The Jones Act (also known as the Passenger Services Act) prohibits travel between two different U.S. ports on foreign registered ships. It does not allow guests to embark and disembark at two different U.S ports unless their itinerary stops at a foreign port prior to returning to the second U.S. port. This means cruise lines must carefully create their itineraries to make sure they do not violate the Jones Act as many cruise ships that sail out of U.S. ports are not registered in the U.S.
While most passengers will not have to worry about violating the Jones Act due to the way cruise lines structure their itineraries there are a few exceptions that passengers need to be aware of.
First, cruisers looking to sail on back-to-back sailings that start and end in two different U.S. ports will be denied their request to book those sailings. This is because back-to-back sailings are not seen as two separate sailings but just one transport, even when disembarking in between sailings to meet with Customs and Border Patrol.
The Jones Act also makes it difficult for cruisers to embark or disembark at ports that are not the original or final port of call. There are exceptions to this rule of course depending on what your itinerary is, but it is best to check with your travel agent prior to booking your cruise if a shortened itinerary is in the plans for you. There are also exceptions in the case that you become sick or injured and need to disembark early to receive medical care.
American registered ships are the major exception to the Jones Act and can sail from one U.S. port to another without stopping in a foreign port. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America is one of the few American registered ships and the only ship able to sail to the different Hawaiian ports without stopping in a foreign country. Some smaller cruise lines and river cruises also have ships registered in the U.S. that these rules do not apply to.
If you’re planning an upcoming cruise, the Jones Act most likely will not apply to you, but it’s always good to be aware of if you need to embark late or disembark early for any reason or are looking to book back-to-back cruises. If you are concerned that your trip may violate the Jones Act your travel agent can help you determine what to do.