If you’re looking for cruises that don’t require a passport, take a round trip sail to Bermuda from New York City , Baltimore , Charleston or one of two Florida ports of call. As Britain’s oldest colony, Bermuda offers wonderful historic attractions and plenty of opportunities for fun in the sun. Pink-sand beaches, beautiful blue waters and colorful coral reefs deliver the perfect recipe for sunning, swimming, sailing and snorkeling. Cap off a day of adventure in Bermuda with a sunset rum-tasting cruise .
If you’re looking for a different kind of cruise, explore parts of New England and Canada with New York City as an exciting starting and ending point. Spend a day soaking up history in Boston, Massachusetts, and tour the Charles River aboard an amphibious duck vehicle. Experience lighthouses, lobster bakes and craggy sea cliffs in Portland, Maine, and enjoy a trip to Saint John, a beautiful city on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada. A stop in the charming fishing village of Halifax, Nova Scotia offers beautiful gardens, more delicious seafood and double-decker bus tours . After you pull into port in the Big Apple, make sure to see a Broadway show, visit the Empire State Building and take a stroll through Central Park.
The Caribbean makes a popular destination for travelers considering a tropical cruise. For an easy round trip, you can begin and end in a number of U.S. cities including New York City, Galveston , Mobile , New Orleans and Tampa .
Western Caribbean locales in Mexico like Yucatán and Cozumel deliver exciting attractions, from ancient Mayan ruins to flamingo lagoons, and activities like swimming with dolphins, dune buggy rides, sailing, snorkeling, diving and zip lining.
In the Eastern Caribbean, find dream destinations like Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos archipelago. In Amber Cove, you can tour the Dominican outback, soak up the sun on Coconut Cove Beach, or ride the Waterfalls of Rio de Damajagua . On Grand Turk, enjoy swimming with stingrays, riding horses along the coast, or touring the island by ATV. The opportunities for adventure on a Caribbean cruise are endless.
When it comes to domestic cruises, nothing beats a trip to Hawaii . Explore beautiful spots spread across Maui , Kauai and the Big Island, and drink in the natural beauty only Hawaii delivers. On this exciting trip, you can deep sea fish for marlin, explore forest caves and waterfalls, soak up the sun on a black-sand beach and attend a traditional luau. U.S. departure ports for enjoyable Hawaiian cruises include San Francisco , San Diego , Long Beach and Honolulu .
Depart from the Californian cities of San Francisco, San Diego or Long Beach for a quick but memorable cruise to the Baja Peninsula in northern Mexico . Along the way, stop by Catalina Island for a day packed full of outdoor enjoyment . Kayak in and out of secret coves, zip line through the trees or try parasailing. In Ensenada , the “Cinderella of the Pacific,” you can ride horses along mountain trails, tour the wine country, shop for souvenirs and taste the local tequila.
When traveling outside of the U.S. a passport is always recommended, but cruises are the exception to the rule. As long as you book a closed loop cruise, you can travel to certain destinations without a passport. Because international cruises in Europe and Asia require air travel, these vacations also demand a passport. When embarking on adventures by sea that don’t require a passport, make sure you have the proper cruise documentation.
Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.
Plan for fun.
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6 Places to Cruise Without a Passport
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If you thought you needed a passport to head overseas on every single trip, think again. Those long waits for passport applications or renewals , even if you finally secured an in-person appointment , aren't needed for some cruise vacations.
Yes, it can come as quite a surprise that you can cross a U.S. border and visit a foreign country without this important document, but it’s true. The secret: closed-loop cruises. These are cruises that depart from a U.S. port, visit other countries, then return to a U.S. port of entry.
This loophole, if you want to call it that, is the result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative designed to allow travel to and within North American countries on a cruise ship. Instead of a passport, passengers will need to carry a valid U.S. driver’s license and proof of citizenship (a birth certificate or certificate of U.S. naturalization should suffice).
Armed with this piece of advice, international travel aboard these no-passport cruises can be your ticket to a unique vacation. You no longer have to deal with bureaucracy and long waits for first-time applications or renewals.
Here are six cruises that don’t require a passport.
Places to cruise without a passport
Wait a minute, you’re thinking. Alaska is a U.S. state. True, but Alaskan cruises can sometimes make stops in parts of British Columbia, like Victoria. If so, you can still visit as long as the cruise you take begins and ends in the U.S.
Alaska is a popular vacation destination for its majestic scenery, glacier-filled landscape and outdoor adventures from dog-sledding to helicopter rides over the mountains. Seeing this part of the country by ship is one of the most convenient and beautiful ways to get around.
