7 Common Things You CAN’T Pack on a Cruise (And 5 Surprising Things You Can)

Packing for a cruise? There’s always a bit of confusion, especially among first-time passengers.

That’s because the rules around what you can pack — as well as what you actually need — are vastly different than a traditional vacation. After all, taking a cruise and being in the middle of the ocean means you have to bring everything you might need. It’s not that easy to run out and pick up something you forgot.

That’s why we’ve provided a lot of information on what to pack for a cruise, including our suggestions for things you might not think of, and an entire cruise packing checklist that you can download and print.

But there is another aspect to packing for a cruise that you might not consider: what you can’t pack on a cruise.

Truth is that taking a cruise is unlike any other vacation. Between hopping from country to country to being on a ship in the middle of the ocean to having 4,000 other passengers around you, there are a number of prohibited items you can’t bring in order to keep everyone safe, comfortable, and legal.

Common Things You Can’t Bring on a Cruise Ship

Due to the nature of cruising, there are a number of items that are prohibited on ships that may be allowed on a typical vacation. You want to avoid these things…

Homemade Snacks
At first, it might make you say “huh?” that you aren’t allowed to bring homemade snacks on a cruise ship. Especially when pre-packaged snacks like chips or candy are perfectly fine. But remember that cruise ships are unique; they have lots of people in a very close space.

The worry is that homemade snacks might have issues with food safety or contamination. That means they could get you someone else on the ship sick. So while you can bring unopened food on board with you, bringing a plate of grandma’s cookies to eat during the cruise is against the rules.

Surge Protectors
If you’re a smart cruiser, then you’re going to want to pack an outlet adapter. The staterooms on many ships have only one or maybe two outlets. An adapter gives you more plug space so that you can charge your phone, plug in a nightlight, use your curling iron, or anything else you might need.

But be careful that you don’t pack an adapter with a surge protector. These are not allowed on ships as they can interfere with the vessel’s electrical system. Instead, there are a number of affordable adapters that simply give you more plugs without using a surge protector.

Clothes Iron
You might be wondering what to do about formal night when you have to pack all your clothes in a suitcase. Won’t they be wrinkled after you unpack?

It’s tempting to bring an iron for this situation, but leave it at home. As a fire danger, irons aren’t allowed on the ship and will be confiscated. So what do you do about wrinkled clothing?

First, some ships have passenger laundry rooms with an iron that you can use yourself. Every ship, however, will give you the ability to send your items down to the ship’s laundry room if something needs pressing. Keep in mind that it will cost a few bucks. Finally, you can opt for some wrinkle release spray that will help you smooth out any wrinkled clothing you might have.

Candles or Incense
We admit that likely not too many people try to pack candles or incense, but then again cruises are romantic for many couples. You might be wanting to bring along a candle or two to set the mood.

Candles and incense — or any other steady open flames — are absolutely forbidden on a cruise ship. Fire is a major concern on any ship, especially one that carries 4,000 passengers. That’s why there’s such a hard stand against burning candles on the ship. All it takes is one person to forget to blow it out or to accidentally bump into it to create a catastrophe.

Marijuana/CBD and Other Drugs
We understand that these days a number of states have legalized marijuana and CBD products. However, you have to remember that ships sail everywhere, including multiple countries on each cruise. That means they can be under the laws of several different places in just a matter of days.

For that reason, they simply follow U.S. federal laws and don’t allow these products on the ship — even if you are sailing from a state where it is legal.

Don’t pack them. At best if they are found they will be confiscated. At worst, law enforcement (including in foreign ports) could get involved.

Beer and Liquor
On some of the big cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, you can bring a small amount of non-alcoholic drinks with you as your board. And on every cruise line that we know of you can bring at least one bottle of wine or champagne. But we don’t know of any major cruise line that lets you pack beer or liquor when you sail.

Instead, if you want to drink, then you’ll need to head to one of the (many) ship’s bars during your cruise.

If you bring on something you bought in port, it will be held by the cruise line until the end of the trip and then returned the night before you depart.

Hoverboards or “Heelys”
If you aren’t sure what a hoverboard or “Heelys” are, then we’re guessing that you don’t have kids. If you’re a parent, then you likely know that kids love to scoot around on hoverboards or use their Heelys to roll around instead of walking. Well, leave them at home.

Cruise lines usually prohibit these items, not just for the safety of the person using them but also the safety of other passengers on the ship. All it takes is one wrong move on these items and there could be a collision with another person.

It might seem like common sense to most people, but weapons aren’t allowed on a cruise. We’re not only talking about guns and knives, but also things like brass knuckles, pepper spray and tasers.

If you’re thinking about bringing something that could even be possibly thought of as a weapon, just leave it at home. Remember that not only do you need to follow U.S. laws, but ships stop in several different countries during a cruise. Those countries might not be so welcoming to foreign citizens bringing weapons in the country.

Surprising Things You Can Bring on the Ship

Glasses of wine
While you can’t bring beer or liquor, cruise lines do let you bring on a bottle of wine or champagne.

While we’ve covered some of the major things you can’t bring on the ship, it might have brought up questions about other things you want to pack. Here are some items that might sound questionable, but you are allowed to bring.

Straightener/Curling Iron
Things that could start a fire are a big no-no on a cruise ship, so that’s why you can’t bring items like candles, clothes irons, or even coffee pots. What’s a bit surprising is that you can bring hair straightener and a curling iron with you.

We’re not entirely sure why these items are ok while other hot items are not, other than it would a major inconvenience to a lot of passengers if they weren’t allowed to bring them. Just know that yes you can bring your hair tools with you to help you primp before formal night. Be sure, however, to unplug them when you leave the cabin.

Hair dryers are supplied in each cabin already, so you can leave those at home.

Liquids (Other than Beer/Liquor)
If you’re flying on a plane, then you likely know about the stringent rules around liquids in your carry-on. The 3-ounce rule has been a thorn for many passengers. Thankfully, cruise ships have no such rules. If you want to bring a bottle of shampoo, then do so. Same goes with things like sunscreen, aloe, lotion, or anything else you might want to bring. Royal Caribbean and Carnival even let you bring a dozen non-alcoholic drinks with you.

Cigarettes/Vape Pens/Lighters
Despite the worries about fire, yes, you can pack cigarettes, cigars, and vaping products. That said, smoking is allowed only in certain areas of the ship. This usually means designated spots on certain decks and the casino. For safety (and to keep the room smelling nice), smoking in cabins and on balconies is not allowed.

With a ban on candles, you’d think that cigarette lighters would also be against the rules. In actuality, they are fine to bring on board.

We’d suggest checking with your specific cruise line, but you’d be surprised that drones are actually allowed on board some ships. That said, the rules we’ve seen don’t let you fly them on the ship. Instead, you have to store them in your cabin until you reach port, where they can be used.

Keep in mind, however, that some ports of call could have their own rules about drones and if you’re allowed to use them. We’d actually suggest just leaving them at home.

Distilled Water for CPAP
Some cruise lines allow you bring non-alcoholic beverages on board, but the rules say you can only bring a dozen smaller bottles. Larger containers aren’t allowed. So what if you need a gallon jug of distilled water for your CPAP machine?

Cruise lines will make an exception for gallon jugs of distilled water for your CPAP machine and allow you to bring in on board. Just be sure that you have your machine with you as well when you board to provide proof that you need the jug of water.

More on Packing for a Cruise:

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