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International Cruise - Planning Your Cruise Abroad

Two cruise ships docked in bayPlanning an international cruise to a foreign country can be a exciting and memorable experience, especially if you have never traveled abroad. While there are many wonderful sights to see and things to do, there are also some dangers to avoid. Your international cruise will be much more rewarding if you take the following considerations into account.

Passports and Travel Visas

Since you will be on an international cruise, you will be visiting foreign countries. It is recommended that you learn as much as you can about each country at which the cruise ship will port. One of the first things you need to understand are the foreign entry requirements. The  Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative  requires all those who travel by sea to a foreign country and return to the U.S. to possess a valid passport.

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Depending on the countries you will visit, it may also be necessary to obtain a travel visa. Even if you do not plan to leave the ship, the cruise line will require you to possess the appropriate visas.

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Make Copies of Essential Information

It is a smart idea to make copies of all of your most essential documents before your trip. Plan to keep a set of copies stored securely at home and another set packed securely with you on your trip. Some of the most important information to copy includes:

  • Passports - Photocopied passports are not acceptable travel documents. That said, it can be easier to replace a lost or stolen passport if you have a backup copy of your original.
  • Credit cards - Photocopying your credit cards will ensure you have the numbers, expiration dates and the phone numbers to call if the card(s) wind up geting lost, misplaced, or stolen.
  • Medical perscriptions - Traveling internationally with perscription medication requires both a copy of the original perscription and that the medication is stored in its original container. Having an extra copy of the perscription can help prevent border-crossing issues. More importantly it can supply healthcare providers with crucial information in the case of a medical emergency or if you need a perscription refill.
  • Insurance information - Make sure that your medical insurance fully covers any medical expenses in other countries before departing on your trip. If it does not cover you, travel insurance might be a smart choice for you.

Apart from keeping these copies secure, be sure to keep them packed or stored separate from the originals. They won't be much help if they get lost, too!

Plan for Your Destinations

The fact that you chose an international cruise likely means that you enjoy exploring new places and learning about new cultures. Since you will have limited time at each port, it is a good idea to become familiar with the language and culture of each international destination as well as a list of popular sightseeing tours and attractions.

Furthermore, keep in mind the various climates and cultural norms of your destination(s) when deciding what to pack in your luggage.

Keep Safety in Mind

If you are traveling abroad for the first time, beware of scams. Frequently, petty thieves lurk in areas where cruise ships dock, waiting to make unsuspecting passengers their next victims. There are several common schemes that many international travelers are especially susceptible to.

There are some simple tips that will help keep you safe abroad:

  • Make sure to keep your bags in sight at all times. This will help you avoid getting anything stolen or having your luggage compromised in some way.
  • Lock all baggage that you bring with you. Opting for a TSA-approved locks will make crossing through border-checks a lot more convenient.
  • Keep only your essential items and documentation in your wallet during your trip. This will make it easier to carry and make it easier to replace the contents should it get lost or stolen.
  • Try not to carry a lot of unnecessary items with you. Simply put: the more stuff you have, the easier it is to lose something

Leave Yourself Plenty of Time on Departure Day

Make sure you get to the boat early. In today's world, there are a number of security precautions and safety measures that are taken before you are allowed to board any mode of public transportation. This means that you will need plenty of time to check your bags and get through security before your boat leaves.

If you end up having a little extra time before you board your cruise, most shipping docks have areas where travelers can wait for their cruises to depart. It is better to have a little extra time than to miss your boat!

When it's time to board, be sure to have your boarding pass, passport, travel visa(s), and any other erquired travel documentation handy. This will allow you to pass through security checks quickly and easily rather than holding up a line as you search through your bags for the right documents.

Plan Ahead for Your Spending Money

Make sure you know the currency conversions between American dollars and the currency of the country you are visiting. Make sure you are visiting places that will accept your credit cards or make certain that you have enough local currency on you for any expenses.

You will also want to look into services to exchange your currency. Different places offer different conversion rates. Banks are typically the best bet, as they usually offer the most competitive rates. However, it is smart to do some research into this before your trip. Some cruises travel through several countries, which means you may need a variety of different currencies. Consider your destinations and planned excursions when estimating how much currency you will need.

Traveler's checks are another viable option. They can be purchased from your local bank prior to your trip and can be used just about anywhere.

Line Up Your Insurance Coverage

When traveling abroad on a cruise it might be a good idea to invest in international travel insurance. Not only does travel insurance protect you from any unexpected cancellations (which can be important since cruises abroad can be more costly than domestic rates), but international travel insurance can come in handy in other ways as well.

Before leaving, check into your medical insurance plan to find out if you are covered in foreign countries. Some insurance plans do not cover medical expenses in foreign countries and in some cases insurance plans are not accepted by foreign hospitals. In case of medical emergency while you are away, supplemental travel insurance policies can be purchased to cover any unforeseen medical costs that may occur while you are overseas.

The most important tip for people planning to travel abroad is to have fun and enjoy the cruise. For most people it is not everyday that they get to visit a foreign country, let alone several, so try your best to take in as many sights as possible - and don't forget your camera!

About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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