You can also find Alaskan cruises that start and end in Vancouver, British Columbia, which don't technically qualify as passportless cruises unless you cross the border from the U.S. into Canada by land using two pieces of approved government identification: an enhanced driver’s license (currently available to residents of Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington state only) and a U.S. birth certificate.
With those two approved documents and traveling overland into Canada, it is possible to do a one-way cruise starting or ending in Vancouver as an American without a passport. Note that flying across the border would require a passport, however.
Royal Caribbean’s seven-night Northbound Alaska & Hubbard Glacier cruise aboard Radiance of the Seas, for example, departs from Vancouver and disembarks in Seward, Alaska.
2. The Bahamas
The Bahamas is a Caribbean nation of islands and a popular cruise destination. Because of its proximity to the U.S., there are often shorter three-night cruises from Florida that make it easy to snag a good deal on a whim. Plus, it qualifies as an option for cruises without passports.
For many people without or in between passport applications, it can be disappointing to have to ignore last-minute deals . That’s no longer the case when you take advantage of cruises you can go on without a passport.
There's excellent shopping, dining and water sports activities in many ports like Nassau and Freeport. Another popular option is buying a day pass to mega resorts like Baha Mar and Atlantis , both of which welcome cruise visitors for the day.
Three-day cruises aboard Carnival Conquest depart Miami for the Bahamas, but return back to Miami. This means U.S. passengers don't need a passport for this closed-loop sailing.
Cruises to Bermuda are almost always closed-loop sailings from a U.S. port, save for a few transatlantic trips. This means you can visit the British territory without the worry of having a valid passport.
Bermuda has beautiful golf courses, historic forts and excellent dining. Many cruises overnight here to give passengers time to get out and explore.
There are sailings aboard Celebrity Cruise Line's Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Eclipse that don't require passports as they depart a U.S. port, travel to Bermuda for a few nights, then return to a U.S. port.
4. U.S. Northeast-Canada
If you’re looking for culture and history in the northeast, cruises that depart New England for parts of Canada are a great option.
Closed-loop cruises that depart and end in the U.S. negate the need for a passport (despite stops in Canadian ports), and like Alaskan cruises, one-way sailings remain an option if you choose to drive across the U.S.-Canada border and hold an enhanced driver’s license to cross.
From urban destinations like Boston and Halifax to picturesque destinations like Bar Harbor, Maine, and Saint John, New Brunswick, cruises like these trade palm trees and sunscreen for evergreens and rain jackets. This itinerary on Celebrity's Celebrity Summit ship doesn't require a passport because of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
» Learn more: Your guide to the U.S.-Canada border crossing
5. Other Caribbean islands
There are a lot of options when it comes to visiting Caribbean islands.
U.S. cruise ports line the coastline including places like:
As long as your cruise departs and returns to a U.S. port, you won’t need to bring a passport.
Various cruises that depart locations like these visit several islands in the region, including:
Aside from water sports and outdoor adventure, you can visit markets, explore historic sites, meander through the town center on some islands and discover what makes the Caribbean a diverse region.
If you are wary about taking advantage of this benefit (perhaps some people in your party have a passport and others don’t), consider a cruise to U.S. island territories instead. These include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John). Traveling by plane or ship to these island paradise destinations is considered a domestic trip.
Carnival offers many Caribbean cruise options including sailings that depart and return to U.S. ports like Baltimore, Norfolk and New Orleans. These don't require a passport as they are closed-loop sailings.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
You can find cruises from either U.S. coast to Mexico with its glittering beaches, historic landmarks and incredible cuisine.
As long as the ship you are taking departs and returns to a U.S. port, these are some of the cruises that don’t require a passport. Passport-free, you can visit ports like:
Cabo San Lucas.
This four-night departure aboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas makes a visit to Cozumel before returning back to Texas.
» Learn more: Is cruise travel insurance worth the cost?
Can you cruise without a passport?
Yes, there are several cruises without passport requirements that you can book. This is welcome news for those whose passports may have expired, for families who want to opt out of buying short-term passports for children , or haven't had a chance to renew their passport.
However, it is preferable to have a passport with you (in the event you need medical care and have to stay in the country, for example). Purchasing cruise travel insurance or booking your trip with a credit card that includes coverage can also mitigate the risks of travel emergencies.
A cruise is an easy way to visit many new places without having to unpack and pack again. When you discover a place you want to return to, you can plan another trip, perhaps with a new passport in hand.
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On a similar note...
Hot Topic: Surprise Cruise Reveal Ideas
Complete Guide to Closed-Loop Cruises (and Open Jaw Itineraries)
Cruising, as you may know, is one of the best ways to explore the world’s coastlines and nearby cities. But what if you lack a passport or your passport has expired? Exactly what are the passport requirements to cruise?
