Do You Need a Passport for an Alaskan Cruise?

One of the easiest ways to see Alaska is on a cruise. However, you can’t just show up and expect they’ll let you on board. There are a few critical documents that you’ll need to bring with you. But do you need a passport to cruise Alaska?

Today, we’ll help you to have everything to set sail and explore The Last Frontier’s majestic beauty.

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

What Is a Passport?

A passport is a form of identification issued by the government. In the United States, the Department of State is the agency that oversees the issuing of these legal documents.

They’re used to confirm the identity and citizenship of individuals. They contain the name, date of birth, photograph, and the individual’s signature.

The booklet versions are the traditional type of passport. However, card versions hit the scene in 2008.

Unfortunately, the cards aren’t suitable for every situation. You can only use them to visit Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and other Caribbean countries by land or sea. You’ll want the booklet version if you plan to fly or visit other countries that are not on the approved list.

Two passports sitting on a map.

Do You Need a Passport for an Alaskan Cruise?

The last thing you want to do is arrive for your Alaskan cruise without the proper documents. Is a passport one of them? Unfortunately, the best answer we can give you is it depends. Whether or not you’ll need one will depend on your cruise.

“Closed-loop” cruises” start and end at the same port in the United States. For these cruises, a passport is not a requirement. Even if you set sail from Seattle and stop in Canada on your way to Alaska, they’re technically not required.

On the other hand, if your cruise departs or ends at a Canadian port, you must have a passport or passport card. Because you will eventually run into a situation where the cruise line will only allow people to board with these documents.

If missing out on your cruise isn’t bad enough, you’ll likely also forfeit any funds you’ve paid towards your trip.

Why Should You Have a Passport for a Cruise?

Even if it’s not a requirement, having a passport for a cruise is a good idea. You never know what will go wrong during your trip. You could experience a medical emergency that requires you to fly home or stay in a foreign country. While it’s not impossible to fly home without one, it won’t be cheap or easy.

Getting one can be a hassle and expensive, especially with a large family. However, having them unlocks a world of possibilities for future adventures.

We highly recommend that anyone with an adventurous spirit get one. You never know when it could come in handy.

A large cruise ship in the water in Alaska.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport?

Another unfortunate aspect of these important legal documents is that they can take time to acquire. Depending on demand, it can take anywhere from six to 13 weeks once they receive your application.

You must remember that preparing your application and mailing it to them takes time, too. Depending on how quickly you work, it could add a week or two to the entire process. Expedited services are available, which reduce your wait to seven to nine weeks once they receive the application.

How to Get a Passport

If you’re ready to get a passport, there are some crucial steps. Failing to do them correctly could result in severe application processing delays. So let’s look at what you must do so you’re not worrying as your departure date nears.

Gather Your Documents

The first thing you need to do is gather the required documents. You’ll need something that shows proof of your citizenship.

This could be a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or a previously issued passport. You’ll also need to show proof of identity. You can use a driver’s license, government-issued or military ID.

If you make an appointment at a local facility or submit your application without these documents, it will be rejected. This can cause severe delays. Do yourself and the agents processing applications a favor and provide all of the proper documents the first time.

A cruise ship in a fjord in Alaska flating by a glacier.

Complete the Paperwork

If you’re applying for a new passport or it’s for a child under 16, you’ll need to fill out the DS-11. Take your time to complete the entire document. You don’t want to miss checking a box or filling out your address to cause a delay.

A simple mistake can add several weeks to the Department of State’s time to process your application. With wait times taking upwards of 10 to 13 weeks, you don’t want to wait any longer than necessary.

Get a Passport Photo

Another step in the process is to get a passport photo taken. Some processing facilities offer this service, but you can often visit Walgreens and other locations for it, too. Because of the strict rules and requirements for photos, you want to ensure it is done right.

Even if you’re a professional photographer or have fancy equipment, you may be unable to take these photos. Knowing what you can and can’t do or wear is essential. If you want to take it yourself, familiarize yourself with the passport photo tips the Department of State provides.

Pay the Fees

The next step is to pay the fees for your passport. If you’re a first-time adult applicant, it will cost $130 for a passport book and $30 for a passport card. Regardless of the type, you must also pay a $35 execution fee. Renewals are the same price, but you do not have to pay the $35 execution fee.

Children receive a discount as the book costs $100, and the card version costs $15. However, both still must pay the $35 execution fee.

If you’re under the gun and need your passport in a hurry, you can pay a $60 expedited service fee. You can also pay approximately $20 and have it shipped to you within one to two days of the Department of State processing your application.

A cruise ship heading into to an Alaska port with four other cruise ships there.

Submit Your Application

When using an acceptance facility, they’ll submit your application for you. They’ll act as the middleman between you and the Department of State.

You’ll leave your official documents with them, and they’ll send them directly to the appropriate party. With more than 7,000 facilities across the country, there’s a good chance there’s one near you.

Another option to consider is to submit your application yourself by mail. Unfortunately, this is only an option for those renewing or changing their current passport. Unless you are in either of these categories, you’ll need to appear in person.

Check the Status and Wait Patiently

Once you submit your application, you can log into the Department of State’s website to check your status. You can input your information, providing updates as your application progresses.

Unfortunately, in our experience, these updates are like tracking a package shipped through the USPS. It’ll likely get updated that they received and are processing your application, but it will stay that way for some time. Depending on the expected processing time, you may not see an update for several weeks.

Receive Your Passport

The status of your application will likely go from “not available” to “in process’ to “approved.” Once it reaches this stage, the Department of State will mail it to you. They will send it directly to the address you provided on the application. You’ll likely receive a tracking number to monitor the progress as it travels to you.

Once it arrives, it’s a good idea to open it immediately and inspect it for accuracy. Some travelers have experienced the nightmare of a mistake on their passports. It could be a mistake with your name, gender, or place of birth. Whatever the case, you’ll want to take action immediately. 

Travel the World

Now that you’ve received your official passport, it’s time to travel the world. You’ll still need to acquire visas to travel to some countries. Don’t think that you can cross borders without permission. Trust us, that’s not going to end well for you.

However, now that you have a passport, you can experience the world. Whether you want to travel by train, plane, automobile, or cruise ship, you now can. So don’t let anything hold you back.

A woman holding her passport looking excited against a blue background.

Should You Get a Passport for Your Alaskan Cruise?

As we mentioned, there are certain circumstances where a passport is optional for an Alaskan cruise. However, we highly recommend having one. If we’ve learned anything while traveling, plan for the unexpected.

You never know when having your passport will come in handy. You could miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without one.

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