Cruise trip is the best holiday choice for an easy break with some sun and luxury. Many travellers are choosing cruises over package holidays, and its popularity among the younger generation continues to grow. Along with a cruise trip, comes booking flights and making sure passports are in date. Many destinations require additional travel documentation. Whether or not you will need a visa for your cruise depends on your passport details and which countries the ship will stop.
The first step is always research, and we have done a bit of that to help you with getting started. In this blog, you will find some basic information on whether you need a visa for your cruise trip, and how to apply for one.
Do you need a visa when on a cruise? How do you know which countries have which rules?
Whether or not you need a visa in addition to a valid passport for your cruise is a common question with a rather complicated answer.
Many cruise lines post information on their website and in the cruise documents about whether you need a visa on your specific cruise. Essentially, they give tips, but acknowledge that you should never rely solely on those tips, as they can be somewhat elusive when it comes to details regarding visa requirements and how to get one if you need it. There are a few countries where visas are handled by the cruise line on arrival in port, in all other cases, the cruise crew might only advise you.
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 could force a situation that would make a visa unexpectedly necessary.
How Do I Get a Cruise Visa?
You can save yourself a lot of headaches by firstly reading all the information on your cruise line's website specific to your cruise itinerary. Once you determine that you need visas for your cruise, the next step is getting them. Two main ways to obtain a visa: either apply from a consulate or by using a visa service company.
Cruise visas are obtained within different timings, so to avoid last-minute rushes, the ideal time to research and apply for visas is shortly after your cruise is booked. A few weeks before traveling, make sure there have been no sudden changes to visa requirements for your ports of call, although your cruise line should warn them.
Cruise Visa Requirements for Some Countries
Each country has its own rules and visa regulations, but these can change at any time. Some countries may have ‘special administrative regions’ where tourists can visit without a visa. Others may require visas only for air passengers while cruise passengers are exempt. You may be able to visit certain countries for up to 72 hours without needing a visa at all. For specific visa information for your nationality contact the Embassy of each country on your sailing itinerary or the visa service of your choice (as Pickvisa.com).
Below are the examples of countries with specific visa requirements for cruise passengers.
All eligible travellers who wish to travel to the USA by air or sea must fulfil all required documents with appropriate visas or ESTA. Travellers eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must obtain an electronic travel authorisation prior to boarding a carrier (ESTA).
If you are travelling to or via Canada and you are Visa-exempt (e.g. a UK or Irish citizen), you need an Electronic Travel Authorisation.
An alternative to a visa for Cuba cruise is the Cuba Tourist Card, which can be purchased from your cruise line. Depending on which cruise line you sail with, you may be required to book one of their excursions on each day that the ship docks in Cuba. Passengers receive a Tourist Visa (known as "Tarjeta de Turism") upon their arrival in any Cuban airport or port.
The following countries, on the contrary, must have a pre-issued Visa (instead of Tarjeta) issued by any Cuban Embassy/Consulate:
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Vietnam.
U.S. Passengers are not allowed to enter Cuba unless having a license from OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) to travel to Cuba before embarkation.
The Shanghai 15-day visa-free policy enables cruise tour groups from all over the world to visit Shanghai and other Chinese coastal provinces for up to 15 days. Tourist groups should enter Shanghai by cruise ship and exit from China by the same cruise ship. The local Chinese travel agency receiving the tourists will handle the official paperwork upon their arrival.
Visa applicants looking to travel to Russia are required to submit fingerprints at a visa application centre. It is possible to avoid this by booking excursions, which include a visa on the excursion ticket. For such cities of Russia as St. Petersburg and Sochi, passengers in transit can participate at the organized tours and receive entry permission without applying for a visa. These are available from the cruise lines, or authorised excursion providers. Some nationalities visiting St. Petersburg can do so with an e-visa obtained before the cruise.
Schengen Area Ports
For cruises completely within Schengen area, a valid passport or ID card is required for European Community passengers. All other passengers require a passport and/or Single-Entry Schengen Visa.
For cruises including one or more non-Schengen ports, passport, and Multiple-Entry Schengen Visa is required unless differently sequenced.
European Community passengers can travel with a valid ID card. We recommend using a passport with 3 months remaining validity in case of voyage interruption in any of the in-transit islands whose only accepted document is passport.
Non-European passengers subject to Schengen visa must require the extension of the same valid visa also for the French Overseas Territories. In some cases, USA visa is accepted for embarkation.
Bulgaria and Romania
European passengers can travel to these countries with a passport. Non-European passengers who are not subject to Schengen visa rules can also transit just with a passport. All other non-European passengers with valid Schengen visas are admitted in these countries without a specific local visa.
Croatia and Montenegro
European passengers can transit to these countries with an ID card. Non-European passengers who are not subject to Schengen visa rules can transit just with a passport. All other non-European passengers with valid Schengen visas are admitted in these countries without a specific local visa.
