Do Cruise Passengers Need Tourist/Transit Visas?

edited June 2011 in World Wide
Cruise passengers visiting several countries on a voyage can face different visa requirements from each destination. Getting the right information and preparing accordingly can be the difference between enjoying those exotic ports of call, or being confined to ship's quarters.

So, do you need a visa for your upcoming cruise?

This is one of the most commonly asked travel questions, both on the Word Travels forum, and the Internet at large. Unfortunately, it is a question with a thousand possible answers, depending on:

What nationality are the passengers?
Which countries are they visiting?
Are they disembarking the cruise ship at the various ports of call?
Or simply transiting through?

All these considerations must be taken into account. What follows, here, is a rough guide to making sure that – when planning your cruise vacation – you stay informed and on top of the visa requirements for your trip. It is vital to remember that cruise companies ultimately will not accept responsibility for ensuring that your travel documentation is in order – it is your responsibility to keep abreast of your own visa requirements.

Passport validity

Firstly, before the issue of visas is addressed, it is almost certain that you will need to be in possession of a valid passport in order to undertake your cruise. While historically it has been possible for some passengers (chiefly US or Canadian citizens) to undertake cruises with some other form of photo identity on them – increasingly, it is becoming mandatory for all cruise line passengers to carry a passport. Possessing a passport – that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of your scheduled return – is a fail-safe method of ensuring that you will always have legitimate, globally-accepted identification on you while you travel.

Planning far ahead

Moving on to visa matters, it is worth mentioning that it's probably a fortunate thing about most cruise trips, that they have to be booked long in advance. While the reason for this is of course due to limited space and availability, if you do have to do some leg-work in terms of organising visas, it is at least handy to be able to use this 'waiting period' to secure your travel documentation.

When booking your cruise, you will choose between a variety of itineraries offered by the cruise line company. This pre-determined itinerary will indicate exactly which countries you will visit on your cruise, and how long you will spend at each of the ports of call.

It is at this stage that you can begin to research the visa requirements for your trip. In fact, most reputable cruise companies will provide you with a letter detailing this information before finalising your booking – just remember to tell them the nationality of the passport you will be travelling on.

Specific visa requirements for cruise passengers

And this is where the question of specific visa requirements becomes a little tricky... By way of example, let's say two friends – one of whom holds a South African passport, the other an American passport – have booked a Mediterranean cruise, that will take them to Greece, Italy and Spain. The American traveller will not require a visa for this cruise, as they are allowed to spend up to three months in Schengen member states without a visa. The South African traveller, on the other hand, will have to secure a multiple-entry Schengen visa for the cruise, issued by the country in which they are due to spend the longest period of time.

However, now let's say the same two friends want to take another cruise, to Brazil. This time around, the South African traveller wouldn't require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days in the country; while the American traveller would have to secure a Brazilian tourist visa before leaving home.

A third example would see the two friends book a cruise to Syria. The travellers do their research, and discover that they both require visas to enter Syria – however, because the American friend has visited Israel in the past, and still has an Israeli tourist stamp in her passport, her visa application will be denied, while the South African's wouldn't.

Finally, it is also worth bearing in mind that some countries – such as Turkey – stipulate different visa rules for 'ordinary tourists' and cruise ship passengers. In the case of Turkey – provided that tourists enter and leave on the same ship – a 'blanket visa' will be issued to the cruise line, covering all passengers on board. In cases such as this, passengers will (ordinarily) not be allowed to spend the night off-ship, and may even be restricted to hanging around the port area.

Thus, with all the possible permutations involved, it is impossible to generate a definitive set of rules for visa requirements for cruise ship passengers. Rather, these requirements will vary according to the passenger's nationality and their itinerary.

Researching your visa requirements

The easiest way to conduct your research into the matter, of course – once you've decided on your itinerary – is simply to look up the countries you'll be visiting on the Word Travels website, and check the 'Visa and Passport' section of the respective country guides. There, you'll find accurate, up-to-date information informing you of your entry requirements.

