If you are planning a cruise in the near future you may be wondering if a felon can go on a cruise or not?
Perhaps you have served your time and are worried that there might be some restrictions in place, or maybe you are just curious to know who else might be on board (FYI there are ALL kinds of people on board).
Either way, this post will tell you all you need to know about whether a felon can go on a cruise.
Can a convicted felon go on a cruise?
A convicted felon is able to go on most cruises without facing any extra restrictions. They will need to ensure that they have all the appropriate documentation and there may be some restrictions on which countries they can visit.
But, the good news for anyone with a felony in their past is that they will definitely be able to find a cruise ship that welcomes them. It’s just important to check the cruise destinations and check if they are any specific policies in place.
What cruise can a felon go on?
A felon can go on a cruise to many different places but it’s always worth checking the requirements of the countries that you plan to visit. Countries in the Caribbean are generally a good choice for felons and have few restrictions in place.
Some places that are harder for felons to visit on a cruise include Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom as they have strict rules relating to admitting people that have criminal records.
Felons should also check the policies of their chosen cruise ship to ensure that they meet the relevant terms and conditions as some reserve the right to refuse passage to convicted felons.
What is an Open or Closed Loop Cruise?
There are two types of cruises, closed loop and open loop and the documentation required for each can vary.
Closed Loop Cruise
A closed-loop cruise will start and end in the same U.S. port. An open-loop cruise starts and ends at different ports.
For example, a cruise that starts in Miami and travels around the Caribbean and returns to Miami is a closed-loop cruise.
Felons may sail on both types of cruise, but the documents required for a closed-loop cruise are less restrictive than for open-loop cruises.
If you are a U.S. citizen going on a closed-loop cruise from the U.S. you only need proof of citizenship which could be your birth certificate or government-issued ID.
Open Loop Cruise
If you are going on an open-loop cruise, you will need to have a passport.
It’s worth noting that even though the government doesn’t require you to have a passport on an open-loop cruise, the cruise line may require you to have one.
This is generally so that you are covered if you miss the ship and have to fly to meet it, or in case you need to fly home early for medical or personal emergencies.
Travellers may also have to show a passport to enter a port the ship is visiting. So, while you might be able to get by without having a passport, it’s definitely better to have one and it will give you far more options when it comes to choosing a cruise.
Having a felony doesn’t automatically mean that you won’t be able to get a passport, but it could make it harder or impossible, depending on the nature of the crime.
The crimes most likely to disqualify you from getting a passport are Drug Trafficking, Financial Fraud and Human Trafficking but cases are looked at individually and other major crimes can also result in refusal to grant a passport
Destinations felons can and can’t cruise to
The entry criteria for different destinations can affect where a felon would choose to visit on a cruise.
Canada – NO
Canada has very strict entry rules for anyone with a criminal record so this is one destination that you may want to avoid since even minor offences can result in a person being denied entry to Canada.
United Kingdom – NO
Whether a felon can travel to the UK, including on a cruise, depends on the nature of their conviction and other factors.
UK immigration law states that a person may be denied entry into the country if they have been convicted of an offense for which they have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of at least 12 months in the last 5 to 10 years.
However, the decision ultimately lies with the UK Border Agency officers, who will consider each case individually, taking into account factors such as the nature of the offense, the length of time since the offense, and the person’s behavior since.
Australia – NO
Australia has extremely strict entry requirements, especially for individuals with criminal convictions. In general, anyone with a substantial criminal record will likely be denied entry.
New Zealand – NO
New Zealand also has very strict character requirements for tourists. If you have a felony within the last 10 years, you’re unlikely to be able to cruise to New Zealand.
Caribbean – YES
A felon is able to go on a cruise to the Caribbean as long as they’re able to meet the entry criteria of the nations that they plan to visit. A US Passport card can be used to visit the Caribbean by cruise, this may be easier to obtain for felons that are ineligible for a passport.