As a United States resident, you may benefit from the ease of a so-called closed-loop cruise and not need a passport for a cruise vacation at all. Let’s dive in.
Disclosure: This page has affiliate links, meaning we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase at no cost to you . We truly only recommend cruises, experiences, products, and services we personally use. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
What is a Closed Loop Cruise?
First, let's define a closed loop voyage.
The itineraries of closed-loop cruises begin and end in the same port. For purposes of this conversation, that port is in the United States (even though the term “closed loop cruise” could be used to describe a cruise that starts and ends in the same city in another country).
Think of it like a closed circuit, with the ship literally closing a geographical loop, even if that loop is an imperfect shape. However, along the route, you might stop at a few other places, either in the United States or abroad.
The benefit of taking these “round-trip cruises” is that American travelers don’t necessarily need a passport as long as the trip begins and ends at the same U.S.A. port. However, you must understand the nuances of the itinerary you choose if you don’t have a passport, even if you have a travel agent to help guide you.
That’s why we stress how imperative it is to read the detailed information below about identification requirements.
Closed Loop Cruise Origins
So how did closed-loop cruises come about? Well, in order to comply with U.S. maritime rules and the Passenger Vessel Services Act (also known as the Jones Act), all foreign-registered cruise lines leaving from American ports are required to include a port abroad.
Nearly all cruise ships are foreign-flagged, so they must stop outside the nation. ( US River Cruise ships are an exception to the foreign-flagged generalization.) These destinations are usually contiguous United States territories such as Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean islands.
Example of a Closed-Loop Cruise
Here’s an example of a closed-loop cruise itinerary that starts and ends in a United States Cruise Port :
- A 4-night cruise departs from the Port of Miami in Florida.
- It makes a port of call in Nassau, in the Bahamas…
- …then sails onto Half Moon Cay.
- The cruise returns to Miami to disembark, where it departed from.
Disney Cruise Line has a very similar 3-day or 4-day itinerary, usually departing from Port Canaveral, which is on Florida’s Space Coast near Cape Canaveral . It leaves, returns to Port Canaveral, and stops at Disney’s Castaway Cay island and Nassau in between.
While these 3 or 4-day itineraries are considered short, there are plenty of longer sailings with more Port of Call available across many cruise lines.
Most of the itinerary options are on bigger ships with 1,500+ passengers.
If a Cruise Starts and Ends in the United States but From Two Different Ports, is it a Closed-Loop Cruise?
No. If a cruise starts in San Diego but ends in Los Angeles, for example, it is an open-jaw cruise, not a closed-loop cruise.
Another example: If a cruise starts at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale but ends in the Port of Miami, it is not a closed-loop cruise.
What is an Open Jaw Cruise or Itinerary?
Perhaps you’d prefer to explore beyond the destinations of a closed-loop cruise.
A cruise that departs from one port and arrives/ends at a separate port of call is known as an “Open-Jaw Cruise.” Sometimes they’re referred to as “Open Loop” or “Repositioning” cruises.
While these ocean trips on the high seas require a passport, you can access many more countries.
On a map, such a trip may appear as a triangle or an “open jaw.” For example, you may do a yacht cruise on the Mediterranean as we did that departs from Athens, explores Greece, then heads to Sicily and ends on mainland Italy, and takes a flight home from Rome.
Without geographic restrictions, ships with an open itinerary can travel farther and often stop at more ports. This may also entail visiting places that other cruises would not have the time or ability to visit, such as more exotic locations.
Do you Need a Passport for a Closed Loop Cruise?
A passport is typically not required for a closed-loop cruise for United States citizens if the cruise starts and ends in the same U.S. port.
For example, this has made Hawaiian Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Alaska cruises very popular.
You Need Valid Government Identification, Even if Not a Passport
However, valid identification to board the ship is required; you must also show that identification upon reentry to the US. Such ID includes proof of citizenship and a government-issued ID. If you happen to have a valid passport, it’s the only ID required.
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Ensure that this remains in your carry-on bag as you embark and disembark the ship.
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What Documentation Is Needed For A Closed-Loop Cruise?
Nervous about going on a cruise without a passport? While it’s true that you don’t need a passport for most US closed-loop cruises, you must present two forms of ID to board a closed-loop cruise ship.
These forms of ID should be carried with you when you disembark at each port of call.
Two Forms of ID
As we mentioned, adults must have two ID forms to board a cruise if they don't have a passport. The two documents must fall under the two categories listed below.
1. Proof of Citizenship
One form of ID must be your proof of US citizenship. For example, this can be a government-issued birth certificate.