It is also worthwhile contacting visa experts such as Globalvisas.com and Visahq.com for their advice.

Be wary of relying on so-called 'official websites', as often these can be out-of-date, or simply inaccurate.

Please remember that the process of applying for a visa – which, more often than not, will be done at the embassy of the country you intend on visiting, in your country of origin – can be lengthy. Ensure that you leave yourself plenty of time (at least two months) to get your documentation sorted out. It is also worth remembering that for the large majority of countries, you will be required to hold confirmation of your cruise booking – i.e. be required to show proof of onward or return travel – in order to be issued your visa.
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Comments

  • edited 6:27AM
    Dear Sir,

    Am a jordanian citizen , i wanat to visit venice, rome with easyjet, so i have to lan in london gatwick airport, do i need a visa fro UK or just a shengen visa for italy ?

    thank you
  • edited June 2011
    @hindkhalil: This post is explicitly dealing with CRUISE passengers, not airline passengers, so be careful about taking all of the information to heart!

    In terms of your situation, you WILL NOT need a transit visa for your time at Gatwick, PROVIDED THAT:

    1. You are in possession of a valid Schengen visa for your time in Italy, plus all other necessary travel documentation
    2. You are in possession of a confirmed airline ticket, demonstrating that you will leave the UK within 24 hours of your inbound flight
    3. You are travelling on to a third country (in your case, Italy).

    Hope this helps!
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi,

    I'm a U.S. citizen taking a cruise which stops in Schengen countries, then one non-Schengen (Turkey), then on to more Schengen countries. Some information I've seen on the web says I have to have a multiple-entry Schengen visa because I'm visiting Turkey in between Schengen countries. Is that true?

    Thanks!
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi Mark

    Yes, you will need a multiple-entry visa if you leave the Schengen area before returning to it.

    The country in which you are scheduled to spend the longest amount of time must issue this visa to you.

    As far as Turkey is concerned, you should be able to obtain a visa on arrival for about $20.

    Good luck, and enjoy your cruise!

    David
  • edited 6:27AM
    I can't find any information on visa requirements for cruise passengers visiting Guatemala- and I have contacted the embassy for information (no response!). The cruise line hasn't been any help. I am an Indian National holding a valid US visa. Please, please help me!
  • edited 6:27AM
    Thanks for your answer, David. I'm kind of in a quandary now, with that answer, since it directly contradicts what I found here: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110310161243AAMHHxz. I guess I better make an appointment with the Italian embassy here, come prepared with all the required docs, and then be happy if they tell me I don't need the visa.
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi Mark, I've done some more research, and it seems you're right! As of now, since US citizens don't require a Schengen visa for any of the territories you'll be visiting, you won't require a multiple-entry permit, after all -- your US passport will suffice. But PLEASE do check with the Italian embassy, since these rules change all the time, and it's very difficult to keep on top of the changes. Apologies if I gave you a scare!
  • edited 6:27AM
    @Vivienne: Hi Vivienne, if you are holding a VALID US visa, and departing for your cruise from the USA, you WON'T NEED a Guatemalan visa for a stay of up to 90 days in the country. Do PLEASE double-check with the Guatemalan embassy, if you can, just in case these regulations have changed very recently; however, ordinarily, passengers holding a valid visa for the USA, Canada, or Schengen countries, DO NOT require a visa for Guatelama, for stays of up to 90 days in the country.
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hello .. I'm a Canadian & my friend holds a Costa Rican passport (but born in Equador). We are on an August cruise stopping into Tunisia for 6 hours .. will my friend need a visa & if so, will they just issue it onboard ship?
  • edited 6:27AM
    I am going on East Carribean cruise on Royal Carribean

    I hold an Indian Passport with valid multi entry USA and UK visas

    Do I need a Bahamian visa?
  • edited 6:27AM
    I am going to take a cruise with MSC.

    During this cruise we shall visit France,Spain,Italy and Tunisia.

    I have an Israeli Passport.

    Shall I have any problems with visas?

