Few events are more exciting than a cruise vacation. However, packing for a cruise can sometimes temper that enthusiasm — especially when you realize that items you’d like to bring are banned by the cruise lines.
What shouldn’t you pack for a cruise? Most cruise lines adhere to similar lists of prohibited items, found in their websites’ Help or FAQ sections. Be warned: Some lines ban items you might think would be acceptable to bring on board.
TPG has you covered. We’ve compiled a list of things not to bring on your cruise, whether universally prohibited or only allowed by specific cruise lines. Whether it’s your first or fiftieth cruise, it’s always good to check with your line to determine what to pack and what to leave at home.
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Clothes irons and steamers
Your cruise ship is much like a floating resort. However, unlike in a hotel room, your cabin won’t have an iron for you to use. That’s not to say you should bring your own — quite the opposite. Irons and steamers are considered a fire hazard, so they’re banned from your room.
If wrinkled clothes stress you out, bring a small bottle of wrinkle-release spray. Or, check to see if your ship includes a public laundry room. Many do, and they include irons and boards for passengers to use. Also, washing, pressing and dry-cleaning services are usually available for a fee. If all else fails, hang your garments in the bathroom while you take a steamy shower.
Coffeemakers and electric tea kettles
You can add electrical appliances like coffeemakers, electric tea kettles and the like to this list, too. Don’t worry: Your ship will provide plenty of places to satisfy your need for caffeine.
If you absolutely must make your own coffee, pack a small French press, and fill it with hot water from the buffet. Need a hot beverage in your room each morning? Order one from room service.
Most lines — including Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity, Cunard, Seabourn and Viking — do allow guests to bring flat irons or curling irons on board.
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As of this writing, MSC Cruises is the outlier on this one and includes “hair irons” on its list of prohibited items. (In my experience, I’ve always been able to take hairstyling appliances on MSC ships without incident, but if you try it, do so at your own risk.)
If you’re on a ship that does allow flat irons, steer clear of the fire sensors when using it. I can speak from experience about their sensitivity.
During a recent cruise aboard Virgin Voyages‘ Scarlet Lady, the heat from my flat iron triggered the alarm. It resulted in a call from the captain, as well as a visit from security to ensure I wasn’t smoking or burning a candle in my room.
Most cruise lines — such as Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Holland America — ban scissors and knives with blades longer than 4 inches. Other lines, including Disney, prohibit knives regardless of blade length; this includes straight razors.
Safety razors for personal grooming are allowed on all lines, though.
CBD and marijuana
Each state in the United States individually interprets and enforces laws relating to CBD use. However, because of the ambiguity of the laws, most cruise lines ban CBD in any form.
Although several states have decriminalized the possession and use of marijuana, it’s still illegal under U.S. federal law. That means even if you can legally buy it in your home state for recreational or medical use, you can’t cruise with it.
Extension cords and surge-protected power strips
The design of most newer ships accommodates the need for ample electrical outlets and conveniently located USB ports in your cabin. If you’re sailing on an older ship, your cabin might be sparse in the outlet department.
If you’re tempted to bring a power strip with you, make sure it’s not a surge-protected strip. Those are banned on most cruise lines and will be confiscated.
Look instead for cruise-compliant power strips with extra plug receptacles and USB charging ports or a European plug adapter so you can use both the 110-volt and 220-volt outlets in your cabin.
Before you pack an extension cord, check with your cruise line. Some — like Carnival, MSC, Norwegian and Virgin Voyages — permit guests to use power cords in their cabins. Cunard, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises do not.
An exception to that rule might be in the case of medical equipment, as stated in Cunard’s packing rules: “We also ask that you don’t bring extension cords with you, unless they are accompanying essential medical equipment, such as CPAP and nebulizer machines.”
Candles and incense
Safety is a priority on every cruise, and fire is the biggest threat to ship safety. So, it makes sense that candles or anything requiring the use of real fire would be banned for onboard use. Instead, consider battery-operated tea lights to set the mood.
If my flat iron can set off a fire sensor (see above), I can only imagine how quickly actual fire would set off alarms.
Drones and kites
You might want that perfect aerial shot for Instagram from above the ship or at one of your ports of call. You’ll need to check with your cruise line first, though. Some ships allow them in your luggage, while all lines prohibit them from being flown from the ship.