2. Government-Issued ID with Requirements
The second acceptable piece of identification must be a government-issued ID with your photo, full name, and date of birth. A driver’s license will suffice.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers a comprehensive list and details the criteria for taking a cruise without a passport, including what constitutes a government-issued photo ID.
Always check to see the latest details of the requirements before you book your cruise, while you await your cruise, and about four weeks before your cruise to make sure you’re good to go.
While U.S. Customs recommend an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) as a passport alternative, very few states offer this form of government-issued ID.
It’s also important to mention that as an ID, driver’s licenses are only accepted at land border crossings and sea border crossings, not airports for international destinations. You can also only use a valid driver’s license to re-enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Closed-Loop Cruise Documentation
- Voter registration card/ID
- Social security card
- Baptismal papers
- Hospital certificates of birth
Enhanced Driver's License vs. Real ID
Is a Real ID the same thing as an EDL? No. It is not.
The short answer is that EDLs can be used for limited border crossings and is only available in specific border states. Whereas a Real ID is available in all states, it cannot be used to cross borders like an EDL or passport.
A Real ID does not have an additional cost to obtain. It differs from previous driver's licenses because it shows a star icon in the top corner of the license.
An EDL is only offered in a handful of states and costs an additional $30.
The Department of Homeland Security states the following about an EDL:
Enhanced Drivers Licenses (EDLs) are state-issued enhanced drivers licenses that provide proof of identity and U.S. citizenship. They are issued in a secure process, and include technology that makes travel easier. EDLs are a low-cost, convenient option for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean through a land or sea port of entry, in addition to serving as a permit to drive. DHS Enhanced Driver's Licenses: What Are They?
EDLs are only available to residents of the following states:
Real IDs are available in 55 states and territories, however, it is not a viable document to cross a border, including for international sea cruise travel.
REAL ID cards cannot be used for border crossings into Canada, Mexico or other international travel. From “Real ID FAQs” on the Department of Homeland Security
Children Under the Age of 16
For children traveling under the age of 16, a variety of forms of identification, including an original birth certificate or a copy that has been notarized or certified, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization, are acceptable.
What is Not Acceptable as a Form of ID?
As per the US Government's regulations, documents proving voter registration and social security cards are not recognized as proof of identity.
Lawful Permanent Residents
There are specific rules if you are a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States.
Even though the US Government doesn’t mandate that you need a passport, it is always advisable to double-check as some locations along your cruise journey may have various requirements, including having a visa.
If you are an LPR, you must have your I-551, or Green Card, in order to re-enter the US.
A valid passport from your nation of residence is required if you’re not a U.S. citizen or a LPR of the United States of America.
Closed-Loop Cruises: Popular Port Cities from the United States
U.S. departure ports are plentiful, from coast to coast.
The most popular port cities on the East Coast are Miami and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, the Port of Miami, and Port Everglades, respectively.
On the West Coast, San Francisco sees the most cruise ships pass through every year. Quite a few other city ports are offering closed-loop cruises from the US, so let’s take a look.
West Coast Closed-Loop Cruises
An Alaskan cruise is one of the most popular closed-loop cruise options in the US. If departing from the United States, Alaska cruises depart from Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. They often stop in Vancouver, British Columbia (in Canada), to pick up more cruise passengers.
Mexican Riviera and Hawaii closed loop itineraries are accessible from the West Coast, departing from the cities of San Pedro and Long Beach, San Francisco, and San Diego.
East Coast Closed-Loop Cruises
If you’re looking to head somewhere warmer such as the Bahamas, look to sail from:
- Florida: Either from Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades, the Space Coast’s Port Canaveral, the Port of Miami, or Tampa.
- Maryland: Baltimore.
- Northeast and New England area: Manhattan in New York City, Cape Liberty in New Jersey, or Boston, Massachusetts.
- Texas: Galveston.
Some of these itineraries even stop in Bermuda if you take a closed loop cruise from Boston, Manhattan, Baltimore, or Cape Liberty.
Of course, you can’t forget about a Caribbean cruise! There are quite a few port options if you want to travel to the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. The main cruise port options with itineraries sailing there are from Port Canaveral, Manhattan, Port Everglades, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, Cape Liberty, Galveston, or Tampa.
Popular Cruise Lines Offering Close Looped Cruises
Though cruise ships and their contracted ports of call may change annually, here’s a list of cruise lines and expected ports they sail from.
Princess is one of our favorite cruise lines for a mature audience! It’s not great for traveling with kids but if you’re adults, it’s a wonderful option.
