Going on a cruise is a dream vacation for many people. The thought of sailing to exotic destinations, experiencing new cultures, and relaxing by the pool is enticing.
But for felons, the question often arises – can I go on a cruise with a felony conviction?
The short answer is yes; in most cases, felons can go on a cruise. However, there are some important factors to consider regarding visa requirements, the specific cruise line policies, and the countries the ship will visit.
This article will explain everything you need to know as a felon looking to take a cruise.
Are Felons Allowed On A Cruise Ship?
The major cruise lines do not generally prohibit felons from booking a cruise. Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, and more do not have outright bans on felons sailing with them.
Their official policies typically state they can refuse passage to anyone with a criminal record, but that does not mean every felon will be denied boarding.
You should be cleared to board the ship if you have the proper travel documents, like a valid passport.
The cruise line is more concerned about whether you have completed parole or probation requirements than your conviction’s specifics.
However, remember that some cruise lines reserve the right to perform background checks on passengers before approving reservations.
This is especially true for smaller, more exclusive cruise lines. If you have concerns, you may want to contact the cruise line directly to inquire about their felon policy before booking.
Visa Requirements For Felons
One key factor in taking an international cruise as a felon is having the proper visa for the countries you visit.
A visa is essentially travel permission granted by a foreign country. Some popular cruise destinations like the Bahamas, Caribbean islands, Mexico, Canada and more require U.S. citizens to have a valid passport but you do not need a separate visa.
However, many European cruises will stop at ports in places like Russia, China, and India which do require visas for U.S. citizens.
The visa application process will likely involve a criminal background check. A felony conviction can impact your eligibility to receive a visa.
Some countries bar entry for all convicted felons, while others have restrictions depending on the type of crime committed.
Visa requirements can also vary based on whether you have completed parole/probation.
Consulting the embassy websites of the specific ports your cruise will stop at is the best way to determine the visa rules.
Can a Convicted Felon Get a Passport to Go on a Cruise?
To travel abroad on a cruise, felons will need a valid passport. The good news is felons are not automatically denied a passport if they have a criminal record.
However, you may need to go through additional processing steps to receive passport approval.
When applying, you must be honest on the application about any felonies. If you have had a felony in the past 10 years or are currently on parole or probation, you must provide additional court documentation and a letter of consent from your probation officer.
For felonies older than 10 years, additional paperwork is not required, but you still must list the conviction. Passport approval largely depends on your crime’s severity and overall post-conviction conduct.
It can take several months for a felon to complete the passport process, so be sure to apply early before your cruise departure date.
Also, having a valid passport does not guarantee entry into any foreign country. Those visa rules will still apply.
Can You Just Stay Onboard the Ship?
Simply remaining onboard the cruise ship does not exempt passengers from having proper travel documentation such as a passport and visa.
Even if you choose not to disembark at any of the ports of call, you are still required to carry a valid passport when cruising internationally.
This is because the ship itself is considered foreign soil once it leaves port, and immigration procedures and documentation checks still apply.
Cruise lines will check passenger passports and visas at embarkation to ensure all documentation is in order before allowing you to board.
You will also need to go through customs and immigration processing when the ship returns to the home port, regardless of whether you got off or not during the voyage.
What is Passport Card?
Source: WikiMedia Commons
Another passport option for felons considering a cruise is the passport card. This is a wallet-sized card that can only be used for land and sea international travel, including cruises to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean and more.
The passport card application process is faster and simpler compared to the passport book.
Felons can normally receive approval in 4-6 weeks. You don’t have to submit as much additional documentation regarding your criminal record.
However, the passport card cannot be used for air travel or cruises to destinations outside of North America and the Caribbean.
It also has a shorter validity period of 10 years compared to the passport book.
But if you only plan to take cruises close to home and don’t need visa approval, the passport card is a viable option.
Can a Felon Go on a Carnival Cruise?
Carnival Cruise Line is one of the most popular cruise lines for American travelers. Their official policy says they do accept passengers with past criminal convictions as long as any probation periods have been completed.
Carnival does not do background checks, so you most likely do not have to provide additional information even if you have a felony.
Overall, felons can safely assume they can take a Carnival cruise, keeping in mind visa rules if traveling internationally.
One benefit of Carnival is that most of their sailings are to the Caribbean islands, Bahamas, and Mexico, where U.S. citizens do not need visas. This makes getting approved for a Carnival cruise easier compared to cruises in more restrictive countries.
