Congress recently delayed the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative passport requirements for cruise passengers. What this means is that if you are cruising to the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada or Bermuda and you are leaving from a U.S. port, you will not need a passport until June 1, 2009. However, if you are travelling by air to these regions you will need a passport by January 8, 2007.

Caribbean tourism officials are very concerned about the effect this will have on the region as it gives an unfair advantage to cruise ship companies over land-based tourism.

When you visit a country on a cruise ship, that country or region benefits from port taxes but in general cruise ship passengers eat all their meals on board and don’t spend a lot of money in ports. These places have to deal with huge numbers of tourists who overrun a destination for four or five hours and then are gone. The hope of the local tourism officials is that you will fall in love with a place and come back for a land vacation which will more directly benefit the economy.

The Jamaica Gleaner reports that “among the nine Caribbean destinations that may be impacted, the biggest effect could be felt in Jamaica, where 80 per cent of U.S. visitors to the island do not use passports.

“When the numbers were translated into direct and indirect employment, some 114,000 jobs in Jamaica were said to be on the line.”

You can read the very interesting, full article here.

My advice: get a passport anyway, as soon as possible. And if you visit a place on a cruise that you really like, go back and spend some time there.