With Princess Cruises , you can travel to Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, Mexico, or the Bahamas from the United States. They operate many cruises from Fort Lauderdale or off the West Coast, where you can sail from Los Angeles to Mexico or Hawaii.
In fact, we sailed on a wonderful closed-loop California itinerary that stopped in San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ensanda before heading back to Los Angeles.
Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida, are popular ports for Celebrity Cruises . You can travel to Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean from here.
It’s another one of our favorite cruise lines, offering class and sophistication to a generally younger audience than Princess Cruises.
We absolutely love their class offerings – our favorite is “in “ The Retreat ” – and recommend booking a suite if you sail with Celebrity.
Disney Cruise Line
Who doesn’t love a Disney cruise, especially when you can sail to Bermuda, the Bahamas, or the Caribbean with all your favorite characters? But even if the characters don’t pique your interest, sailing as adults, only, is always fun with Disney. We’ve cruised on DCL without kids many times!
Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, is an incredibly popular destination that only Disney Cruise Line sails to.
Most Disney Cruises in the United States set sail from the East Coast, with the most popular ports being Port Canaveral and Miami. However, there is often a west coast cruise itinerary each year, like from San Diego.
Holland America Line
The majority of Holland America Line (HAL) closed loop cruises leave Fort Lauderdale and head to the Caribbean. But if you’re looking for an incredible Alaskan experience, head out west to Seattle and catch a trip to The Last Frontier with HAL.
An incredibly popular cruise line, Royal Caribbean departs from 14 ports across the US. The most popular closed-loop itineraries leave from Port Canaveral and Miami, where they sail to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
People love to visit Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Despite its name, many cruises with Norwegian actually depart from the US. Amongst their popular itineraries is a Hawaiian closed-loop cruise from Honolulu, that tours around the Hawaiian Islands.
To visit the Bahamas or the Caribbean with Norwegian Cruise Line, choose the Port of Miami as the departure port.
Miami, Galveston, Tampa, and Port Canaveral are the port of call where most closed-loop Carnival Cruises sail from. The top itineraries for all three ports will lead you to the incredible island nations of the Caribbean.
Dip your toes in Caribbean sand when you set sail from Port Canaveral or the Port of Miami. MSC Cruises offers hundreds of closed loop cruises each year.
Margaritaville at Sea
If you want a very short, low-cost cruise option that sails from the Port of Palm Beach, look into Margaritaville at Sea .
Closed-Loop Cruises in Popular European Cities
The United States isn’t the only region that offers closed loop cruises. Numerous cities in Europe also have such itineraries, although they aren’t always referred to as a closed loop cruise in marketing material.
Rather, you’ll see terms like “return trip cruise” or “two-way cruises.” Check each itinerary very closely.
However, it’s worth noting that while these cruises are technically closed-loop, because they start and end in the same port of call as our Emerald Cruises did in Amsterdam in The Netherlands, you need a passport to sail in Europe or Asia, for example, if you’re a United States citizen traveling abroad. You’ll also need a passport to fly there at an international airport.
One of the closed itineraries growing in popularity in Europe is a cruise to Iceland. Departing and ending at Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, you’ll get to explore this true wonder of the world. Cruises to Iceland also commonly include a port of call in Ireland as well.
The port of Civitavecchia in Rome, Italy, also offers a number of return trip cruises. These itineraries include stops in Greece, Turkey, and Italy. Or you can sail in a loop from the port of Ravenna in Venice, Italy, to see cities in Italy, Croatia, and Greece.
MSC offers popular cruises in the Mediterranean with return trips from Marseille, France . On these journeys, you will stop in places such as Genoa, Palermo, Ibiza, Valencia, Barcelona, and Naples.
Closed-Loop Cruises FAQs
What are the advantages of a closed loop cruise.
There are many, especially if you don’t have a passport!
What are the Disadvantages of a Closed Loop Cruise?
The main disadvantage is that fewer ports of call are available to you. Along with this, depending on your taste and travel preferences, your experience diving into different cultures and historical sites is lessened if you can only explore closed-loop cruise options.
How Do I Know If My Cruise Is Closed-Loop?
Two main things indicate if your cruise is closed loop and you won’t need a passport (but don’t forget – you need other valid identification):
- For Americans looking to travel without a passport, the first piece of information to note when investigating whether or not a cruise is closed-loop is if it departs from and arrives back at the same US port.
In order for it to be considered a closed-loop cruise that you don’t need a passport for the ship must leave and return to the same exact American port.
- The second criterion to check for is: Are all ports of call on the itinerary within the Western hemisphere?
Today, the majority of cruises that are closed-loop and you don’t need a passport for as a US citizen are within the Western Hemisphere only.
