Thinking About Cruising? Get A Passport


Hi, my name is Joy and I’m an addict. The adrenaline rush of being the last person on the ship is my drug of choice. Eight cruise seasons under my belt and I’ve never enjoyed a sail away show, never high-fived from the gangway and rarely stow my carry-on in my cabin before the ship is deep into international waters. I’ve skinned my shins on escalators as I ran with luggage towards the gangway. Missed the gangway altogether and entered through the belly of the ship where they load the luggage? I’ve done that too. Are you familiar with the heartbeat that rises from your chest and makes a home in your throat? I never start a cruise without it. From 9am – 3pm or later I sit in the port and watch ecstatic fans walk onto a cruise ship to start the vacation they’ve been dreaming of only to hustle at the last minute and run on board before the ship leaves me behind. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job.

Does this sound like your idea of a good time? Probably not. Want to know how to avoid all of that stress for both of us? Get a passport.

Let’s set some records straight. This is international travel in the 21st century. Neither Sixthman nor the cruise line sets the rules or required documentation to board a cruise. I’m going to answer some commonly and not so commonly asked questions that get into more anecdotes and helpful hints than what you will find in an FAQ or government website, but the documentation required to sail is fairly cut and dry and always subject to change.

If you are at all uncertain about the documentation you plan to bring (specifically if you are not a US citizen) please check at least one of the following resources before you leave home:

Norwegian Cruise Lines
U.S Customs and Border Protection

I’m a US citizen and I heard I don’t have to have a passport to cruise, is that true?

This is technically true. All cruises that leave from and return to the same US port are what the cruise nerds call a “closed loop sailing.” If you want to be a REAL cruise nerd, I can drop even more knowledge on your head: a cruise that leaves from one US port and returns to a different US port is known as an “open-jaw sailing.”  At the time of writing this all of our events, past, present and foreseeable future are closed loop cruises. If you do not have a current passport you will need to bring a government issued Photo ID (such as a driver’s license) AND proof of US citizenship. Without a passport you should NOT plan to board without both a photo ID and proof of US citizenship.

What counts as proof of US citizenship?

If you are a US citizen who was born in the United States you must bring a state certified US birth certificate. This is the certificate issued by the Department of Vital Statistics in the state where you were born and not the pretty hospital certificate presented to your parents in the hospital. The version NOT accepted will typically but not always have your wee bitty baby foot prints on it, or say “hospital certificate” and/or “this is not a legal document” somewhere on it). If you are a US citizen without a passport but were born in another country, your Birth Certificate won’t help you but an original certificate of U.S. Naturalization, original certificate of U.S. citizenship OR U.S. Consular report of your birth abroad will be accepted in addition to your government issued photo id.

My six-year-old is really excited about soft serve, belly flops, and stage diving! Does she need a photo ID?

Children under 16 years of age will need a passport OR if they are U.S. Citizens will be permitted to sail with a state certified US birth certificate only. Don’t let your six-year-old stage dive.

My birth certificate says “Betty Spaghetti” but my Driver’s License says “Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock,” what about meeeeee?

If the name on your birth certificate is different than the name on your photo ID because of marriage, adoption, divorce, or a Friends episode induced lapse in sanity you will just need to bring a document showing the legal name change (such as your marriage certificate, etc).

This all seems like an awful lot of paperwork for one trip!

It is. Get a passport. An adult passport is just a little over $100 and is good for 10 years. Think of all the adventures that await you!

NO JOY! I do NOT want a passport you cannot make me! I am an AMERICAN! Freedom, eagles, and stuff . . .

I’m going to let you be you. Also, stuff happens. Like that one time in 2012 when I lost my passport inside of my couch. By the time I found it 2 ½ years later it was already expired and I’d traveled on over a dozen cruises with my wrinkled and worn out birth certificate without incident. Whether you are against owning a passport for political reasons or you are like me and just can’t always get your s!@t together, you can go the birth certificate or passport card route. However, it is your responsibility to be aware that without a passport book you cannot fly into or out of an international port of call.

