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For those of you who are planning your first international cruise or vacation it is important you apply for a passport.

Did you know there are two types of passports? The first is the traditional passport booklet. It is valid for 10 years from the date of issue for adults and five years for those aged 15 or younger. The application and processing fee is approximately $150. 

The U.S. Passport card is NOT a full passport, but a small ID card issued by the U.S. government for crossing land and sea borders with Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The ID card is valid for 10 years for people 16 or older and 5 years for minors under 16 and costs approximately $65. Please note: the passport card is not valid for international air travel. 

Read that last sentence again: the passport card is NOT valid for international air travel. You may think it’s no big deal if you are just cruising from a US port to the Caribbean; you may think you can save some money and get the card instead of the booklet. While it’s true you will be allowed to board the ship with only a passport card and disembark at all those wonderful ports of call like Jamaica, Cozumel, Aruba, Cayman Islands, etc., if an emergency were to happen in any of those foreign countries that necessitated the need to fly directly home you would be denied access including care-flight helicopter service. 

Consider the story of the Illinois woman who broke her leg while on a shore excursion in the caribbean. It was a grisly break and she needed immediate surgery. Unfortunately the country she was in had neither the skill surgeons or the facilities to treat her. Initially she and her family thought she would be okay because they purchased travel insurance which included $500,000 in emergency transport benefits. Unfortunately her passport card was not valid for international travel and she ended up having her leg amputated. 

My recommendations are two-fold: 1) spend the extra money and get the full passport booklet and 2) ALWAYS purchase travel insurance. 

Here are a few more tips:

  • TIME – The U.S. State Department recommends that all travelers’ passports remain valid for six months beyond their expected return date. 
  • PAGES – Make sure you have sufficient pages in your book – at least two extra (flight deviations) 
  • LEARN MORE: Visit the U.S. State Department website at for passport and visa requirements.
  • VISA CHECK: Visit the U.S. Embassy website for info on specific countries you will be traveling to, for up-to-date visa requirements.

There are about 9,000 passport acceptance facilities in the United States, designated by Passport Services, at which routine passport applications may be filed. These facilities include United States courts, state courts, post offices, public libraries, county offices, and city offices