The idea of a closed-loop cruise originated with the creation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) .
The objective of WHTI was to enhance and fortify American border security after 9/11 in 2001. However, there was also the added objective of streamlining and improving entry procedures into the United States. Several aspects of the initiative also deal with easing entry for residents of Bermuda, Canada, and Mexico.
Can You Leave the Ship on a Closed-Loop Cruise Without a Passport?
The answer is yes and no. It depends on the port of call.
It’s important to check the itinerary for your trip because there are a few places, even on a closed-loop cruise, that do require a passport to disembark. This is particularly common in the Caribbean in nations including Guadeloupe, the island of Martinique, St. Barts, Barbados, and others.
Below is a list of Caribbean nations you can travel to without a passport on a closed-loop cruise (meaning you can disembark the ship if your cruise ship stops there and you do not have a passport):
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Dominican Republic
- Netherlands Antilles
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Turks and Caicos
If you travel to any of these countries without a passport, however, it’s a good idea to take your valid forms of ID with you when you walk around the port in case you encounter any problems.
Precautions to Keep in Mind Traveling Outside the United States Without a Passport
Keep a few things to keep in mind if you travel on a closed-loop cruise without a passport.
Imagine, for instance, that something goes awry, and you need to fly back to the United States from a foreign country for a medical emergency. In this situation and in the case of an emergency, you will need a passport in order to travel through an international airport and board an airplane traveling internationally.
Additionally, without a U.S. passport, getting home or catching up with the trip could be challenging if you miss the ship in one of the ports.
An Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) allows you to re-enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. However, an EDL is only accepted at land and sea border crossings, not for air travel.
A closed loop cruise is a wonderful sea travel option for United States residents and citizens who want a vacation in multiple cities without needing a passport. (It’s an especially good option if you’re waiting for your new passport to arrive and you’re aching to go on a cruise, asap!)
However, there are things to be aware of when you’re looking into going on a closed-loop cruise from the United States. With the important information we have provided here, you’ll be an informed traveler who can make the best decision for your’s and your family’s next cruise.
Interested in cruises? Read this next:
- River Cruise vs Ocean Cruise: What’s the Difference?
- How to Decide the Best Cruises to Book
- Guide to Mississippi River Cruises: Discover The Heart of America
Mikkel and Dan Woodruff co-own and operate Sometimes Sailing. Through their cruising expertise, they bring the best travel ideas on the world's waterways to their audience along with packing tips, budgeting advice, and seasonal deals. They have been featured on many of the best cruise podcasts, including DCL Duo and the Joy of Cruising. Their articles are nationally syndicated and have appeared on AP Wire various times.
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Where can I find information concerning actual open jaw/repositioning cruises please? All I saw here was a definition of what they are…………..
Hi John – there are an innumerable amount of cruises available and they’re constantly changing in availability and price, so it’s hard for us to list them out in an article like this. That is why, instead, we help people understand what they are. Then, you have the tools to research open-jaw or closed-jaw cruises on your own on any of the dozens and dozens of cruise line websites. If you go to any website for a cruise and search by port, you can find the itinerary. If it starts and ends in different ports, it’s considered an open-jaw cruise. Best of luck! – Mikkel
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Is a closed loop cruise considered leaving the country?
October 4, 2023 | Travel Pedia
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What Is A Closed-Loop Cruise: ID, Tips, Best Itineraries
There are many types of cruises, but in recent years one that is becoming more popular is the closed-loop cruise. One reason for this is simple; there are no passport requirements.
However, travelers do need appropriate government-issued documentation when they cruise. This particular type of itinerary begins and ends in the same U.S. port. and sails entirely within the Western Hemisphere.
They are considered round-trip cruises that start and end in U.S. ports.
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is where the concept of a closed-loop cruise started. The WHTI is a result of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission following the terrorist attacks in 2001.
The goal was to improve and strengthen border protection for the United States. However, an additional goal was to make the process of entering the U.S. more efficient and convenient.
Several parts of the initiative deal with citizens from Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda, in addition to the United States.
The WHTI introduced the concept of a ‘closed-loop cruise’ as a cruise that begins and ends in the same U.S. port. This type of sailing was granted special documentation requirements to simplify travel.
Specifically, on a closed-loop cruise, U.S. citizens were required to have only a birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID.
This was a significant difference as not all Americans want the hassle or expense of getting a passport. Being able to travel without a passport encourages international exploration.
As Canadians who love to travel, my wife Karen and I have had passports since we were young adults. Also, since Karen was born in Singapore to British parents (her Dad was in the British army), traveling is in her blood!
