Do I Need a Visa on My Cruise?It depends. For North Americans, many popular cruise destinations -- such as the Eastern and Western Caribbean, Alaska and Western Mediterranean -- do not require visas. But ships that call on more exotic destinations might include visits to a country where you'd need a visa to enter. In addition, there are some destinations where independent travelers need a visa, but cruise travelers or cruise travelers on licensed tours do not.How do you know which countries have which rules? You might think to ask your cruise line, but they are not always the most helpful. Many cruise lines post information on their website and in the cruise documents about whether you need a visa on your specific cruise. But they follow up with fine print that indicates that it is not their responsibility to provide visas for passengers or to offer advice regarding such matters (even though they've just done so). Essentially, the lines give "tips," but are quick to acknowledge that you should never rely solely on those tips.The Cruise Critic message boards are a fantastic resource for asking fellow cruisers if they needed visas on their cruises to the same destinations you're visiting. You can often learn details about the visa process in specific ports through firsthand accounts from those who have recently been there.But when it comes to visas, it is best to stick with the adage, "Trust, but verify."
U.S. citizens can easily look up visa requirements at Travel.State.gov under the "International Travel" tab. Search for each country your ship will visit to see the visa requirements along with a wealth of other information. The tourist visa requirement is displayed in the "Quick Facts" box at the top of the page. Scroll down a little to the specific section for "Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements," which will have details, sometimes including additional information specifically for cruise passengers. Canadian citizens can use a similar site: Travel.gc.ca.It is important that you have a valid visa for all ports of call that require them, even if you do not plan to disembark. Emergencies, either yours or the ship's, could force a situation that would make a visa unexpectedly necessary.