Jamaica – MAYBE
Felons can visit Jamaica by cruise but they must have a US passport. In addition to a passport, felons must bring some evidence to show that they have served their time and are not on probation. You will also need a visa to enter Jamaica
Bahamas – YES
Felons are able to go on a cruise to the Bahamas and will not face any issues so long as they have served their time and there are no probation restrictions. A felon (or anyone) is able to visit the Bahamas using a passport card if they are on a closed-loop cruise.
Mexico – MAYBE
Felons can go on a cruise to Mexico. This would be a closed-loop cruise with the relevant restrictions that apply to this type of cruise. Mexico has some restrictions on allowing felons in but they are less severe than in Canada and are generally for the most serious crimes.
Alaska – MAYBE
A felon is able to go on a cruise to Alaska since they will be staying within the USA. However, please check the route of the cruise as many cruises to Alaska stop in Canada to visit places like Vancouver and Victoria which are likely to prevent felons from visiting.
Hawaii – YES
A felon can take a cruise to Hawaii assuming they have no further restrictions on them (e.g. probation) as they will remain within the USA. Check the planned route of any cruise to Hawaii as they sometimes stop at Vancouver, Canada which has strict rules preventing most felons from entering.
Can you stay on the ship to avoid restrictions?
You might think that it’s an option to just stay on board the ship when it docks at a country you are not allowed into.
However, prior to departure, the cruise ship will want to check that every passenger has all the required documents for every port on their route.
Port officials also have the right to ask for the documents of every passenger on board when a cruise ship is docked in their waters.
Cruise Line Policies
Every cruise line has its own policies relating to who can and can’t travel on their ships. These policies cover a whole range of things like having an infectious disease or being heavily pregnant. But for this post, we want to know how they relate to felonies.
Below you will find the policies relating to criminal records for 3 of the biggest cruise line companies.
Felons are free to go on a Royal Caribbean Cruise. They do not have a policy that relates to refusing to take guests based on felonies in their past.
You can find their refusal to transport policy by following this link. There is no mention of criminal records or previous felonies.
Felons can go on a Carnival cruise, but they should take a good look at the guest screening policy before booking their cruise. The policy states that they reserve the right to deny boarding to people convicted of certain felonies.
The guest screening policy states that they reserve the right ‘to deny boarding to any persons convicted of certain felonies, which may include but are not limited to; aggravated physical and/or sexual assault, armed robbery and related offences, and other violent crimes’.
They go on to state that they reserve the right to look into public records and that if entry is refused the individual will be refunded.
I take this to mean that any partners/friends etc who had booked at the same time wouldn’t be refunded. So it’s a bit of a risk for anyone convicted of these offences.
I am not sure whether they regularly screen potential guests for these offences or only if they have specific concerns, but it’s probably best to try different cruise lines if you are in this situation.
Disney Cruise Line
Felons are able to go on a Disney Cruise Line cruise but it’s worth knowing that the Disney Cruise terms and conditions include the line ‘Disney Cruise Line reserves the right to refuse passage to Guests with criminal backgrounds.’
There is no further explanation than that. It doesn’t say that felons are not allowed on a Disney cruise and my guess is that they would only exercise this right for major offences or high-profile felons but it might be worth checking with them to see if they can clarify further before you book.
The Bottom Line
So, if you have a felony there are a few things to consider before booking your cruise, but it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a fantastic cruise.
The most likely issue for US felons taking a cruise is the restrictions on going to Canada. Restrictions apply for even minor traffic offenses so felons are probably best advised to avoid cruises that stop in Canada (this includes a lot of Alaska cruises).
If you have a misdemeanour you must earn Criminal Rehabilitation or get a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) to enter Canada, although minor offences from more than 10 years ago should present less of an issue.
When it comes to cruise lines, Royal Caribbean is the most relaxed about previous felonies while Carnival has the strictest policies for felons that have committed the most serious crimes.
So, taking a Royal Caribbean cruise around the Caribbean is the best bet for felons who are unlikely to encounter any issues from either the cruise line or immigration officers.
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