    Thank you in advance
  • edited 6:27AM
    We are travelling on South African passports and have valid US visas, we are considering two cruises & will probably base our decision on visa requirements. If our cruise stops in Canada for a day will we need a Canadian visa? If our cruise travels through the med with stops in Turkey & Greece will we get by on only a schengen visa?
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi my name is david, i am first time travelling on cruise, i am holding indian passport and i am applying for schengen visa to italy. I wanted to know whether i will be allowed to stay inside the country and enjoy, sightseeing the country when the cruise stop. thanks give me the answer as soon as possible.
  • edited 6:27AM
    We are travelling with US passports on a Middle East cruise. The cruise line says we do not need visas but I'm a little concerned as the cruise line will take no liability and the ultimate burden is on us. We embark in Athens, with stops(in order) in Cyprus, Israel, Egypt (doing a non-cruise sponsored overnight excursion), Jordan, Oman, and disembarking in Dubai. Can I trust the cruise line on this? Any help is appreciated as my travel agent is relying on the cruise line's info only. Thank you.
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hello,
    I am of Egyptian passport and going on a cruise in Europe that will stop in Turkey twise, first time for 20 hours and second time for 48 hours. Do We need a visa to arrive to turkey and or visa is only needed to quit the cruise and visit turkey or no visa needed in any case as long as we are only docking for 48 hours ?

    Thanks in advance
  • edited 6:27AM
    Am looking at a Cruise on the Queen Mary next March, which is from Singapore to Southampton.Calls at Cochin in India.Do we need an Indian Visa if we do not intend to disembark. £ 60 + each seems a lot of money for just a few hours. Would like to know the answer
  • edited 6:27AM
    @Bridgeman - no visa required if you're staying on the ship.
  • edited 6:27AM
    we are on a cruise march 2012 travelling on australian passports we are visiting india,jordan,omar,myarmar,egypt,the cruise co.has said they provide blanket visas at a cost my question is will their blanket visa allow us to do our own independant tours or are they only for their own shore excursions?
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi adaminaby,

    It's best to double-check with your cruise company. Some 'blanket visas' will only cover you for time spent in port (Myanmar might be one of these); others will give you free reign to explore the cities at which you dock; while others will allow you on shore, with the express condition that your movements are the tour company's responsibility.

    I understand your desire not to be beholden to the tour company's itinerary -- but unfortunately, this is just sometimes the risk of travelling on cruises. Contact your cruise company and tell them your concerns, and see what they have to say.
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi Davidc
    It seems that its a lot cheaper to get VOA than to get it before you leave home country,is this right,i thought the cost of the Jordian visa was expensive $75 for just 6hrs can you get transit visas?
  • edited 6:27AM
    Obtaining visas on arrival is usually cheaper, and easier. As an Australian passport holder, you will be able to get a VOA in Jordan. Both the cost and the terms of the visa will depend on where you enter Jordan, and by what means (air, land, sea, etc). If you are arriving by ship at Aqaba (which I assume will be the case), you will either be issued a transit visa or an ASEZ visa -- but in either case, there will be NO VISA FEE.
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi David c
    All that information you quoted is exactly what they say on the Jordian Consult website but i thought i must be reading it wrong,so why does the cruise line want to charge $60aud pp,next question,egypt(safaga)the cruise line can provide a visa for $22aud which i presume would be a quick stay visa 72 hrs.as this is time we are in port which i thought were free the only problem with that is that we are extending our stay in egypt indendantly after disembarkment by 10 days,would we be better off not getting the quick stay visa and getting voa or getting one before we leave home
  • edited 6:27AM
    The standard procedure for Australian passport holders arriving in Egypt is to obtain a visa on arrival, which costs about A$35, and which allows for a maximum stay of 30 days in the country. I've checked around, and there definitely are facilities at Safaga for obtaining visas.

    However, in the case of cruise passengers, what normally happens is that the cruise company organises (free) 'Quick-Stay visas' on behalf of their passengers -- allowing for just 72 hours in the country. These are usually organised while you're still on the boat.

