Now that everyone is thinking about travelling again, many are excited to get back to cruises. One of the most popular cruises is to travel down the East Coast of the USA. The journey from north to south through different climate zones has a lot to offer but also needs to be prepared, for example by applying for an ESTA.
From New York to Miami and beyond
The New York skyline is even more impressive when you approach it from the water. The Big Apple is therefore a highlight of every cruise along America’s east coast. Many cruises begin in Canada, passing along different Northeastern cities like Halifax and Quebec City. These cruises, follow the coast along with New England and continue south via Boston, New York and along North and South Carolina to the coast of Florida with its bustling metropolis of Miami.
Those who love warm places can travel on to the Bahamas and the Caribbean islands: Cuba, Jamaica or even further east to the Antilles. Some cruise ships sail around the tip of Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. Experiencing two different bodies of water in one cruise.
What is the ESTA?
Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? It is also quick and easy to book. You will probably come across some information about the ESTA somewhere during the booking process. ESTA refers to the American Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. All foreign travellers, including those taking a cruise in the USA, must apply for an ESTA (or even a US visa in certain cases) before departure. Dutch nationals are generally eligible for the ESTA and do not have to go through any complicated visa procedures.
It does not matter whether you arrive in the USA by air or by cruise ship. In both cases, you will need to apply for an ESTA before departure.
ESTA application and validity
The ESTA can be applied for online and is usually approved within 72 hours. An approved ESTA is valid for two years and allows you to stay at most 90 days in the USA. Luckily, you can travel back to the United States as often as you would like within that 2-year validity. This is handy in case you decide that one cruise was not enough, or if you like a city in particular on your cruise, you can eventually come back to visit. For example, a long weekend in New York City, or experience Spring Break in Miami.
What should I be aware of when applying for an ESTA?
To travel with an ESTA there are some other conditions in addition to the maximum duration of stay. For example, you must have a valid ticket for your return or transit journey and you may only visit the USA for tourism or business purposes. A possible criminal past may result in an ESTA application being rejected.
ESTA or visa?
Travellers wishing to stay in the USA for more than 90 consecutive days will need a visa. You also need a visa if you are not travelling as a tourist or business traveller to the USA, but for example to study there, work as an au pair or work for an American employer. Travellers who have been to Iran, Iraq or North Korea (and some other countries) in recent years must also apply for a visa. Please note that even participation in a multi-day course in America, for example, a cooking course, may require a visa.
Since applying for a visa takes longer and is more expensive, it is recommended that you apply for an ESTA if you meet the requirements for this travel authorisation. If you already have a valid ESTA, please keep an eye on current developments and check in good time whether the ESTA is still sufficient or whether a visa is required after all.