To make it a little more real: If your flight is delayed and you miss the ship before it leaves Miami you can only fly into the next port of call to salvage part of your vacation if you have a passport. If there is a family emergency while you are away and you need to fly home from a port of call you won’t be able to do so without incurring costly fees to secure a last minute passport. These are all things to consider before rolling the dice! After admitting my own personal passport folly I’d be remiss not to tell you one last thing here:


I really didn’t mean to yell. Let’s go back to being cool.

Did you say something about a passport card?

A passport book is the most common form of passport and will allow you to travel internationally by land, sea, or plane. A passport card is most commonly used by US citizens living near a border who travel by land frequently to Canada or Mexico. It is also accepted in lieu of a passport book when cruising in the Caribbean.  A passport card is generally considered more convenient (you can slip it in your wallet) and less expensive. However, you cannot travel by air with a passport card so see above on the reasons why I still recommend a book over a card.

What about enhanced driver’s licenses?

An enhanced driver’s license has the same function and limitations as a passport card. However, only a limited number of states even offer this option. If you are uncertain if your driver’s license is enhanced or not, it’s not. You would know. (Having a hologram on your license does not mean it’s enhanced.)

 Are the Bahamas part of the US?

No. Yes, we get that question all the time. It’s okay. Geography is hard!

What if I am not a US citizen?

Guests from all over the world are invited to party with us! You will at the very least need a passport. There are lots of variables here in regards to additional Visas and Waivers needed dependent upon your country of origin, your current residency status, etc. If you have traveled to the US previously or are a current US resident you are likely already well versed in what you need. However, if you are at all unsure please call US Immigrations at 1-800-375-5283 or check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to be sure your identification will be satisfactory.

I listened to you Joy. I got a passport; I did all of the right things. I just left my passport in the taxi on the way to my hotel and the ship sails tomorrow. What do I do now?

First contact the taxi company and do everything you can to get it back. But, maybe that is not an option. Maybe your passport was stolen or you called the taxi company and they never found it. Maybe it’s locked in your car at the Dallas airport. You could have left it anywhere. The ship leaves in 24 hours (or 12, or 8, or 3) and you don’t know what to do. I’ll add another disclaimer that this is international travel and we can never promise that you will be able to board the ship without the documents detailed above. However, all is not lost and we will always try to get you on board. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not.

Below are recommendations we will make (NONE OF WHICH ARE GUARANTEED to get you on board but are all worth trying in case of an emergency). Please note that most of these recommendations only apply to U.S. Citizens:

  • Try to secure a copy of your birth certificate, ideally a state certified copy that can physically brought to the port (fax or email would be the next best thing but are not guaranteed solutions).

  • File a police report immediately if you know for sure your passport was stolen and bring a copy of that report to the port.

  • Contact the office of vital records in the state where you were born to see if they are able to authorize the send of your birth certificate by fax or email (this is not legal in every state and not generally an option if we are sailing on a weekend or federal holiday).

  • Before you leave home store an electronic copy of your passport photo page and birth certificate.

  • If you arrive at the port knowing you don’t have all of the documents required to sail in hand, do not check your luggage with the porters. Yes, this may sound pessimistic. Yes, we will try everything to get you on board but this is international travel. Without the proper documentation you may not be able to sail. The only thing sadder than watching the ship leave without you is watching the ship and all of your luggage leave without you.

  • Breathe. Don’t panic. Maintain a positive attitude. Help us help you. In the end there may not be anything we can do regardless, but the calmer you are and more willing you are to listen to our recommendations, the better. Everyone at Sixthman and NCL has a “leave no (wo)man behind” mentality on embarkation day. We want you to be enjoying an umbrella drink with the sail away band and not dealing with documentation just as much as you do!

I have my passport! My photo is so cuuute. I would show it to you but I stuck it in my luggage before I checked it with the porter.

