A change in passport rules will affect Great Lakes cruise passengers who are moving between Canadian and U.S. Ports. Take time now to make sure you have all the documents you need to make your Great Lakes cruise a fun and memorable one.

Beginning on June 1, 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents will begin enforcing new passport requirements for all persons attempting to enter or re-enter the United States from Canada, Mexico or the Carribean. (These rules don’t apply to those people moving between the United States and it’s territories like Guam and Puerto Rico.)

Europeans who have come to the U.S. to take Great Lakes cruises will already have passports and so will not be affected. U.S. citizens who are on a cruise that will stop at a Canadian port, will want to pay close attention to the new rules if they want to be allowed back on their ships.

After June 1, all persons entering the United States will need to present a valid passport; passport card; trusted traveler program card; Merchant Mariner Document (when traveling on official maritime business) or a U.S. Military identification card (when traveling on official orders).

If you don’t have the proper documents, and you try to re-enter the United States, you may be detained at Customs while they verify your identity. A delay could prevent you being able to return to your ship and that could end your Great Lakes cruise early and unpleasantly.

For most of us, “proper documents” means a passport, but there are a couple of exceptions.

An alternative to a passport is an “Enhanced Driver’s License. ” Several states are now offering these new driver’s licenses as an option to the regular licenses. They can be used for entry at any land or sea port.

Another alternative is a passport card, which is a passport shaped like a credit card or driver’s license. It is a limited use card that is acceptable for U.S. citizens to enter the country through land and sea ports from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

If you are a U.S. citizen and you are planning a Great Lakes cruise this year or next and you don’t have a passport, start now to get one. First, check your State’s website to see if it is one of the States offering enhanced driver’s licenses. There are several States that are already advertising and offering the licenses and more are expected to get on the bandwagon. If your State doesn’t yet offer the new license, then you might want to apply for a passport. You need to start well in advance of the time you are planning to take your Great Lakes cruise so that getting the passport documents won’t cause any delays.

Canadian citizens may want to check with their own licensing agencies because the U.S. has been working with Canada to develop a similar type of identification card for Canadians who will otherwise need a valid passport to enter a U.S. port.

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