Everyone reading this, please learn from this unfortunate experience. What is a passport? It's proof of citizenship and your legal pass from the country of your citizenship to travel abroad. Have they had exceptions in the past to needing one for certain destinations and type of travel? Yes. I have a strong hunch that what was presented at the pier was the hospital issued souvenier with footprints on the back for a scrapbook. It looks like a birth cert and some even say birth cert. The fact that the hospital certifies you were born there is not an official doccument of your birth recorded by the Government. A state seal is the required verification that it is what is required to board.
Regardless, if you don't yet have a passport and intend to travel outside of the country by air, sea or land be prepared to have similar stories in the near future. It's already law for air travel, you have to have a passport. This summer they'll again vote on passing the same restriction for travel by sea. You should also be aware that for travel to some locations around the would a passport is not the only thing required. For some countries you'll need a visa, not the credit card type but a doccument from the country you're traveling to authorizing your visit. Some take a great deal of time for approval. The US Gov't and/or other Gov'ts sometimes require innoculations to visit certain countries. Some countries have restrictions on entry by citizens of certain countries even with passports and all the proper docs. A few ships port at Tripoli, Lybia. If you have a US or Israeli passport or even an Isreali stamp inside your passport, you'll be denied exit from the ship at that port. Be sure you know what you need well before you arrive at a pier or airport and that what you have is indeed all you need for your trip.
None of these issues are related to the cruiseline you book with or any rules or business practices by any of them. They are federal regulations. It is not even the duty or responsibility of the cruiseline employees or your travel agent to notify you of the actual regulations, they may not know them for travel to each and every country around the world. They should advise you on where to find out the requirements for what is needed for your itinerary. For US residents the source is www.travel.state.gov
If you are a legal resident but a citizen of another country, the Consulate of your country of birth is who you contact.
Please get a passport and keep it renewed, it is considered expired if it expires within 6 months of your return from a trip outside the US. Check it before your next trip, be sure you know where it is and it is current well before you head out your front door for a trip.