Oh honey. There are 2500 (give or take) other guests boarding right now, almost all of whom are checking at least one bag each. Your luggage may not be delivered to you room until shortly after the ship sets sail. Customs and Border Patrol is going to require that we check your passport before you step on board. Stow your passport in your purse (or your man-purse). There are even cute covers you can buy for them!

Oops! I left my passport at home. I’m so silly. Don’t worry though, I sailed last year. You have my passport details on file. If you need I can show you pictures of what a good time I had last year!

What a cute picture. You have really slimmed down since the last cruise. Congratulations to you! Sorry, this is international travel. Documents in hand only. Neither the cruise line nor Sixthman stores your passport information from the year before. Even if we did, Customs and Border Patrol will not accept this in lieu of your physical passport.

Come clean, these questions weren’t submitted by actual guests. I’m just a voice in your head right?

So technically, these questions are an artifice to get out the information, and I made them up. But, every single one of these questions is either one I’ve gotten in the port in person or one our ninjas hear regularly on the phone.

Another cruise season is creeping up and I’m already looking forward to hugging my favorite Port check-in staff and returning guests. I love the smiles on your faces as you pass by me on your way onto the ship and the matching t-shirts you never cease to impress me with. Be sure to say hi to me when you see me and show me your most hilarious passport photos!

Here’s mine:


As we celebrate 15 years at Sixthman today, we are so grateful for the guests who have trusted us with their vacations, the artists who have trusted us with their fans, and our team who has trusted us with their gifts during this precious time of their lives. When Sixthman started in 2001, we thought we were in the "Festival Business." Then we thought we were in the “Vacation Business” in 2003. We were happy to learn that we were connecting people and were actually in the “Community Business" in 2005. Being blessed with so many return guests each year, we push ourselves to make each event better.  

We often joke that when it comes to our festivals and communities, we make promises we can barely keep. One of the toughest dynamics for us to tame is the relationship between the Promise Maker and the Promise Keeper. They both need each other to be successful. One to make a promise and the other to make it happen. Without the Promise Makers, it’s hard to stand out above the rest, and without the Promise Keepers, it’s a complete mess.  

Even though we understand it’s part of who we are, there is sometimes tension when a promise is made without including a Promise Keeper. As a Promise Maker myself, sometimes I fear including the Keeper because I’m afraid they will talk me out of it (usually for good reason). The challenge is that we all care about each other like family, and reckless promises damage those relationships and our culture. We almost always pull it off and then promise to never do that again. Does it have to be this way?

At our company retreat (known as The Advance) last week, a couple of our senior team members presented some challenges for us to solve within the next year. The last two words they used were “Dreams” & “Logistics” and it hit me. When we do our best work, we are becoming experts in Dreamgistics. The difference is that the Promise Makers, now referred to as Dreamers, bring their ideas to the Promise Keepers, now referred to as Logistic Specialists, who welcome the Dreamers in a supportive and respectable way (think “Trust Tree” from Old School) to determine a solution that allows us to push the expectations higher without too much wear and tear on those who lead the execution.

We started saying Dreamgistics last week and I hope it sticks because it can remind us that we are evolving in the way we work together. Thank you to all of those who have allowed us to perform Dreamgistics on you.


Sixthman's School of Flip Cup

If I can, let’s take a minute to borrow the words of lyricist, Toby Keith, “Red solo cup, I fill you up, let’s have a party.”  Party. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I see a red solo cup, followed swiftly by the emotions of determination and sometimes sadness. Let me explain.

Flip Cup at Sixthman = a party. Most of us spend months planning what event to play it on while anticipating the excitement we know will surround it. The competitive spirit of the game just really hooks us. However, it’s more than that. It’s a right of passage, part of our hiring process, like our own initiation ritual. There really is only one rule -YOU MUST FLIP TO WIN.