The same rule largely applies to kites and other similar items meant to be flown. However, some ships ban those, too. For example, kites are included on Disney Cruise Line’s list of items that are “restricted for safety reasons and should not be brought on board.”
This might seem like a no-brainer. However, even firearm replicas — non-firing guns, imitations, toys and their components — are prohibited aboard cruise ships. That includes water guns.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion or holiday, or you’re pumped about decorating your cabin door or room, proceed with caution. Items like party poppers and helium-filled balloons make most cruise lines’ lists of prohibited items.
Disney and Carnival say “no” to bringing balloons on board, while Royal Caribbean and MSC allow them.
Although balloons are absent from Norwegian’s list of prohibited items, the line eliminated cruise cabin door decorations in 2019, stating: “As per safety requirements, stateroom door decorations are strictly prohibited. Your stateroom steward has been instructed to remove and place all decorations inside the room.”
Couldn’t finish those loaded nachos you ordered from the hotel restaurant last night? Don’t even think about bringing them on board. The same goes for Meemaw’s homemade snickerdoodles, which you snacked on during your road trip to the cruise port.
Though each cruise line words its food prohibition differently, homemade or precooked foods are a no-no across the board. Passengers are permitted to bring prepackaged, unopened (in original packaging), nonperishable snacks, though. Take advantage of this exception to the rule to bring your kids’ favorite cookies, granola bars or fruit snacks or specialty items that accommodate your food allergy or special diet.
Make sure to finish that vanilla latte before you board, too. You can’t embark with an open or partially consumed beverage.
This rule shouldn’t cause concern; you will be fully sated during your vacation at sea. Honestly, if you can’t find enough to eat or drink on a cruise, you’re doing it wrong.
Certain sunscreens are banned, not by the cruise line, but by the ports they visit. Why? Although currently deemed safe for human use, sun-blocking ingredients like octinoxate, oxybenzone and octocrylene are damaging to fragile reef systems.
The chemicals play a part in reef bleaching that’s linked with warming sea temperatures. The chemicals may also harm other kinds of marine life, according to some researchers. Because of this, they’re banned from use in certain destinations, and use of them could result in a fine of $1,000 or more.
If your cruise itinerary includes any of these destinations, choose your sunscreen carefully:
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Key West, Florida
- Ecotourism reserves in Mexico (including natural water parks like Xcaret and Xel-Ha, as well as Cozumel’s Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park)
Too much (and certain types of) alcohol
If you have a favorite vino or Champagne you’ve saved for a special occasion and want to bring it along, you certainly can on most cruise lines. However, you’ll find limits on how much and what kinds of alcohol you can take onto your cruise ship.
For example, Royal Caribbean permits one (750-milliliter) bottle of wine or Champagne per adult. Carnival allows one bottle of wine per adult. Disney Cruise Line OKs either two (750-milliliter) bottles of wine or six beers per stateroom.
If you bring more than the allotted amount indicated by your cruise line, it will be stored during your cruise. Depending on the cruise line, it will either be returned to your stateroom on your day of disembarkation, or you must pick it up at a designated area.
Note that your alcohol must be in your carry-on bag and not your checked luggage. They’ll remove any alcohol in your checked luggage, and you won’t get it back. You’ll also not be compensated for it.
Bottles must be unopened and sealed. Some lines charge a corkage fee, which is usually $10 to $25 per bottle.
Keep your bottle of Woodford Reserve Kentucky bourbon at home, though. Most cruise lines don’t allow guests to bring hard liquor aboard. The alcohol will be seized, and you won’t get it back.
You might think you’re clever by trying to disguise your liquor by dumping it into an empty bottle of mouthwash. We don’t recommend it. If your contraband is discovered by security, it will likely be confiscated and discarded. Some cruise lines like Royal Caribbean could even refuse to let you board.
If imbibing adult beverages during your cruise vacation is that important to you, just spring for the drinks package.
When planning a cruise, curb the temptation to overpack. Some items you frequently travel with aren’t allowed in a cruise ship cabin.
Before you write out your packing list, check with your cruise line to confirm what is and isn’t allowed on board.
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