How much luggage can I bring on a cruise? Can I bring shampoo? What about food? Will my bags be searched?
If you’re a first-time cruiser, you might have a number of questions about what you can — and can’t — pack for a cruise.
The good news? The rules surrounding cruise luggage are far simpler and more straightforward than what you’ll find on a flight.
In fact, you can think of the rules surrounding your luggage as more similar to traveling to a hotel instead of traveling on a flight.
Still, if you’re taking a cruise, chances are you’re going to pack a little more than a toothbrush. So you no doubt have a few questions about luggage and baggage on the ship.
We’ve rounded up answers to some of the most common questions…
How much luggage can I bring?
Unlike airlines, cruises don’t charge for the amount of luggage you bring. There are also no (reasonable) limit on how much you can bring. Most cruise lines “encourage” each passenger to limit luggage to two suitcases, each one less than 50 pounds. In addition, you can also bring carry-on luggage (more on that in a moment).
While there are no strict restrictions on your checked baggage, you should keep a few common sense items in mind.
First, keep in mind that you have to get all your luggage to and from the cruise ship. If you are flying, that may mean extra fees for extra bags. And even if you are driving to the cruise terminal, you still have to carry (or arrange for someone else to carry) all that luggage.
We encourage people to pack reasonably. There is no harm in wearing the same thing twice during a cruise — many others will be doing just that. As well, every ship has laundry service if you need it.
If you are taking more than one piece of luggage and one carry-on, then you are likely overpacking.
Are there restrictions on what I can bring?
Of course. You can’t bring weapons such as guns or long knives on board. If it’s even questionable (such as pepper spray), it’s best to just leave it at home. Scissors are also restricted.
More importantly, except for lighters, you can’t bring anything dealing with fire. Fire is the biggest risk on board a ship. For that reason, irons are restricted, as are candles and incense. Flammable liquids are also prohibited. If you think it could start a fire, it’s best to leave it at home.
Cruise lines also have restrictions on alcohol that you can bring on board. Most will let you bring some sort of wine or champagne, but only in small quantities. Beer or hard liquor are almost never allowed. Click here to read more about bringing alcohol on a cruise.
What happens if I bring something that I’m not supposed to?
Accidentally pack something that’s against the rules? Expect it to be removed from your bag when found — that includes alcohol, weapons, or other items.
Depending on the cruise line policy and what you item is, it may be held and returned to you at the end of the cruise or it may just be confiscated. For that reason, we suggest being very careful about what you pack to avoid running afoul of the luggage rules.
If it’s an illegal substance that’s found, you may be getting a visit from law enforcement.
Can I bring a curling iron, hair straightener or a hair dryer?
While clothes irons aren’t allowed, you can bring things like a straightener, hair dryer or curling iron. You should definitely be careful, and not forget to unplug them when not in use (in fact, room stewards may do so if they see it left unattended when servicing your room).
As for hair dryers, you can bring one from home but cruise cabins have these built in, similar to a hotel. They are small, but can get the job done for a few days of vacation.
Can I bring food on a cruise?
If you have special dietary restrictions and want to bring special foods, then it’s best to contact the cruise line to get all the ins and outs of how to bring your food.
If you’re simply wanting to brings some snacks, then you are welcome to do so. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that a cruise will go to several different countries. That means customs officials worry about things like foreign pests and disease.
For that reason, any food you bring on board needs to be pre-processed, packaged, and unopened. You can’t bring homemade items.
Does the “3-1-1” liquids rule apply to cruises?
The “3-1-1” rule is ubiquitous in airports. It’s the rule that you can only bring liquids three ounces or less in a one quart plastic bag, with one bag per passenger.
For everyone’s sanity, this rule does not apply to cruise ships. Bring shampoo from home or a bottle of hairspray or a full-sized tube of toothpaste. Just keep in mind that if you have to fly to the port, then you’ll still have to meet the guidelines on liquids for air travel.
Can I bring alcohol in my bags when boarding?
If you want to bring beer or liquor, then the bad news is that these aren’t allowed in cruise ships. If they are found, they will be removed and discarded. The good news? cruise lines do allow you to bring a bottle or two of wine or champagne.
The amount varies among cruise lines, but it’s usually one bottle (750 mL) per adult in a cabin. When you bring this on, just keep it in your carry-on luggage. You don’t want to put it in checked luggage where it can possibly be broken.
Can I bring non-alcoholic drinks in my bags?
Yes, but only on some cruise lines. Major lines Carnival and Royal Caribbean have more relaxed rules that allow you to bring small quantities (usually 12 or fewer) drinks on board with you.
So if you want to have a Coca-Cola or juice and don’t want to buy it on the ship, then you can bring it with you as you board.
Note that not every cruise line allows this, so you’ll want to see if the specific rules for your line. We have a list of cruise line policies around non-alcoholic drinks here.
What about rules for carry-on luggage?
When you arrive at the port, you will check your large luggage (unless you want to carry it on). This luggage will be carted off, X-rayed, put aboard the ship, and then delivered to your room. But that entire process will take several hours.
For that reason, passengers are encouraged to bring some sort of carry-on that has anything you might need for the first few hours on the cruise ship — travel documents, passports, medications, allowed alcohol, toothbrush, your swimsuit, and maybe even a change of clothes for dinner.
Can you pack all your luggage for the cruise in your carry-on?
Absolutely. There is no rule that you have to check luggage. However, keep in mind that you will have to lug your carry-on items around the ship until your room is ready. If you check in early, that could be a couple of hours. Even a small bag can be a nuisance after that long.
There are some “official” restrictions on carry-on sizes, but we’ve found them to be less strict than with an airline and rarely enforced. As long as you can safely and easily move your bag, it should be ok to board with.
Will my bags be searched on a cruise ship?
All baggage brought on board the ship will be X-rayed. When you go through security you will set your bags on the x-ray machine like you’d find at an airport. Checked luggage is also X-rayed behind the scenes. Usually further inspection isn’t required unless the security staff finds something dangerous or prohibited.
When will I get my bags after checking them?
When you check your bags at the cruise terminal, they are taken, x-rayed, and then loaded onto the ship.
From there, the cruise line staff delivers your luggage directly to your stateroom the evening of your first night. Usually this will take a few hours.
It’s important that you bring anything you might need for your first night in your carry-on, including what you plan to wear to dinner. While most people will have their bags within a few hours of boarding, it may be until later that you get yours.
Can I bring CBD or marijuana in my luggage?
CBD is now seemingly everywhere, and rules around marijuana have relaxed (including full legalization in a number of states).
That said, these items are not allowed on cruise ships, which use federal law instead of state laws. As well, the items are prohibited in a number of countries, so the cruise line restricts you from bringing CBD or marijuana to comply with rules in any port you might visit.
It’s not a good idea to try and sneak them on either as we’ve seen stories of local law enforcement in some countries detaining passengers for these items.
Where do I put my suitcase in the cabin after I unpack?
There’s no arguing that cruise cabins are small and you might be wondering where to put an empty suitcase so that you aren’t constantly tripping over it. Fortunately cruise cabins do a great job of maximizing space. There are closets in every cabin that can hold a suitcase or two. You can also store them under the cabin bed so that you don’t have to worry about it taking up valuable space.
Now that you know about the luggage and baggage rules, see our list of 39 useful things to pack for your cruise.
Have a question about packing or luggage for a cruise that we didn’t answer here? Let us know in the comments below…