When cruising it’s always a good idea to travel with a passport. But if you have a cruise planned to Martinique through Carnival Cruise Line, having a passport is no longer a “good to have”. It’s required.

Carnival passengers scheduled to set sail on the Carnival Pride on November 7, 2019 were notified by the cruise line that passengers planning to go ashore in Martinique will need a passport to explore the island.

Carnival Cruise Line provided a media statement to Travel Agent Central saying:

“Martinique now requires that all cruise visitors to the island must have a valid passport in order to go ashore. The requirement will be strictly enforced and Carnival is encouraging all guests sailing on upcoming voyages that stop at the island to obtain a passport prior to their cruise.

 If guests choose to sail without a passport they will need to stay onboard during the port visit.”

Carnival Cruise Line

As of the time of this writing, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International have not replied to requests form Travel Agent Central for their statements about Martinique requiring a passport.

Isn’t a Passport Required to Cruise?

Actually, the answer is: It depends.

That is, it depends on where you’re cruising from and where you’re destinations are located. If traveling in a “closed-loop” from the United States to countries participating in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a passport is not required. “Closed-loop” means that you leave a U.S. port and return to that same U.S. port.

In most cases, you can do this with a birth certificate and a photo ID. If using a birth certificate, it can be the original, photocopy, or certified copy. But when it comes to a photo ID, things start getting complicated.

In the past, states issued a driver’s license. There was only one kind. Now, you’ll need to verify if you have a simple state-issued driver’s license or an “enhanced driver’s license” (EDL). An enhanced driver’s license functions the same way a passport card does. That is, you can travel by land and sea between the United States and countries in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Those countries include Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It has the added advantage of allowing the license holder to drive in those countries.

If you are cruising from another country, you absolutely must have a passport. Additionally, if your cruise is not closed-loop, you will also need a passport. For example, if you set sail from Miami and return to New York, that is not a closed-loop. Hence, traditional travel rules apply.

How To Know If You Have an Enhanced Driver’s License

Check with your state’s local DMV. But to give perspective, an enhanced driver’s license in the state of North Carolina has a yellow star in the bottom corner indicating that it is an enhanced driver’s license. 

In order to obtain an EDL, you need to provide your birth certificate when requesting your driver’s license or your driver’s license renewal. The idea behind the EDL is to provide a low-cost, convenient alternative when traveling outside the country.

There is a word of caution. If you have an EDL and you move, need a replacement license or for any other reason need a new driver’s license issued to you, make sure your new one is an EDL. The only thing that is changing is your address; your identity is not. If you make the request from the DMV’s website, you run the risk of being issued a regular state license instead of the EDL. To ensure your updated license remains an EDL, it’s better to go into the office and speak to a person.

Why You Should Never Travel Without a Passport

Particularly when it comes to cruising, you should never travel without a passport. And by passport, we’re referring to the passport book, not a passport card. A passport card serves the same function as an EDL except it doesn’t permit the cardholder to drive. It’s convenient to carry with you off the ship when pulling into port. But not having a passport book can create an expensive problem.

Because EDLs and passport cards are only valid when traveling by land and sea between countries participating in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, it does not apply to air travel. Should something happen to you while visiting a participating island and you need to be flown home, an EDL or passport card will not get you on the plane. If you return to the port late and miss the ship, an EDL or passport card will not allow you to fly to the next port.

Other Considerations Even If You Have a Passport

Even if you have a passport, you’ll want to send a copy to your travel agent for them to review and have onfile.

There are a number of things that can make your passport invalid even if you have plenty of time remaining before you have to renew. Have your agent review your documents right after your book your cruise to make sure everything is good. Giving your travel agent a copy of the passports for everyone traveling in your group can also be a life-saver.

What if something happens to your bags and your passport is ruined or lost? Even more frightening, what if you return to port late and the ship is floating away along with your passport? Your options are to find the U.S. embassy and have them reissue you a replacement. For a fee of course. 

By giving a copy to your travel agent, with one phone call and no additional money out of pocket for travel documents, you can be on your way to catch up with your ship at the next port. This is one of many overlooked advantages of using a travel agent vs booking through a booking engine website.

Your Travel Agent Is Your Best Resource

If you follow the rule to always have your passport when you travel, you’ll never run into any issues. Assuming your cruise is coming quickly and you don’t have a passport, check with your travel agent to confirm that your travel documents will allow you to get on your cruise and be allowed entry to your port of call. If you need updated travel documents, your agent can help you get them expedited.

Don’t forget to make copies of your travel documents to take with you while on your cruise, just in case. 

Source: Travel Agent Central

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