    So the way I see it, you have three options: 1) contact your cruise company, and find out whether they can organise you a 'normal' visa on arrival instead of a 'quick-stay' one; 2) contact your nearest Egyptian embassy, and double-check that you'll be able to obtain a visa on arrival at Safaga, instead of merely getting a quick-stay visa on the boat; or 3) organise your own tourist visa before leaving home (slightly more pre-trip hassle, but less in-trip stress).

    Hope this helps!
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hello i am English and doing a cruise to the far east in early November, we fly from Manchester to Doa then fly onto Beijing and stay in a Hotel For three nights then Embark on the cruise ship on the forth day, do i have to give this information of the Hotel on a Visa application form.
    All so what does it mean on the application visa form Page 3of 4 Major Family Members.

    Thank you for you help Alec.
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi Alec, sorry man, but you might need to give me more information -- what visa application are you talking about? If you are required to provide an address of somewhere you're staying in Beijing, then definitely include the hotel's details. As far as "major family members" is concerned, I assume they're talking about your 'nuclear' family members -- probably in case they need to be contacted, should something happen to you while you're abroad.
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi there,

    My husband is currently working on the Seabourn Quest and has bought me a cruise for my 30th birthday, Athens to Malaga 31 October to 8 November 2011.

    How do I apply for a Schengen visa as a South African citizen currently working in Mumbai? I currently hold a 10 year USA tourist visa, 5 year USA Crew visa and a 1 year Indian business visa.

    I will be flying from Mumbai to Dubai, Dubai to Athens then Malaga back to Dubai. As you can imagine my Schengen visa application is rather urgent and I am running out of time - how, where and what do I need?

    Regards,

    Kimmon
  • edited 6:27AM
    Cruise ship passengers can currently visit Russia on visa-waiver scheme provided the stop in the port of call doesn't exceed 72 hours and tourists stay overnight on board the cruise ship.

    Cruise passengers may disembark from the ship without a tourist visa if they participate on tours organized by travel companies. Passengers not participating on tours and wishing to disembark will need to obtain a Russia tourist visa.

    Cruise passengers cannot obtain a visa in Russia. Visas are issued in the country of residence before departure.

    http://www.visitrussia.com/visas/visa_types.htm
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi Kimmon

    * You will require a multiple-entry, short-stay Schengen Visa for your cruise.
    * You must apply for this visa at the embassy of the country in which you will spend the longest period of time. If you will stay for the same number of days in each Schengen country, then apply at the embassy of your first port of call.

    For your visa application, you will require:

    * Completed Schengen visa application form (downloadable from consulate websites)
    * Copy of your passport
    * Copy of your itinerary as well as accommodation details
    * Proof of your finances: tax receipt of foreign exchange purchased bearing applicant’s name; or copies of traveller's cheques.
    * Travel insurance documents
    * A letter from the cruise company, confirming your booking, will be useful as well

    Good luck, and happy trails!
  • edited 6:27AM
    We are Canadians who will take a world cruise in December 2011. We will stop at the United Arab Emirates in March 2012. The embassy told us that they cannot deliver our visa until February 2012. The cruise company ask us to have this visa before boarding December 2011. Big problem. Can we stay on the ship when we will be in UAE without a visa? Or do we have to cancel our cruise?
  • edited 6:27AM
    Hi CIBC

    This does seem to be a bit of a problem...

    Unfortunately, you will not be allowed to travel to the UAE without a visa -- whether you stay on the ship or not.

    The only thing I can think of, is to request that the UAE authorities send your visa (once approved and issued) to the port at which you'll be arriving in the UAE, and you pick it up there. However, if this requires that you are without your passport until that point, obviously that's a huge problem in itself.

    I suggest that you speak to your cruise company and find out what they think: I'm sure they've dealt with this kind of situation before, and will be in the best position to offer you advice.

    I'd also like to kindly request that you let us know what they have to say -- this is, indeed, a very tricky situation, and we'd love to be able to advise future travellers who find themselves in your position on the best course of action.

    Good luck!

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