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Sandi, one of our Top 25 subscribers, writes: Do I need a passport to take a cruise?

In the ever-changing world of passport regulations and fees (which just increased in July), it can be difficult to keep track. It's a good idea to get a passport for cruise travel, but there are ways around it. When traveling by sea in the Western Hemisphere (Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean),  you can get by if you purchase a Passport Card. These new cards cost $55 and grant access to the regions listed above by land or sea (but are not valid for air travel), and can easily fit into your wallet. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling in the future, I wouldn’t even bother with the card. For $135 you can get the passport book and travel around the world by land, sea, or air.

The second way around buying a passport is where things can get hazy (if you aren't careful). When sailing on a closed-loop cruise (one that starts and ends at the same U.S. port), only a valid photo ID and proof of citizenship is required. If something happens to you along the way (like missing the ship, or having an accident that requires you to stay at a port overnight), you can run into difficulties getting back into the United States. Before booking a cruise, be sure to check the cruise line’s website. Some international ports may require a passport to enter, so even if you think you’re covered by U.S. law, the cruise line may not let you board if one of these ports are included on your itinerary. My suggestion would be to get the passport book and be on the safe side. You'll find all the information you need on how to do so by visiting http://travel.state.gov.

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