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Guide to cruising with a birth certificate

Many first time cruisers want to know whether or not you can cruise with a birth certificate in lieu of a passport, but the answer depends on a few key factors. And, just because you can cruise with a birth certificate doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Whether or not you can cruise with a birth certificate instead of a passport depends on your citizenship status and cruise itinerary. Sailings from the U.S. permit U.S. citizens to show a birth certificate as proof of citizenship, but additional documentation is required for those over 16 years old.

If you’re considering cruising with a birth certificate instead of a passport, be sure to read this guide thoroughly to understand the rules before embarkation day.

Who can cruise with a birth certificate, and on which sailings is this allowed?

Cruising with a birth certificate is permitted for U.S. citizens, but only in specific cases. The only time U.S. citizens can cruise with a birth certificate (and ID) as their official identification is on sailings departing from U.S. homeports. These must be roundtrip sailings starting and ending in the U.S.

U.S. homeports include:

  • Cape Liberty
  • Miami
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Port Canaveral
  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle
  • Galveston
  • Boston
  • San Juan

For any cruises departing from outside the U.S. (Canada, Italy, Australia, etc.), U.S. citizens must provide a passport valid at least 6 months after the cruise ends.

Which type of birth certificate is allowed?

Only official U.S. state-issued birth certificates are accepted. Note that state-issued birth certificates are different from hospital birth certificates (baby feet birth certificates), and are issued directly from your state’s vital records office.

To obtain a state-issued birth certificate, contact the vital records office in the state or territory in which you were born, and follow the instructions for requesting a copy and paying any applicable fees.

Do I need other documentation in addition to my birth certificate?

Guests 16 and older who are providing a birth certificate as their citizenship document before a cruise must also provide a valid driver’s license or government issued picture ID.

If your name has changed since the birth certificate was issued, you must also provide a supporting document (marriage license, legal name change document, etc.) that provides proof of the name change.

Remember that both documents must match the name provided on your cruise reservation.

What documentation is required when cruising with minors?

While guests 16 and above must provide a state-issued ID in addition to their birth certificate, minors under 16 may cruise with just a birth certificate. This is, of course, only valid on cruises departing from a U.S. homeport (otherwise a passport is required).

If the name of the parent and minor child do not match, however, the names of the parent and child must be linked through legal documentation.

If an adult is traveling with a minor who is not the parent or legal guardian of the child, they must present:

  • A passport or visa (when required) OR
  • The child’s state-issued birth certificate AND
  • A notarized letter signed by one of the child’s parents stating that the adult has permission to take the child on a cruise

A Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) or Certificate of Naturalization are also permitted in lieu of a passport or birth certificate on sailings from U.S. homeports.

Are there any exceptions?

If you sail from a U.S. homeport but are on a cruise visiting Colombia, all passengers–regardless of citizenship status–must provide a passport valid for at least 6 months after the cruise’s return date. No other travel documents will be accepted.

Puerto Rican citizens should note that a birth certificate issued before July 1, 2010 is not a valid proof of citizenship. Therefore, it’s required to obtain a renewed birth certificate. These renewed documents can be ordered through

Permanent residents of the United States can provide a United States Permanent Resident Card, but a passport from their home country is recommended.

Can citizens of other countries cruise with a birth certificate in lieu of a passport?

Citizens of other countries sailing on a Royal Caribbean cruise from the U.S. must provide a valid passport from their home country. The only exception to this is with U.S. permanent residents, although bringing a passport is still advised.

Should you cruise with a birth certificate?

We recommend cruising with a passport instead of a birth certificate, even when a birth certificate is permitted as your proof of citizenship documentation.

Traveling to a foreign country without a passport puts you at risk for a variety of headache-inducing scenarios should you miss the cruise ship, require emergency transportation back to the US, etc.

You cannot board a flight from a foreign country back to the United States without a passport. If you miss the ship in Cozumel, for example, you’ll have to travel to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and obtain a replacement passport.

Related: Do you need a passport for a cruise?

Getting stranded in a foreign country without a passport is not how you want to spend your vacation. You never know when an unexpected scenario may occur, so it’s better to be prepared and have a passport handy.

In addition, having a passport makes disembarking the ship easier once the cruise is over, as there’s a separate line for those with U.S. passports versus those traveling with state-issued birth certificates and other forms of identification.

Simply put, it’s always better to have a passport than to travel with just a birth certificate, and it opens up a wide selection of cruise itineraries and international travel choices for the future.

You can view the full list of Royal Caribbean’s required documentation to board here.

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