Do cruises count towards 90-day Schengen zone allowance?

We look at passport stamps, day excursions and how border authorities enforce the 90/180 day rule for European cruises

Border authorities are ‘encouraged’ to carry out full checks, including passport stamping, at the beginning and end of the cruise
Published Last updated

Reader question: When we go on cruises, our passports are neither stamped when boarding nor when we go ashore. Does this mean that cruises do not count towards the 90 days?

We always go with Cunard, but talking to friends, this seems to be normal practice whichever cruise company is used.

Border agents use passport stamps to determine whether a non-EU national has spent more than 90 out of 180 days in the Schengen zone.

The Schengen Borders Code makes no mention of entry and exit dates being checked electronically, such as when passports are scanned.

Even if you enter your passport details when booking the trip, it is therefore unlikely that, without a stamp, border agents in the future will know about the days spent in the Schengen zone as part of a cruise.

Read more: Visas to stay in France for six months: Q&As on appointment process

Day excursions not usually included

The Schengen Borders Code states: “Where the cruise ship comes from a port situated in a third country and calls for the first time at a port situated in the territory of a member state, crew and passengers shall be subject to entry checks.”

It also stipulates that checks will be carried out when the ship departs a port in a member state to go to a third (non-EU) country.

The Connexion understands border authorities are encouraged to carry out full checks, including passport stamping, at the beginning and end of the cruise, but not during day excursions at Schengen ports.

Read more: Explainer: How has Brexit changed UK passport checks at EU borders?

Passports potentially not stamped at embarkation

Cunard confirmed to us that passengers’ passports are not stamped when ashore, as they said they do not pass through the same formal immigration terminals as you would in an airport but just show their cruise cards (special ID documents given to passengers).

They said passports are checked on embarkation but did not say they are stamped.

We contacted several other cruise companies requesting information about how the Schengen allowance is calculated in theory and in practice, without reply.

P&O Cruises addresses the issue in its ‘Frequently Asked Questions’:

“The number of days is calculated by the number of days spent in port within a cruise itinerary.

“In certain circumstances a sea day in between two ports within a single country is also counted as a day.”

However, the website makes no mention of whether passports are stamped, or how this allowance is enforced.

It is unclear how the EU’s new electronic Entry/Exit System (EES), which will replace passport stamping, will affect cruise companies.

The system is due to launch at the end of this year, but questions remain about how it will be implemented.

Related articles

Explainer: How to get a tax refund for items bought on visit to France

‘Zero particulate’ ferry begins sailing between Marseille and Corsica

Marseille mayor in row over giant ‘polluting’ cruise ships