According to the U.S. Department of State, as of June, 2009, U.S. citizens taking "closed-loop" cruises (those that both originate and terminate in the same U.S. port) do not need a passport. A certified copy of a birth certificate, as well as a government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license, are sufficient (see Reference 1). Children are also required to bring proof of citizenship, and if they are 16 or older, a photo ID.
When Passport is Required
If a cruise begins and ends in different U.S. ports or begins and ends in a foreign port, a valid passport is required.
Traveling with a Minor
If both parents are not cruising, it is recommended that you bring an original, signed and notarized letter from the absent parent that authorizes the minor to travel with you. This letter is required if debarking with the minor child in Mexico.
Even if your cruise does not require a passport, having one will enable you to fly from the United States to a foreign port if you miss your original embarkation, or to fly back to the United States if you need to disembark because of an emergency.
U.S. Homeland Security regulations are subject to change. Check with your travel agent or cruise ship representative for updated travel requirements.
Article Written By Lisa Brei
Lisa Brei is a freelance writer who has written for "Los Angeles Family" magazine, "L.A. Parenting" magazine and various nonprofit newsletters and blogs. She frequently covers education, family travel, gardening, children's health and infertility. Brei holds a Master of Arts in education from University of California, Los Angeles.