Our company as a whole abides by this cardinal rule. We play this game so much I don’t even have an accurate count of how many beers have been downed or how many cups have been flipped. Since it’s obvious we fancy ourselves experts, let us give you some tips:

1.     The order of your flip cup lineup is the key to your championship. You need a fast flipper to lead you off and a ringer who can pull out a win every time in the face of pressure.

2.     1/3 of your solo cup should be hanging off the table, just enough for you to put the tip of your finger(s) underneath.

3.     The correct number of fingers to use while flipping is up for debate; it’s a tie between 1 and 2, just don’t use your whole hand.

4.     Stay calm.  Stay focused.  Block out the crowd. Don’t even think about looking at the opposing team, just stay focused on the teammate next to you.  Remember to breathe.

5.     Build your teammates up; don’t get angry, you’ve got to be each other’s cheerleaders. Positive reinforcement is what wins!  Plus, no one likes a jerk.

I mentioned sadness in the beginning because as great as we are both individually and together at flip cup, our Sixthman staff team can’t seem to win a game on board against the artist teams. It’s truly a shame, because let’s get serious, it’s part of our job. Regardless, I can promise you if you follow these 5 simple rules, you’ll be a one-flip wonder in no time!  

“I love you red solo cup, I lift you up, proceed to party!”

Moments That Make Life Rock

One of the phrases you'll commonly hear around Sixthman is “moments that make life rock,” and I’ve been lucky to witness a lot of these moments first-hand. I’m proud to admit it’s not just a cheesy slogan… these are real moments in real people’s lives, and it’s fun to set the stage to make them happen. There are thousands of moments like this, and depending on who you ask here at Sixthman, you’ll get different answers when it comes to the favorites. If you asked me on a different day, I’d probably even have different answers!

To date, I’ve spent 216 days aboard 48 events. Out of all of my time at sea, here are my personal favorite top 5 “Moments That Make Life Rock”:

5. The Surprise Wedding – Simple Man Cruise, 2012

It’s fairly safe to say that scoring an invitation to your favorite artist’s wedding is highly unlikely in the real world.

Guests didn’t know it, but Gary and Dale Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd were going to renew their wedding vows on the Simple Man Cruise. And not a simple vow renewal… there was a dress, flowers, a wedding party, a cake, a red carpet, a reception… pretty much a full-blown wedding. Dale even filmed an episode of “Say Yes To The Dress” while in search of the perfect gown for the occasion.  (Watch the full episode.)

She made her grand entrance right after Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Q&A on the Pool Deck, an activity attended by everyone on board, so we knew guests wouldn’t miss out. Needless to say, everyone was shocked and excited to be included in such a personal moment with the band they’d been following for nearly 50 years.


That's the official wedding video Lynyrd Skynyrd released that covers the day’s festivities. Unfortunately the music has been removed, but it still gives you a visual of what happened. Congrats, Simple Man Cruisers! You’re now officially part of your favorite rock star’s home movies. Quite the role reversal, huh?

4. Paraoke with Paramore – PARAHOY! 2014

A 14-year-old singing one of the biggest hits of the day with THE BAND THAT SINGS IT sitting on stage with her? And then knocking it out of the park? That sums up Paraoke, Paramore’s spin on traditional karaoke. Guests called a special phone number and sang their hearts out to audition. The chosen finalists performed a Paramore song live on board, competing for the Paraoke title.

Here’s the winner:

If that wasn’t enough here’s the runner up: 

I still can’t believe the incredible talent we found hidden within our PARAHOY community. This was a first-year event, and it was inspiring to watch the entire crowd support their fellow guests. Our staff had a hard time working this activity… we were in such awe of the contestants.

3. 311 goes incognito - 311 Carribbean Cruise, 2012

The theme night was simply called “Costume Party,” and 311 band members were the ultimate participants. They roamed the ship while wearing full-body black ninja outfits and carrying blinky swords (complete with sound effects). They even entered their own costume contest! No one could see their faces, and they interacted with guests all night without anyone knowing they were partying with their heroes. They revealed their secret afterwards. Kudos, 311 dudes.

