Caribbean Closed Loop Cruises
and U.S. Passport Requirements
Caribbean cruises that begin and end in the U.S. are referred to as closed loop cruises by the U.S. Department of State.
At the moment, you do not need a valid passport for leaving or entering the United States on a closed loop cruise.
But cruising without a passport is a big gamble. You are assuming you will not have any health problems or experience any on-island travel delays that cause you to miss your cruise and remain on an island. If that happens, you face serious problems.
If you are traveling around an island and your rental car breaks down, the cruise line will not wait for you. You will be left behind. (This happens more often than you think.)
Without a passport, you may encounter problems with immigration officials in the foreign country you’re stranded in. Also, how will you catch up with your cruise ship at its next stop? Some airlines may not let you board to fly to the next island without a passport.
If you become ill and need emergency evacuation back to the States, you could have difficulty re-entering the United States by air because many airlines will require a valid passport before allowing you to board the aircraft.
This is why it’s strongly recommend everyone cruise the Caribbean with a valid passport. If you can afford the price of a cruise, you should be able to cover the cost of a passport.
At the very least, get a passport card. That and an enhanced driver’s licenses are sufficient for entry back into the U.S. but they may not be accepted by the foreign country where you’re left behind.