A cruise passenger ID card is a cruise line's way to keep track of passengers, ensure security, and provide a way for passengers to sign for purchases without carrying around money. The card also helps to keep the ship's personnel abreast of where passengers are at all times, especially important when disembarking from each port.
Getting a Cruise Ship ID Card
Passengers receive their ship ID cards when they check in at the embarkation port. After a port official verifies individual data (cabin assignment, customs paperwork, and passenger documentation), you are given your cabin key, ID card, and any last-minute notices (itinerary changes, first-time cruiser information, etc.). As you proceed to the ship, you will be asked to insert your card into a small kiosk (about the size of a podium) as you stand in a designated spot. A camera records your image and imprints it onto your ID card, identifying you as the individual associated with that card. For the duration of the voyage, that card is your key to many aspects of cruising life.
What Is a Cruise Ship ID Card?
Different cruise lines call their ID cards different names. On Carnival ships, passengers use their Sail & Sign cards, while Royal Caribbean cruisers are equipped with SeaPass cards. Most mainstream lines use similar names, but the general features and uses for the cards are generally the same.
Cruise ship ID cards are the size of credit cards and include several pieces of information. Typically, the passenger's name is printed on the card as well as their cabin number, dining time and table assignment. These are convenient cards for passengers to insert in a wallet or lanyard holder, insuring that they always have that information available. Passengers should sign the back of the cards for easier use, particularly for onboard purchases.
Uses of Cruise Ship ID Cards
The most important use of a cruise ship ID card is recording whether you are onboard the ship or have debarked to enjoy a port of call. This is why all passengers, even the youngest cruisers, are given their own ID cards. When you leave the ship, you will insert the card into a kiosk similar to the one that first recorded your photograph, and the computer notes that you have left the vessel. When you return, you will again insert your card into a kiosk to be recorded as back on board. This way, the cruise ship can immediately and easily account for all passengers.
Cruise ship ID cards are far more than simple locator cards, however. They are also used for:
- Verifying cabin assignments and personal identification for contest winners (prizes may be delivered to the cabin)
- Onboard purchases in gift shops and boutiques (the ID cards are used like credit or debit cards)
- Purchasing drinks in lounges, bars, and other venues (many cards include verification of a passenger's ability to purchase alcoholic beverages)
- Cabin keys (on modern or recently renovated vessels)
- Port identification (port officials will check cruise ship ID cards to guarantee that each person is allowed onto the docks)
- Casino membership and extended play (for frequent players or casino clubs to eliminate excessive change)
ID card uses vary between different cruise lines, and more modern ships often have even more features requiring ID cards, like the ability to access digital onboard photos taken on your cruise. In some cases, you may need it to sign up for Wi-Fi or added-fee computer related services, but in most cases, you just sign in using your stateroom information.
As technology advances, some ships will soon be using wearable wristbands, much like the very popular MagicBands utilized at Disney theme parks. In fact, Carnival's Chief Innovation Officer was previously at Disney for nearly two decades and helped develop the MagicBand technology there. These will function just like the current cruise ship ID in many cases, allowing you to enter your stateroom, make purchases, and pay to play casino games. Look for these to start debuting in late 2017, with a bigger launch planned for 2018.
Problems With Your Cruise Ship ID Card
While not common, problems do develop with cruise ship ID cards. If the information on your card is incorrect (you change your dining time or seating assignment, for example, or your cabin assignment is misprinted due to a last-minute upgrade), you may need a replacement card or you will be provided additional documentation to verify the changes. If you change your dining assignment, for example, the maître d' will provide a simple card with your new assignment. The first time you take advantage of the changes, you will need to provide the dining room staff with both your ID card and that additional information.
If you lose your ID card, perhaps in a port of call or while on a shore excursion, you will need to acquire a replacement card. This can be an inconvenient process and may include a minimal processing fee, but most cruise ships are equipped to handle such unforeseen problems.
After Your Voyage
One of the best benefits of a cruise ship ID card is that it makes a great personalized souvenir after your voyage. You will be required to check out of the ship one last time as you debark, and after that the card is yours to keep.
Importance of Your Cruise ID
From initial identification to a unique souvenir, cruise ship identification cards serve many purposes throughout a vacation. While passengers should always remember to pack the appropriate documentation (e.g., passport, picture ID, etc.), the cruise ship card is perhaps the most important piece of documentation each passenger carries while a resident of the floating cruise community.