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Visas for Cruise Travel to the UK and Europe

Visas for Cruise Travel to the UK and Europe (Photo: Valiik30/Shutterstock)
Visas for Cruise Travel to the UK and Europe (Photo: Valiik30/Shutterstock)

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With uncertainty over Brexit's impact on tourism and news about upcoming changes to European travel requirements, cruise passengers hailing from the United States might be confused about whether they need visas for cruise travel to the United Kingdom and Europe.

Here's what we know about the latest travel requirements to head across the pond. We'll continue to update the story if European or UK visa requirements for U.S. citizens change.

Updated July 25, 2019

Do I need a visa if I'm a U.S. citizen cruising or flying to the UK?

No. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for UK travel if your primary purpose is tourism. To clarify, the United Kingdom is considered a sovereign state made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Tourist travel -- including cruises -- remains unaffected by political events such as the vote for Brexit.

The current UK entry requirements for U.S. citizens outline that U.S. passport holders are allowed entry for up to six months for the purpose of leisure. Any cruise -- and most land vacations -- fall well within this window.

Travel Visa (Photo: vanhurck/Shutterstock)

Do I need a visa if I'm a U.S. citizen cruising or flying to Europe?

No. U.S. citizens traveling to Europe do not need to worry about obtaining visas for a cruise vacation. The upcoming change affecting U.S. travel to Europe is technically a pre-authorization -- not a visa -- that will take effect starting in 2021. The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is a "pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travelers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen Area." This translates to an online form that must be filled out before travel; it will take approximately 10 minutes to complete, cost 7 euros (about $8) and will cover travel for three years.

The Schengen Area rules for U.S. citizens don't change. The area consists of 26 countries -- many popular cruise destinations, like Greece, Spain and France -- without internal borders, meaning travel between any of them won't require a visa (just the new ETIAS authorization). It is unclear at this time whether cruise passengers will be required to complete the online registration on their own ahead of their cruise or if it will be completed through the cruise line during the booking process.

New Zealand is levying a similar online registration and visitation fee, which will take effect on Oct. 1, 2019.

Am I responsible for new tourist taxes in European cruise ports like Amsterdam?

Yes and no. Tourist taxes to popular destinations, like Amsterdam, Dubrovnik and Venice, are not only being considered but in many cases, already implemented. The policy mainly applies to day visitors, so it relates to cruisers visiting on a port day.

Amsterdam began charging 8 euros (about $9) per cruiser on Jan. 1, 2019. Dubrovnik will charge 1 euro (about $1) per day, beginning in 2021. A tourist tax for Venice will be rolled out over one year's time; from an initial 3 euros taking effect September 1, 2019, to 6 euros after December 31, 2019 and up to 10 euros per person by the end of 2020. (Overnight visitors in Amsterdam, and select other cities, will notice a different form of the tax, typically included in the price of their accommodations.)

This trend is not going away. Elsewhere in the world, popular tourist destinations such as Japan, which didn't already have a fee in effect, are levying a countrywide tax ($9 in Japan's case) for all visitors. (Cruise passengers who are only in the country due to weather or other unforeseen causes are exempt.)

So yes, the fee applies to all cruise passengers who visit ports with a tourist tax, but it is ultimately absorbed into the cost of your cruise and therefore does not need to be handled separately or with any individual documentation -- at this time.

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