However, passports may be unnecessary for millions of Americans born and raised in states such as Florida, California, or Texas. They could drive to the nearest cruise port, take a closed-loop cruise, and see another part of the world.
The only restrictions are that the cruise ship must remain within the Western Hemisphere and return to the same cruise port they departed from.
The Jones Act And the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA)
The Jones Act and Passenger Vessel Services Act were established over 100 years ago in 1886. These two acts of maritime law restrict cruise ships that are NOT U.S.-built, owned, and documented.
A cruise company that does not register its ships in the U.S. must include an international port in its itinerary if it departs and returns from a U.S. port. A typical example of this is Alaska cruises that sail out of Seattle.
These Alaska cruises typically stop in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, to comply with the Jones Act. If they don’t, the cruise line will face USD 778 per passenger fines!
To have reduced regulations impacting their operations, virtually all cruise companies have their ships registered in tax havens such as the Bahamas.
As a company in a foreign country, this enables them to have a more cost-effective operation and offer lower prices to customers.
Norwegian’s Pride of America is one cruise ship that maintains U.S. documentation and registration. This ship cruises exclusively around the Hawaiian Islands but is considered a U.S.-based cruise ship and not within the restrictions of the Jones Act.
Are U.S. Territories Eligible As U.S. Ports?
Yes, permanent residents or U.S. citizens residing in any U.S. Territories can sail in a closed-loop cruise from their ports of call.
This includes the following territories:
- Puerto Rico
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- American Samoa
- Swains Island
- Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Old San Juan , Puerto Rico, is a popular embarkation port because it puts you further south in the Caribbean.
What Are the Benefits of a Closed-Loop Cruise?
There are many benefits to these cruises. Here are a few reasons you may want to book this type of cruise:
- Begin and end at the same port.
- Many options since they are the most popular type of cruise.
- You can park close to the port and retrieve your vehicle at the same location.
- Book round-trip flights.
- Planning is simple.
- Great for international travel.
You can use one word to describe these cruises – Simple ! They are easy to travel to since you need just a round-trip flight.
If you live within driving distance of the cruise port, you can have your car waiting when you disembark. The majority of cruises from the U.S. are closed-loop.
It’s easy to book multiple (back-to-back) cruises in regions like the Caribbean. Book a 2nd cruise with a different itinerary leaving from the same port.
Pre-Covid, we had booked three back-to-back cruises, all sailing from Fort Lauderdale and Miami. This enabled us to try different cruise lines and different ships but with a single flight from Vancouver to Florida.
Travel Documentation Requirements
Although a passport is not required, you should still plan on bringing other government-issued photo IDs and proof of citizenship.
Proof of citizenship can be one of the following:
- Birth Certificate – original or copy is acceptable.
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad.
- Certificate of Naturalization.
A photo ID can be one of the following:
- Green Card.
- Enhanced Driver’s License.
- U.S. Passport Card.
Note the photo ID cards all use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to reduce time during screening or at checkpoints.
What Is An Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL)?
An enhanced driver’s license is a low-cost travel document that indicates both your identity and citizenship.
The application cost varies by state but is typically USD 40-60 in addition to the price of a primary driver’s license.
However, only Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington currently issue Enhanced Driver’s Licenses.
What Is A U.S. Passport Card?
A United States Passport Card is a low-cost, limited-use travel document produced by the Department of State. It is not accepted for international air travel.
At the time of this writing, the application fee is USD 30.
Where Can You Cruise From?
You can take a closed-loop cruise from any cruise port in the United States. Here are a few of the most popular U.S. cruise ports:
- Fort Lauderdale
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- San Francisco
What Countries Can You Visit?
Since these cruises stay within the Western Hemisphere, this provides a broad list of available countries.
The Western Hemisphere includes Northern America, Central America, South America, Polynesia, Greenland, Western Africa, and parts of Europe.
The following countries are in the Americas and lie entirely within the Western Hemisphere region:
Outside of the Americas, there are other countries within the boundaries of the Western Hemisphere. The following countries or territories are also within and available for cruising from a U.S. port.
- Northern Ireland
However, most cruises that would be round-trip from a U.S. port to these destinations would not qualify as a closed loop. These cruises would likely include ports beyond the Western Hemisphere.
Popular Cruise Options
Here are a few cruises that qualify as closed-loop according to the WHTI guidelines.
Cruising to Alaska is on the bucket list of many travelers. We love it so much that we cruised there twice last year!
Alaska cruises depart from Vancouver or Seattle , as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles. However, only Seattle and San Francisco qualify as closed-loop cruises within the WHTI guidelines.
San Francisco cruises are a minimum of 10 days due to the extra distance in sailing from California. Seattle cruises are typically seven days but can be up to 14 days in a close-loop format.
