Can Felons Go on Cruises?

When thinking about travel there are many aspects to consider – where you want to go, how you are going to get there, what sights you wish to see, and any travelers who are going with you. With any travel there is added stress to think about, especially when it comes to passport applications and changing/new visa requirement of different nations around the world. This can cause frustration and confusion for the most experienced travelers!

Of the many questions people have about travel, a common theme is if someone has a felony on their record. There may be questions or concerns if this person can go on a cruise with their friends and family, and how will the felony on their record impact their travel or the process?

For international travels outside of the United States you need a valid and current passport and possibly extra visas depending on the trip and type of cruise you are going on. While travel agencies and cruise lines can be helpful, it is the responsibility of the traveler to obtain all necessary documents and KNOW which documents are needed before departure.

Should a document be missed or a country not allow felons to enter, that traveler runs the risk of having their trip cancelled immediately and no refund issued. Because of this, it is important for returning citizens and family members to do their research ahead of time before planning a trip. The traveler and family must also allow extra time for approval processes for passports, visas, or any consular meetings.

  • Before booking a cruise, someone with a felony on their record must work through each of these processes:
  • Knowing the conditions of Parole/Release/Legal Status
  • Timeline – allow for enough time to obtain the needed documents/approval
  • Type of cruise
  • Type of travel
  • Required Documents
  • Safety and Emergency

The first step to understanding cruise travel with a felony is to know if you are even allowed to travel.

Conditions of Parole/Release/Legal status:

Someone with a felony in their background may be on parole, and my have conditions they have to follow with regards to travel. For this person,  they would first need to check with their Parole Officer/Court/Conditions of Release to see if travel is allowed. There may also be limits on travel based on any type of release or other legal situation based on their case. Before looking into any further details, the traveler must know if travel is allowed.


Passport Application : 6-8 weeks

Visa Application : varies (consult local Embassy/Consulate Office) expect 3-4 weeks

Visa Interview : varies (consult local Embassy/Consulate Office) expect 2+ weeks after visa application

*For Surrendered Passport, a timeline was not given, but allow yourself plenty of time to allow for document review. The steps include providing a written statement, obtaining a statement from the Probation/Parole Officer, and submission of those documents – and the approval process.

With any international travel the first step is always obtaining a valid passport if you do not already have one. Additionally for some felons, they may have surrendered their passport – both of these situations are explained in detail in the “Required Documents” section. The United States Department of State review/approval timeline for passport applications is 6-8 weeks, for new or renewed passports.

If entry visas are required, it may take an additional amount of time that can vary from office to office. Often, in order to get a visa one must first have a passport. For certain visas, there may be a visit required at an Embassy or Consulate office. Each of these steps can add weeks to the process – and impact the timeline for travel.

If the traveler had to surrender their passport – the United States Department of State has a process to follow, which again adds more time to the process.

Because of the extra steps, a quick/surprise travel for a cruise may not be the most efficient. In order to decrease stress and allow time for any setbacks, it would be wise to start the process several months before the cruise departure date/travel date.

Type of Cruise & Destination

Closed vs. Open Loop: Some cruises start and end at the same port (closed loop), other cruises start at one port, and then finish the trip at another port (open loop). For a closed loop trip, it may be easier for someone with a felony in their background to attend this trip. For an open loop trip, it may be difficult.

International vs Domestic: Some countries outside of the United States may deny entry to US citizens with a felony on their record. These restrictions vary by country, and research would need to be done before a trip (or flight) is booked to that destination. The most accurate source of this information would be the Embassy or Consular office of that specific country. This restriction would still be in place even if the traveler has a valid US Passport and the appropriate visas for that country.

Some countries may have a ban on allowing entry to anyone with a felony record, regardless of the type of felony or the length of time passed since the conviction. There are also some countries where there is a ban on a certain type of felony. Since these conditions vary by country – and change depending on global security/national security – the traveler must research these in detail prior to departure.

Required Documents – Passport and/or Visas

When planning international travel (airline, cruise) one must show a valid and current passport in order to gain entry into a foreign nation. There can be addition difficulty in this – if one was required to surrender their valid passport or if they are applying for their passport for the first time with a felony on their record.

With your passport the United States Department of State advises travelers to ensure their passport is valid for “at least 6 months and have 2 or more blank pages”, as some countries may deny entry without these in place.

For a Surrendered Passport

Some felons are required to surrender their valid, non-expired passport. In order to travel internationally they would need to take the necessary steps to obtain their passport. This can be a lengthy process for review and it may also not be approved depending on the circumstances of the individual’s case. The first step would be to contact the United States Department of State and follow the steps listed in order to regain access to your surrendered passport. From there the US Department of State would walk you through the process of completion.

With any type of official documentation – one should allow more time to complete this process, so booking last minute trips may cause stress if the passport does not arrive in time, or the person is not allowed access to their passport.

For a New Passport

Within the DS-11 Form used for new passport applicants, there is a statement under “Acts or Conditions” that states the applicant is not a subject of an outstanding warrant, a court order denying travel outside of the United States, under a subpoena in a federal prosecution matter, or under a grand jury investigation, of a felony.

The DS-11 also allows for a place to explain via written statement if any of the above are pertinent to the traveler. Depending on the type of felony and the charges – the passport may or may not be denied.

Currently the US Department of State states that the approval time for a passport is 6-8 weeks from application to approval. Once the passport application has been accepted it can take an additional 10 days until the passport arrives.

Visa Requirements

More often, nations are now requiring visas for travel and for entry into their country in addition to a passport. Each visa regulation is decided by that particular country – and the regulations may vary and change.

For a cruise, a traveler may need to obtain a visa for each country that is visited (example: a Caribbean cruise may require a visa for each port). To understand what visa, if any, is required for travel, one would check with the Embassy of those countries. Again, keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process – so be sure to give yourself enough time to obtain all needed documents.

A country may deny a visa to a felon, even if they have a valid US Passport. If this occurs, that person would not be allowed to arrive at that port, and on a cruise this can pose difficulty (meaning a cruise cannot re-route). This may cause difficulty when booking the cruise vacation.

Safety and Emergencies

For personal safety it would be best to not discuss your criminal record abroad. Other countries have different customs, traditions, and view-points than the United States – and what may seem like a minor issue may be a larger issue in another area.

Always keep copies of your travel plans and documents – if there is someone you trust back home to keep copies of these items, include color photocopies of those documents (passport, visa) and your travel plans.

Talk to your cruise organizer, or travel agent about safety matters abroad. Research any safety alerts or travel alerts through the United States Department of State and be aware of how this may impact your travel. The United States Department of State offers resources to travelers online and via phone. Be sure to write these numbers down, and leave them with your emergency contact. It would also be important to write down the information of US Embassies/Consular offices abroad in case you need assistance during your travels


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