Can a Felon Go on a Royal Caribbean Cruise?
Royal Caribbean is another major cruise line welcoming millions of guests every year. Similar to Carnival, Royal Caribbean accepts felons to book cruises as long as parole/probation requirements are satisfied.
Keep in mind Royal Caribbean offers cruises across the globe, including Europe, Asia, Australia, and more.
Double check the visa polices for the specific ports your cruise will visit. You likely can avoid destinations with strict visa rules and opt for a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Caribbean islands instead.
Can a Felon Go on a Disney Cruise?
Disney Cruise Line is very family-friendly, so they tend to be more restrictive when it comes to allowing convicted felons on board. Officially, Disney states they have the right to refuse passage to anyone with a criminal record, especially if it involves crimes against children, sex offenses, or violence.
While not an outright ban, getting approval to take a Disney cruise as a felon may be challenging.
Due to the number of children on board, Disney exercises extra precaution reviewing passenger backgrounds. Minor convictions are more likely to be accepted compared to serious or violent felonies.
Overall, taking a Disney cruise as a felon is less guaranteed compared to other major cruise lines. You’d likely need to speak with Disney representatives to fully determine if you will be approved based on your specific criminal history. Families with felonies may have better luck with Carnival or Royal instead.
Countries That Allow Felons To Cruise
If you have flexibility in choosing your cruise destination, look for sailings to these countries that are more permissible for convicted felons:
- Canada: Felons can enter with proper ID, like a passport card. Cannot have a prison sentence exceeding ten years.
- Mexico: No outright ban on felons, but keep prison sentence under 5 years and probation completed.
- Bahamas: Easy entry for US citizens. Felons welcome as long as travel conditions are met.
- Dominican Republic: One of the most lenient Caribbean countries for felons to visit. Cruises here are a good option.
- Costa Rica: No visa required for stays under 90 days. Felons can enter Costa Rica.
- Jamaica: Felons can enter Jamaica with ID and completed probation papers.
- Panama: Visa not required for short Panama Canal cruise stops. Felony permitting varies by crime.
- Puerto Rico: U.S. territory so no passport required. Puerto Rico cruises are felon-friendly.
Countries That Do Not Allow Felons To Cruise
Certain cruise destinations outright ban or strongly restrict entry for convicted felons. Avoid cruises making stops in the following countries:
- United Kingdom: Strict rules against felons entering, especially drug offenses.
- Australia: Prohibits entry for felons with 1+ year prison sentences.
- New Zealand: Felons must obtain special “Character Waiver” to enter. Major delays.
- South Africa: Bans all felons with fraud, drug, child sex convictions.
- Singapore: Zero tolerance policy for felons entering country.
- China: Requires all felons to obtain Chinese visa; most applications denied.
- Russia: Application process very stringent. Most felons cannot receive visa.
- Turkey: 5+ year prison sentence means no entry. All felons require a Board of Entry permit.
FAQ on Felons Cruising
Can someone on probation take a cruise?
Most cruises require probation to be fully completed before traveling. Probationers are rarely approved, even for domestic, U.S. cruises.
Can cruise lines deny boarding for a felony?
Yes, cruise lines reserve right to deny boarding to anyone with a serious criminal background. But most felons can cruise as long as probation completed and proper visas obtained.
Do cruises reject passengers with misdemeanors?
No, misdemeanors like petty theft, minor traffic violations, disorderly conduct etc. typically do not restrict cruise travel. Focus is on serious felony offenses.
Can registered sex offenders go on a cruise?
Some cruise lines prohibit registered sex offenders from traveling as a passenger to protect children onboard. Strictly enforced policy.
What crimes can make someone not allowed on a cruise?
Any violent felony conviction, sex crime, major drug trafficking offense, or terroristic threat conviction can result in cruise boarding denial. Also current parolees denied.
If anyone on a cruise involves in any severe criminal activity, they may be sent to the jail.
The bottom line is cruise lines today are more open to accepting felon passengers than in the past.
As long as your conviction wasn’t violent and you’ve completed parole/probation, chances are good you can enjoy a cruise vacation.
Just plan ahead to have proper ID and any mandatory visas for where the ship travels. With some extra preparation, felons absolutely can experience the cruise life!