Let me begin answering this question by noting that if you’re not a US citizen, you will need a passport and maybe even a visa. Contact your embassy or consulate for travel requirements to the US and also to Canada (Seattle roundtrip Alaska cruises make a stop at a Canadian port).
Canadians, all you’ll need is a valid passport.
Americans, the rest of this post is dedicated to you. It’s a common question our Cruise Experts are asked. I see it in cruise forums all the time, too.
“I’m sailing roundtrip Seattle. What if I don’t get off the ship? Will I need a passport?”
At the time of publishing this, the answer is no. If you are a US citizen, you do not need a passport for a closed-loop cruise that starts and ends at a US port. In fact, you can even step foot into Canada when the ship makes a stop there without a passport.
What do you need then? An original birth certificate and a government issued photo ID like a driver’s license will get you by on this sort of trip. Kids can get away with just a birth certificate.
However, note that a passport is highly recommended. Although you likely won’t need it for a trip like this, it’s a travel document that will help you immensely in the event of an emergency. For example, if something were to happen while you were in Canada that required you to return to the US, your departure will be delayed for the simple reason that you do not have a passport. Border authorities will rigorously screen you to make sure you are who you say you are. A passport eliminates this process.
Another drawback to not having a passport is when you’re in Skagway. If you were to take the historic White Pass train, built by gold prospectors during the Gold Rush era, you will not be allowed entry into the Yukon.
If you’re okay with the limitations of not having a passport and are aware of potential problems you may face, you are fine with the identification noted above.
If you’re traveling with your passport, ensure it’s valid up to 6 months after the end of your trip.