Closed Loop Cruise: What Is It? Everything you need to know

Closed Loop Cruise: Have you ever had a few days to spare and an intense urge to travel to the warm Caribbean or on an adventure in Alaska, only to discover that you are missing your passport or that it has expired? You can benefit from the ease of a closed-loop trip as a citizen of the United States—you don’t even need a passport for this.

A Closed Loop Cruise: What Is It?

Saga Cruises
(Credit: Meyer Werft)

The cruise ports in Cozumel are home to the massive cruise ships Carnival Valor and Carnival Conquest.

Beginning and ending in the same U.S. port is a closed-loop trip. Take a voyage that starts and ends in Miami, Florida, or sail nonstop from Seattle, Alaska.

A cruise that starts and ends in different ports in the United States (such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale) is not considered a closed-loop trip.

Typically, a closed-loop cruise would leave from Miami, Florida, make her way to Bermuda and the Caribbean, and then return to Miami.

Miami, Florida, is home to an MSC cruise ship. Cruises that depart from the United States and are round-trip must fulfill certain requirements.

Ships flying foreign flags are required by U.S. maritime law to make a minimum of one port call in a foreign nation.

Because most cruise ships operate under foreign flags, Alaskan itineraries often involve a stop in Canada, and Hawaiian cruises are rather uncommon.

Since most Caribbean and Bahamas sailings already entail international travel, they don’t need to worry about the need.

The cruise must start and conclude in the United States to be eligible for closed-loop classification. It can, however, travel to adjacent contiguous regions or islands, such as the Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexico, and Canada, that are part of the continental United States.

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Is a passport required for closed-loop cruises?

(Credit: Diffen)

Passports are typically not required for closed-loop cruises. This is among the factors contributing to the popularity of these routes. Of course, if you have a passport or passport card, you can use them as identification. On closed-loop cruises, however, citizens of the United States are permitted entry and exit of the nation upon presentation of valid identification.

In addition to a birth certificate or passport, an enhanced driver’s license proves citizenship and identity.

They can be used to re-enter the United States at land, sea, and air border crossings, but not at airports.

The original, notarized, or certified copy of a birth certificate is acceptable for minors under 16.

Social Security numbers and voter registration cards are not accepted as evidence of citizenship.

If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States, there are still additional regulations. Although the U.S. government does not mandate passport ownership, it is always wise to check the regulations at the places on the itinerary, as they may change. To re-enter the country if you are an LPR, you will require an I-551 or Green Card. And whether or not you’re on a closed-loop cruise, you’ll need a passport if you’re not a citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States.

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There are a few things to be aware of if you decide to take advantage of this chance to travel without a passport. For instance, let’s say something goes wrong and you have to take a plane back to the United States. In this scenario, boarding an airplane would require a passport.

Additionally, you’ll have to find your way home or catch up with the trip if you miss the ship in one of the ports, which could be challenging without a passport. That won’t occur if you reserve an excursion with Celebrity Cruises, as the ship will wait for you.

What Documents Are Necessary for Non-US Nationals on a Closed-Loop Cruise?

For U.S. citizens, the majority of Caribbean islands just demand a picture ID. They may, however, demand a photo ID and a Permanent Resident Card from a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) (also known as a green card or I-551).

Should you not be a citizen of the United States or a lawful permanent resident, you will need to provide the necessary paperwork, which may include a passport. Passports are required for all cruises, even closed-loop sailings, for non-citizens of the United States.

According to U.S. Customs & Border Protection, U.S. citizens can enter the United States with a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID, including:

  • U.S. Passport
  • Passport Card
  • Birth Certificate
  • Enhanced Driver’s License
  • Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business
  • Form I-872 American Indian Card
  • Enhanced Tribal Card

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