European Community passengers can use a passport or valid equivalent document. Passengers from other countries are required to check their eligibility about Irish Short Stay Transit Visa Waiver Programme: www.inis.gov.ie
In the absence of visa prior to embarkation, visit in transit, or stay onboard ship during an Irish port of call without going ashore is not authorized, and passengers must disembark at the previous port.
European Community passengers can use their passport or valid equivalent document. Passengers from other countries are kindly required to verify with UKBA (United Kingdom Border Agency) about eligibility to travel in transit under the Visa Waiver Program or a need of UK Visa prior to embarkation.
In the absence of visa prior to embarkation, visit in transit, or stay onboard ship during a UK port of entry without going ashore is not authorized, and passengers must disembark at the previous port.
The concession of Visa upon arrival for the selected nationalities is valid only in case of transit within 24 hours. In the case of two or more consecutive UK ports, Visa prior to embarkation is mandatorily required.
Travelling to Greenland is subject to specific visa and passport requirements. Make sure you bring appropriate documents on board.
There is a rule for all passengers in transit in any Turkish port even though not subject to any Visa procedure: passport/ID card validity date should be more than 65 days. It is also recommended to have minimum 180-day residual validity of passport for all country citizens.
United Arab Emirates (Dubai/Abu Dhabi)
Reference is made to cruises within the UAE, origin/destination and transiting to Oman, Bahrain, Qatar. All passports must be valid at least 6 months on the date of departure from the UAE and for stays up to 3 months.
Passengers holding passports of the following countries do not need visa prior to the arrival to the UAE:
Europe - France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Finland, Spain, Monaco, Vatican City, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Cyprus, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Croatia, Bulgaria.
North America - USA, Canada.
Asia - Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Mauritius, Seychelles, Chile, Solomon Islands.
Israeli passport holders are not allowed to obtain the tourist visa to UAE.
Tunisia, Libya, Syrian, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Equatorial Guinea passport holders are subject to special approval and security clearance.
All in-transit cruise passengers get a visa upon arrival to Oman and a landing card for a period of not more than 24 hours. To disembark or stay longer than 24 hours in Oman, follow the visa obtaining procedures applicable to Oman.
Note that Israel and Bangladesh passport holders are not allowed to enter or to stay aboard vessel during the Omani call.
All in-transit cruise passengers get a visa upon arrival to Qatar for a stay no longer than 24 hours. Any passenger wishing to debark or stay longer than 24 hours in Qatar should follow the visa obtaining procedures applicable to this country.
All in-transit cruise passengers get a visa upon arrival to Bahrain and landing card for a stay no longer than 24 hours. Any passenger who wishes to debark or stay longer than 24 hours in Bahrain should follow the visa obtaining procedures applicable to this country.
Egypt, Morocco, and Gibraltar
For minors travelling to these countries, please consider that the “Birth Certificate with travel abroad authentication” and the “Identity Certificate for children” are no longer considered valid. Children under 15 years of age must therefore possess their own passport, or another valid identity document for travelling abroad.
Egypt (Suez Canal): as the Suez Canal is just a transit, no specific visa is required.
Passengers in transit can receive entry visa upon arrival.
Indian visas can take up to 120 days to process, which can be long-winded and tricky. If you are looking for a last-minute cruise, which includes India, you should ideally have your visa in place before booking the cruise.
If you are travelling from/to South Africa with children under 18 years of age, note that for each child, parents must carry an “Unabridged birth certificate” (English/bilingual) issued by an authorised office or agency. Passengers must hold a valid passport with 6 months residual validity. These regulations apply to travellers from all nationalities, including South African passport holders.
Pacific Island and New Zealand
For standard Pacific Island and New Zealand itineraries (excluding Fiji and Papua New Guinea), visas may not be required as you will be considered in transit when you visit these ports as part of your cruise. If you are joining or leaving the ship in one of these countries, you are likely to require a visa. Some nationalities (excluding Australian and New Zealand passport holders) may require a visa for Fiji, even when transiting the country as part of your cruise.
Papua New Guinea and Vietnam
Visas for Papua New Guinea and Vietnam are issued upon arrival for all cruise passengers. Your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the date of the cruise return.
Visa for Indonesia is issued upon arrival for most passengers, including Australian and New Zealand passport holders.
All passengers travelling to Mozambique must hold a fully valid passport, the expiry date of which should be at least 6 months after the return date.
In addition, all passengers, except SADC (Southern African Development Community) passport holders, can visit Mozambique either with a pre-issued visa or by purchasing a visa for Mozambique from Mozambican Immigration Officers.
Before booking a cruise, consider that travel restrictions for each destination country vary according to your citizenship. Please check with your travel agent, government agency, Embassy/Consulate to ensure that you have all the proper documentation to board the ship and enter each of the countries on your cruise. Contact the visa service of your choice, such as Pickvisa.com, for specific visa requirements, information, and fees that apply to your nationality.