If you’re about to take your first cruise, you might be wondering what documents you’ll need to take with you. Here, we look at the travel documentation requirements to ensure you’re well prepared for your maiden voyage.
Each cruise line issues you with cruise documentation typically one to two months before sailing. If you book at short notice, these documents may be available to collect at the Pier prior to boarding. The documents include your tickets for the voyage and any air travel. You need to review these carefully, particularly if you have booked consecutive sailings. Your documentation needs to be produced at the start of your trip and some lines will charge a fee if the documents have to be reissued.
Cruise lines need certain info from you before you board the ship and often this will be collected through an embarkation form. Although often you’ll get this with your documents (and need to complete it and bring it with you), operators such as Azamara may offer the option of completing the details online to save time.
If you’re British or Irish, you’ll need a full 10-year passport (5 years for infants or 3 years for Irish infants up to 3 years of age). Most cruise lines recommend that the expiry date is at least 6 months before your return date – with some cruise lines (such as Cunard) noting this to be mandatory. This is a requirement in certain countries, particularly Middle Eastern and Asian countries.
Cunard also recommend that you have some blank pages in your passport for entry and exit stamps.
Note that some destinations such as St. Petersburg, Russia, require that you take a photocopy with you of the passport page showing your picture and personal information – in addition to your original passport.
If you’re travelling to the US you’ll need to complete Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). This applies if your ship will call at any US port, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. To obtain authorisation you’ll need to log into the ETSA web based system and complete your application online. ETSA approval lasts for two years.
If you’re travelling to or via Canada and you’re Visa exempt (e.g a UK or Irish citizen) you’ll need Electronic Travel Authorisation. Again this can be obtained online and is mandatory. The authorisation lasts for up to 5 years.
If you don’t have a European passport, you may need a Schengen Visa for entry into certain European countries.
Other countries may have their own specific Visa requirements. Most cruise lines have a Visa partner who will help you identify which visa you need and make the application for you. For example, Royal Caribbean have partnered with VisaCentral who can provide you with the most up to date advice, together with a Visa purchasing service.
Travelling with Minors
If a minor is travelling without their parents, cruise lines require proof in the form of an original legally affirmed or notarised letter that the guardian of the child has agreed that they may go on holiday. This applies even when the party includes members of the child’s family such as Aunts, Uncles or Grandparents. The policies vary slightly from one operator to the next but essentially require a letter presented on headed paper or showing an official stamp signed by an Notary, Commissioner for Oaths or Solicitor. It should include authorisation for the child to take the specific journey, authorisation for the specific adult to supervise the child and permission for any emergency medical treatment to be administered. The child’s valid passport and any Visa required must be presented.
Additionally, if a child does not have the same surname as their parent/legal guardian, legal documentation may be required to prove the child is in their primary care – this might include birth, marriage, divorce, adoption certificates, or local government authority as required to show the link between the adult to the child.
Where a non-parent adult is a legal guardian (for example, a step mother or step father), a certified Certificate of Guardianship may be required.
Proof of Vaccinations
In addition to your passport and any required electronic authorisations or Visas, some countries also recommend or require that you obtain inoculations before you travel. Note that this is country-specific rather than cruise-line specific. Royal Caribbean recommends guests check with either their GP or a Travel Medicine Specialist certified by the WHO for details of which inoculations may be required. The NHS Fit for Travel website is also helpful and you will notice that some jabs can be obtained without charge on the NHS.
Where a vaccination is a requirement rather than a recommendation, some countries will ask to see an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) before you enter.
You’ll need to obtain full travel insurance for your trip and according to P&O, this should cover any pre existing medical conditions. Cruise travel insurance is a specific product – this is because cruises are very different in nature to a seaside holiday or country retreat. The possibility of delay, disruption or certain more serious events, whilst remote, must be covered as a risk. Cruise specific insurance cover risks such as being confined to your cabin for your entire cruise or missing a port due to bad weather. Some insurers do cover these events in their standard policies but you need to check the policy documents carefully to ensure the cover is adequate – these policies tend to be cheaper but offer less protection. Be aware that some insurers specifically exclude cruises in their standard policies so take care not to buy the wrong type of cover.
You’ll need to take your policy documents with you – this is a requirement of some providers but regardless, it is just common sense to have these important papers to hand should something go wrong.
Disclaimer: The above requirements are correct at the time of publishing. You should check travel documentation requirements with your individual cruise operator before you depart.