Due to the arctic climate, the Alaska cruise season is short and only from May to September. You can get the best price if you’re willing to cruise on the fringe season in May or September.
The Caribbean is a perfect January cruise for anyone wanting to escape the winter cold. Most Caribbean itineraries sailing out of Florida and Texas are continuous loops because they depart from and return to the same port.
According to Marine Insight, the Port of Miami, Port Canaveral, and Port Everglades, all in Florida, are the Top Three Largest Cruise Ports in the World.
For those U.S. citizens living on the west coast or in California, the Mexican Riviera is an excellent closed-loop cruise. Most cruises depart from Los Angeles, but some also depart from San Diego or San Francisco.
The most popular Mexican Riviera cruise ports include Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta on 7-day cruises. However, La Paz, Loreto, and Manzanillo are popular on longer cruises of 8-14 days.
The Mexican Riviera cruise season is year-round, with the winter months of December to April considered peak season.
Travelers love New England because it experiences four seasons and is rich in history. This region is served primarily by American Cruise Lines (ACL), with smaller ships carrying less than 200 passengers.
Departure ports include Boston, Providence-Rhode Island, and Portland-Maine. Cruise length ranges from 6-11 nights with all destination ports within New England.
South Pacific/ Polynesia
Another exotic continuous loop cruise includes Hawaii and Polynesia. Just south of the Equator, Polynesia and year-round warm temperatures and gentle Pacific breezes.
The cruise departs and returns to Los Angeles, and typical itineraries are 28 to 32 days.
A world cruise is on the bucket list for many cruisers, but the cost can be prohibitive. Many world cruises start and end at the same U.S. port, such as Los Angeles, Miami, or Fort Lauderdale.
However, only partial world cruises can be considered “closed-loop.” This is due to the restriction that the itinerary must be exclusively in the Western Hemisphere.
This partial world cruise shown above is a 74-night cruise leaving Fort Lauderdale and includes all of South America and the Antarctic. This itinerary is a closed-loop cruise because it remains in the Western Hemisphere and starts and ends from a U.S. port.
As a closed-loop cruise, you would not need a passport according to WHTI requirements. However, you would benefit by having a passport in case some countries require one.
Regardless, this shows the rich itineraries possible in a closed-loop cruise. There are many exciting cruises available that can be considered a closed loop.
What Cruise Lines Offer Closed Loop Cruises
All major cruise lines that sail from U.S. ports of call offer these types of cruises. Here’s a short list of cruises lines you can consider:
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Carnival Cruise Lines
- Royal Caribbean
- Princess Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Holland America
- Disney Cruises
- MSC Cruises
Luxury and premium cruise lines such as Silversea, Oceania, Cunard, or Regent Seven Seas also offer closed-loop cruises. However, their fleet of ships is usually limited, with fewer options for itineraries.
How To Book Your Cruise
You can book the same as you book any other cruise. Book through your local travel agent if you want to let a professional handle all the details. Just let them know you want a ‘Closed-Loop Cruise,’ and they will find what you need.
Travel agents can book your transfers, excursions, flights, and more. The cost may be slightly higher than booking yourself, but you’ll feel less stressed by leaving it to the experts.
One of our favorite sites for booking online is VacationsToGo . They claim to be the World’s Largest Cruise Agency, but I shop there for the prices!
When booking through their site, select a region within the Western Hemisphere and check the box for “Return to Same Port.” Also, if you have a cruise port near you, select that as your departure port to focus your search.
Other popular online sites include Expedia.com, CruiseCritic.com, iCruise.com, and many others. You can also book through the cruise lines’ site, but they frequently have higher prices.
In my view, the worst day cruising is still better than the best day “back in the office!” However, we are lifelong cruisers, and I may be biased.
Closed loop cruises are a specific category of cruise that makes it a bit easier to cruise. There are so many potential destinations that you could do 10 or 20 closed-loop cruises that were all different.
Consider Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, or even a partial world cruise. All of these can be compliant with WHTI’s guidelines if booked correctly.
If you haven’t cruised before, a closed-loop cruise is a great way to get started. I hope you’ll eventually love cruising as much as we do!
Thursday 3rd of August 2023
Some of your information seems to conflict with what I read on the US Customs and Border Protection page. It's my understanding that a passport is required for sea travel on closed loop cruises that travel to South American countries.
Sunday 6th of August 2023
The US Customs and Border Protection Page says "U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same U.S. port) are able to enter the United States with a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID. Please be aware that you MAY still be required to present a passport to enter the countries your cruise ship is visiting." Emphasis on the word "May."