Passport stamps help travelers remember their trips. It’s a rite of passage to possess a passport book full of international stamps. It proves that you visited exotic and foreign places.
On a cruise, you may not get a single passport stamp. Most ports do not require cruises visitors to pass through immigration.
If you cherish passport stamps, you’ll have to seek them out. Here’s how to get them.
If passengers spend 30 min to 2 hours in each port queued for immigration, they are unlikely to book another cruise.
Why cruise passengers don’t get passport stamps
Cruise passengers rarely pass through immigration when they enter a port.
Cruise lines process hundreds or thousands of visitors through their own security procedures. Port immigration must be quick because time in ports is limited. A ship may be in port for as little as 5 or 6 hours.
When I cruised on Royal Caribbean, I typically set foot in port within 5-10 minutes after leaving my cabin.
I can’t speak for the other lines because it’s been years since I cruise with Carnival and Holland America.
Where to get your passport book stamped
Most ports have a special desk or office for tourists where you get your passport stamped.
Sometimes you can get an official immigration stamp. In other places, you may get a souvenir stamp made just for cruise visitors.
It’s usually free to get a stamp. However, it’s possible there could be a $2-3 fee.
Now you can admire your passport book! Show it off to your friends and watch them envy the date and location of your visit.
How to find the stamp desk
Stop by your ship’s guest services during a slow time. Ask them where to get passport stamps in each of your scheduled ports.
Ask the security officers as you leave the ship.
If you’re already in the port, ask port security or the information desk.
Don’t forget to take your passport off the ship with you when you visit the port.
Some are more difficult to get than others
On my southern Caribbean cruise in 2018, I successfully collected passport stamps in all 5 ports. But it wasn’t without some trouble.
The first port, Curacao, had an information desk in the port, and they instructed me to walk up the street under the bridge.
They didn’t tell me I had to go through a secure area to get to the official immigration office. For a while I starting to regret embarking on this adventure because the port looked sketchy.
After walking under the high rise bridge as instructed, I found the immigration office. The kind woman stamped my book and sent me on my way.
It was about a 2.25 mile (3.6 km) round trip.
Difficulty: Easy but annoying
Aruba was one of the simplest stamps to get. Just go inside the port building (mostly shopping stalls) and visit the immigration office.
This one frustrated me though, because I went to see the woman in the office she kept saying to come back later. She couldn’t take 20 seconds and stamp my book so I could get on with my day?
First, she was in her office using the PC. Second, she was in a closet gossiping with a young woman. Third, she was back in her office eating and watching videos on her phone. At last, the officer completed my request.
Maybe I annoyed her (I hope so), but I was thrilled with the lovely stamp.
Fortunately, Bonaire was very easy. I asked at the information desk where to get a stamp and they said “right here!”
She pulled out the souvenir stamp and I was all set. Unfortunately, the stamp lacked a date, so I wrote it in.
Castries did not have an immigration office at or near the port. I took a taxi into town to get something from a grocery store, so the driver took me to the immigration office too.
The government building is in the downtown area with no nearby parking. The office I needed is on the top floor (no elevator).
After I asked 4 people for help, someone finally took me to the correct person. Once I found the right person, it was no problem. (Hint: it’s the second door)
The taxi ride cost $25.
Antigua & Barbuda
Antigua was relatively easy. I walked into the port early and asked security where to get a stamp. She pointed to the gray building in front of us, but indicated they would not open until noon. Island time, amirite?
I returned around 1 pm, after a swim on the ship and lunch, just as she said, the office was open. At last, the lady stamped my passport, but was a bit rude. Maybe she was still a little tired.