As I made plans this summer to take a cruise, I worked my way through my pre-travel checklist. I booked my flights, researched ground transportation options and selected a hotel for the night before boarding.
But I had yet to tick one important box: renewing my expired passport.
I had not traveled internationally since the pandemic began and needed a deadline to motivate me, so shortly before my sailing from the Netherlands to New York, I filled out the application, paid the fees, and did a quick photo shoot at my local Walgreens.
Passports are just one of the documents travelers may need when taking a cruise, which can add to the overall cost of a trip. Here’s what travelers should have on hand, and what costs they might encounter before and during their trip.
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What documents will travelers need to board a cruise?
The U.S. State Department recommends cruise passengers sailing from America have a passport book.
U.S. citizens booked on closed-loop cruises – those that start and end at the same U.S. port – can enter the country with a government-issued photo ID and birth certificate instead, but the State Department encourages having a passport book “in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port,” according to its website. Cruise lines may also require it.
Denise Jewell, owner of Opulence Travel Agency, also recommends having a passport, even on closed-loop cruises, in case you don’t make it back to the ship in time during a stop.
“It’ll be much easier to deal with the locals if you have a passport as opposed to a birth certificate,” Jewell said.
If travelers need to apply for or renew a passport, “The sooner you get started the better,” said Danny Genung, CEO of travel agency Harr Travel. He suggested beginning that process as soon as you book your trip, even if it’s a year in advance.
“This is one of the big pain points and stress points of travel if you wait too long,” Genung said.
Even travelers who have procrastinated, though, may not be out of luck. I mailed my passport renewal application on Sept. 7 and paid about $208 in fees overall, including expedited service. I received my new passport on Oct. 3, about two weeks before my trip.
What costs will travelers encounter while taking a cruise?
Many costs associated with a cruise are included in the fare travelers pay when they book. “I think one of the things I would point out is, spending money on a cruise ship is a choice,” said Genung, noting that he has been on many cruises and spent nothing additional except on gratuities. However, with mainstream cruise lines, there are generally some key expenses to keep in mind (on luxury lines, many of these costs are likely to be included in the fare).
► Taxes, fees and port expenses: In addition to the fare, travelers must pay taxes, fees and port expenses, said Brigitte Feinberg, a travel advisor and independent affiliate of Avenue Two Travel. Those can vary based on the specifics of your trip.