Important Due to Covid-19, processing times for passports are taking longer than normal for both standard and expedited services.

What is the best way to get a passport for a cruise in 3 weeks?

by Pamela
(West Palm Beach, FL, USA)

Question: I don't have a passport and it's Dec 21. I plan on going on my cruise on Jan 14. What is the best way to get my passport in time and how much would it cost? I have a regional agency in Miami that I can go to but I'm looking for most cost effective way to get my passport in time.

Answer: First of all, you might want to verify the travel document requirements with the cruise line. Passports are not required for re-entry into the United States when traveling on a closed-loop cruise. A passport may still be required for entry into any country you plan to visit on the cruise. For this reason, you should contact the cruise line.

If a passport is required, you will probably have the choice of obtaining either the passport book or a passport card. The card can only be used for land or sea travel to Bermuda, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean region. Travel to any other destination or by air requires the book

Even if you do not require a passport or can use the passport card, you may consider obtaining the passport book instead. If an emergency arises during the cruise which requires you return to the United States by air, you will need a valid passport book to enter the United States. If you do not have one at the time the emergency arises, you will be required to visit the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in order to get one. This can delay your return from only a few hours to several days.

In order to obtain a passport in only 3 weeks, you need to expedite the process. If you apply by Friday, you might receive your new passport before your departure date but there is no guarantee. Expedited service takes up to 3 weeks to complete. Applying at the Miami passport agency is much quicker and the fees are the same.

In summary, the most cost-efficient option is to not get a passport if one is not required. The next most cost-efficient option is to apply for the passport card if it is acceptable for your cruise. The application fee for the card is only $30 while the fee for the book is $110. This does not include the execution fee nor the expedited service fee. Remember, however, that neither of these prepare you for an emergency flight back to the United States.

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UPDATE: Mailing delays are impacting passport processing. The Department of State's processing times begin when applications are received at a passport agency or center and not when you mail them or apply at a local acceptance facility. Standard service may take between 6 and 9 weeks. This timeframe does not include delivery time. Mailing times vary across the country.

Expedited service takes from 3 to 5 weeks exluding mailing times on the front and back end. Mailing delays may be significant so requesting 1-2-day mailing may greatly help.

Regional passport agencies are offering two types of appointments: Life-of-Death Emergency Service and Urgent Travel Service.

Life-or-death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, sibling, and grandparent) that require you to travel outside the United States within 3 business days.

If you need to travel due to a qualified life-or-death emergency, please call the National Passport Information Center for an appointment:

Mondays through Fridays 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. ET, call 1-877-487-2778 (TDD/TTY:1-888-874-7793) Outside of these hours, call 202-647-4000.

For Urgent Travel Service, you need to call 14 days before your scheduled international travel or 28 days if you also need to secure a foreign visa.

If you need to travel urgently for reasons other than a life-or-death emergency, please call the NPIC at 1-877-487-2778 Mondays through Fridays 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. ET.

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