The issue is that up until the recent changes passports were not required unless you traveled beyond North America and the Caribbean. Most Americans (sadly) never have traveled beyond that. So many US citizens never had a need for a passport.
The cost for a passport is now $170 with fees (not $85). So for a family of four that had never traveled outside of the US before, buying a passport for everyone is as much as a cruise fare cost them. It's non trivial. So as long as the birth certificate is allowed to be use instead of a passport, those not wanting to pay for one are not going to bother.
If the cost of a passport was much less (say $50) then things would change. The fact that the birth certificate is still allowed also makes it less likely that people will go out and get a passport too.
Are you including the $60 expediting fee in that $170? We are getting ready to submit Jacob's adult application and it is $135 for the passport book. My renewal is $110. But that is for the regular turnaround time of 4 to 6 weeks.
Still, for a family of 4 getting first time passports, $540 is a lot of money and telling them to look at it from a 10 year perspective isn't going to fly. If they are expediting them that is $60 extra per passport so it now becomes $780.
The price has become a problem. The State Department claims it is to cover their costs with the new enhanced passport technology, blah blah blah. If the government can approve funds for all the ridiculous stuff like kangaroo rat research, bridges to nowhere, and other inane projects, it can subsidize something as serious as passports.
To renew, the fee is $110 for an adult passport book. I wouldn't recommend the card. Here is a link to the United States Department of State showing the fees structure.
Also bear in mind, if you say November of 2011, if that's when your current passport expires, you may need to count back six months, and renew it then. If you're doing any foreign travel between now and then, some countries will deny passports if they expire within six months.
2007 - Majesty of the Seas (Bahamas)
2009 - Enchantment of the Seas (Western Caribbean)
2010 - Freedom of the Seas (Western Caribbean)
2013 - Golden Princess (Alaska, roundtrip from Seattle)
Hi, well we went the cheaper route with the passport cards last year when we took our first cruise on Freedom of the Seas. Used the cards on our next two Majesty cruises and will again use them later this week on Oasis (finally). Cost was a huge factor when getting them as the original passports were pricey. Yes I am well aware of the problems with the cards (flying) but for us it was the better choice. I guess I misunderstood the traveling requirements and thought everyone had to have either a passport card or original passport, even for closed loop cruises. Oh well...thanks for the info as our trip next June is with family members (first timers) who will probably just do the photo id and birth certificate thing instead of shelling out the cash. Did I mention Oasis this weekend? :-)