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Originally published Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Ask Travel

You may want passport for cruise to Alaska

Q: We are going on a cruise from Seattle to Alaska. Our last stop is in Victoria, B.C. Do we need a passport to enter or leave the ship there?

Seattle Times Travel

Q: We are going on a cruise from Seattle to Alaska. Our last stop is in Victoria, B.C. Do we need a passport to enter or leave the ship there?

— Shirley Kramer, Omaha

A: New rules took effect on June 1 that require more standardized ID for crossing land/sea borders between the U.S. and Canada. In general, travelers must have a passport, passport card, an enhanced driver's license (only available in a few states) or one of the "trusted traveler" cards for prescreened travelers. However, there are some exceptions — plus some confusion in regard to cruises.

For "closed-loop" sailings such as Seattle-Alaska cruises that depart and return to the same U.S. port, U.S. officials say that a passport or one of the new alternative documents isn't required — that a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, are sufficient (those documents are needed to prove both a traveler's identity and citizenship). However, some cruise lines strongly urge cruise passengers to have passports. So check — and double-check — with your cruise line. (And you must have ID even if you're not planning to get off the ship in Victoria.)

You can get information on the new rules, and how to obtain a passport or passport card, in a recent article of mine.

Go to www.seattletimes.com and search for: Kristin Jackson and passports.

My advice: Given the confusion over ID requirements for Seattle-Alaska cruises, go ahead and get the passport card (good for land/sea travel to Canada and Mexico, but not any international air travel). It's cheaper than a passport, and you'd need it if you ever took a driving trip to Canada. But if you think you might take a flight anywhere out of the U.S. in the coming years, get the traditional passport, which works for all international travel.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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