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I'm looking into departing on a cruise from Florida that goes through several Carribean nations. Given that I'm not a US citizen, there are a couple of stops on the itinerary where my passport alone won't suffice. Would the cruise company allow me on board despite that? And would I be allowed to exit the ship at ports where I would otherwise require a visa?

  • I've been to a similar cruise a while ago and most caribbean nations had a visa exemption policy for cruise visitors, who typically arrive by the morning and leave in the evening of the same day. Not posting this as an answer because this might change for each island and depend on your country's passport, place of residence, etc. – gmauch Oct 29 '18 at 18:44
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    Can you states which country you do hold a passport for? Florida is in the USA but few Caribbean Nations have much affiliation with the USA and many histroical links to other nations. We would also need to know the complete list of stops to tell you for each nation in turn if you do or do not require more than your passport. At a minimum, if you are a European Citizen entering Floriday will require you to apply an ESTA. – TafT Oct 30 '18 at 10:08
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    @TafT this question is about Carribean cruising rather than US visa policies. To avoid a question that's too restrictive imagine an Indian citizen with a multi entry US visa who is sailing from Fort Lauderdale on a cruise stopping at every Carribean nation where cruise companies normally stop. – JonathanReez Oct 30 '18 at 14:23
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I've been on several cruises on two different cruise lines and the rule has always been as follows: you are responsible for getting your own visas (and for knowing which ones you require); the cruise ship staff will check your passport at check-in time (on embarkation day) to make sure you are allowed in all the countries where the ship will stop. You will not be allowed on board unless you meet all the requirements for all the countries, even if you don't plan to leave the ship. If you try to book a cruise through a cruise line's website, you will probably be given this information before you complete your booking (in case you want to verify my answer).

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    I would emphasize "You will not be allowed on board unless you meet all the requirements for all the countries, even if you don't plan to leave the ship. ". That's news to me, and a little counter intuitive. – BruceWayne Oct 29 '18 at 14:44
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    @BruceWayne Typically, when you enter a country, you must present yourself to an immigration officer unless there is some reason you don't need to. A common reason for not needing to is that many countries allow airside transit between international flights. However, when a ship arrives in a port, passengers are required, I believe, to go through immigration, regardless of whether they intend to go ashore or stay on the ship (which is in the territorial waters of the country, not out on the open sea). – David Richerby Oct 29 '18 at 15:41
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    @BruceWayne Though TafT's anwer suggests that a simplified procedure may be in place with some tour operators. In that case, though, they would likely have no legal way to prevent you disembarking at a port where you had no visa, in which case the cruise company may be held liable for bringing in people who are refused entry, just like an airline would. – David Richerby Oct 29 '18 at 15:43
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    As a green card holder living in Seattle, I never saw an immigration officer getting off cruise ships in either Canada or Mexico. I expect they either have some arrangement with the cruise line or some specific law for cruise ships (e.g., anyone may enter by sea if they spend less than 12 hours in the country or something like that). – Joey Marianer Oct 29 '18 at 23:30
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Norwegian's visa page has some helpful resources. In general, if you require a visa to enter a country, the cruise line is usually going to require you to hold that visa to board the ship at all; it's not usually an option to say you just won't get off the ship.

Note that some Caribbean countries (e.g. Bermuda) have visa exemptions for those holding multiple-entry visas from countries like the US and Canada, so you may not need a visa even if your nationality would otherwise make one required.

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When I went to the Carribean a long time ago (with a UK passport) we had to get a Visa from the country we started the cruise in. This Visa head to last the length of the cruise, but was easy being British as we could get it on arrival at the airport.

Each Island the cruise visited, the captain did all the immigration paperwork for everyone. The captain kept all of our passports and issues as with a ships ID card that allowed as to enter the Island. Unlike getting a normal visa for each island, there was no direct cost to us of this process.

When we left the ship we were ticked off on a list, and they would only allow people to leave the ship who were approved to enter the given Island. (Some of the staff were not.)

However being British we qualified for automatic visas for all of the islands anyway without need pre approved, so I don't know how it would have work for a person with a "less powerful" passport.

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I suspect that the answer will depend on your tour operator and travel agent. In the case of a UK based cruise, it is possible that you need only arrange a passport; the booking agent or travel operator will do the rest. You will need to check with your travel agent or the cruise operator for confirmation.

When I went on a Caribbean cruise with a well-known UK cruise operator they arranged all the visas as part of the booking. I am a UK citizen with a UK passport and I had to make sure I had at least 6 months on the passport left at the time of my 2-week cruise.

At many of the docking points, there were no port staff actively checking passports and visas. The crew of the boat worked with the local authorities to check you on and off the boat in an acceptable manner. The boat operator had either got a waiver or had applied for visas on my behalf. I had to carry my passport on some islands and boat ID card on all.

My cruise started and ended in Barbados. I flew into there from the UK, went through a long ID check and security process once, then boarded the boat. This process was repeated again at the end of the cruise.

  • Were there any countries on your itinerary where you required a visa, that a UK passport alone was not enough for a visa waiver? – WBT Oct 29 '18 at 15:36
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    A good question. I believe we stopped at Puerto Rico which as I am not a United States Citizen requires me to have an ESTA but not a Visa as such. – TafT Oct 29 '18 at 15:49
  • Yes, I've been on a UK cruise to Norway where non-EEA passengers were allowed on board even without a Schengen visa. Their passport was stored with the ship until they've returned back to the UK. But it's hard to find information about Carribean cruises as the vast majority of passengers there have a visa free passport for every Carribean country. – JonathanReez Oct 29 '18 at 16:00
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    @TafT did you in fact have an ESTA? – phoog Oct 29 '18 at 17:14
  • @phoog it was a number of years ago but I believe that I did need to apply for an ESTA to cover the period of the trip that involved entering the territories for the USA. – TafT Oct 30 '18 at 10:05

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