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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fort Lauderdale to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Kitts
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.
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.
Start planning your closed-loop cruise today and browse cruise itineraries on our website.