2. An impromptu hootenanny with Rivers Cuomo – The Weezer Cruise, 2012

On the last night of The Weezer Cruise 2012, a group of fans wanted to jam together and sing Weezer songs, and they wanted a designated place so they could spread the word among other interested fans. As the Warrior of that cruise, I knew about it, but wasn’t sure if it was actually going to happen, so I worked out a plan with our Production Manager to let them use a small lounge just in case. Turned out, we ended up needing the room I promised them for a last-minute Sixthman meeting but I had no way to tell the Hootenanny group since it was so late in the evening already. We went about our Sixthman-y stuff in the room, and all of a sudden a bunch of Weezer fans and Rivers Cuomo walked in carrying instruments, ready to sing.

I realized what was happening, sprinted to the other end of the ship in search of an available room and was REALLY hoping I could find something open. I stationed a Sixthman person at the door to the original room to send people my way, even though I had no idea where I was going yet. The ship’s Library was empty, so I opened the doors and started rearranging all of the furniture so the chairs, desks, and tables were arranged around the entire perimeter of the room. (Fun fact: Cruise ship furniture is EXTRA heavy, since it’s made to withstand swaying.) Right when I was done re-arranging, the parade of Weezer fans found me and entered the room, already singing. Rivers was still with them, and everyone sat in the Library singing Weezer songs for HOURS. We bought buckets of beer for everyone, and the empty buckets quickly turned into drums. There were actually people crying because they were so ridiculously happy. It was such a bizarre, organic and amazing moment. And the lead singer of everyone’s favorite band was in the room, absorbing every last bit of it.

Were we any good? No way. (To be fair, we started strong. But once it dwindled down to a few of us left at 4:00am, the drinks were all gone, we could barely keep our eyes open, and you could probably classify us as terrible.) We just didn't want it to end. I’ve never felt so connected with a group of people I’ve only known for 4 days. And an all-Weezer song Hootenanny in a Library? Can you BE more appropriate? (Read that in your best Chandler Bing voice.)

I never made it back to that Sixthman meeting by the way… #sorrynotsorry

1. Wideawake in the Atrium -  The Rock Boat, 2006

You really had to be there, because nothing I type will ever live up to it.  But here’s a picture, which is hanging up in the Sixthman office to this day.

Attempted Explanation: It started raining outside, so the afternoon shows needed to move indoors. Brand new TRB band, Wideawake, had to move their outdoor set to the Atrium on the fly. There wasn’t even a real stage there, and we had never used the atrium as a venue. But the show went on, and when they sang “Not So Far Away,” you could barely hear the band over the crowd singing every word. Wideawake was playing their first Rock Boat ever, in a venue that had seemingly been created out of thin air. It was pretty incredible, and the expressions on everyone’s faces (band and guests) were those of pure joy and complete amazement. I wish there was a way to capture the energy we all felt that day, because it was absolutely electric. This video can help you visualize the setting, but it still doesn’t do it justice. (It was filmed on the same Rock Boat, but covers a repeat performance of the same song during the finale on the last night, rather the original rainy day performance.)

So, what’s next? That’s up to you! Cheers to many more of these moments in Sixthman’s future – and in yours. I can’t wait to experience them right alongside you.



Hello World.

Hi. We’re Sixthman.

You may know us as the company behind all those cool festivals at sea. But in reality, we’re much more than that. We’re a group of about 40 people from completely different walks of life with the passion and drive to turn crazy ideas into reality. We’re a small company, so all of us tend to have a hand in almost every single event we produce, giving us the ability to collectively learn and share our experiences with you.

Our staff is what makes each event “uniquely Sixthman,” and we invite you to read about us. We’ll write from land and sea about our guests, our artists, ourselves, our ups, our downs, our dogs, our quirks and our ideas. Prepare to learn, laugh, and most importantly, LIVE LOUD. 

The Sixthman Team, Spring 2016. Photo provided by Will Byington.

The Sixthman Team, Spring 2016. Photo provided by Will Byington.