Explained: What It’s Like to Go Through Cruise Security

Anxious about security for getting on your cruise? Don’t worry. If you can handle airport security, then going through the cruise line’s process will be easy in comparison.

Security Guard

In fact, while every port does things a little differently, going through cruise security is much easier than airport lines. From less intrusive screening to no body scanners to being able to pack liquids, cruise security will remind you of how flying used to be.

For more details, here’s what you can expect come cruise day…

Going Through Cruise Ship Security

Just as with flying on a plane, boarding a cruise ship requires a security check. When you arrive at the cruise terminal, the first thing you will do is line-up to pass through security.

The first stop you’ll make is a security agent who will check your boarding documents and your passport/birth certificate to ensure that you’re an actual passenger. You’ll approach with your entire party, so it’s easiest for one person to have all the documentation in hand to give the security agent.

One thing you will notice is that port security doesn’t have the familiar blue uniforms you see at airports. That’s because they are private security teams — not the TSA or other government agency. 

After having your documentation checked, you’ll next line-up for the x-ray machine and metal detector.

Screening for a cruise is relatively straightforward. An attendant will check your boarding pass, and then you’ll have your bags x-rayed while you walk through a metal detector.

All of your carry-on luggage will go through the x-ray machine, which looks just like what you’d encounter at the airport. You do not have to remove liquid items or laptops from your bags. However, if the security agent screening bags through the machine sees liquid bottles (such as your carry-on wine bottle or cans of soda) then they will flag them for additional screening.

Additional screening for your liquids involves taking them to a side table where an agent will visually inspect the item. If your liquids look like they have been tampered with or if it’s clear they contain alcohol you’re not supposed to bring, then they won’t hesitate to confiscate them.

As for your person, you will go through a metal detector. We have yet to go through a port that has the body scanners that have caused so much controversy at airports. This means you can keep things in your pockets, as long as is isn’t metal. You also do not have to remove belts or shoes. If you pass through the metal detector and it beeps, then an agent will come over and pass a wand to find the item on your body. We have yet to ever see a pat-down going through cruise security.

Once you’ve passed through the metal detector, you simply pick up your bags from the x-ray machine and you’re finished. Then it is on to the check-in area to meet with an agent, who will ensure you have your onboard account setup, have your required travel documents, and provide your room key. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Cruise Security

Worried about long lines at security? It’s actually relatively quick, often getting you through in just minutes.

While we covered some of these topics above, below we answer some of the most commons questions you might have about going through security for a cruise.

How Long Does It Take to Get Through Security?
You might worry about long security lines at an airport causing you to miss your flight. There’s no concern for a cruise. Passing through the security line normally only takes minutes as there are usually several lines and passengers move through quickly. Remember, the cruise lines want you to enjoy your vacation, not start it off with standing in a long line to board!

Do I Have to Remove Liquids or Laptops?
No. If you have things like small shampoo bottles or your computer in your carry-on luggage, they can stay in your bag. One exception is that large liquids might be asked to be removed from the bag to inspect to make sure that they aren’t being used to bring on alcohol. 

Do I Have to Remove Belts or Shoes?
Unlike intrusive airport screening, cruise security is much more relaxed. You don’t have to remove clothing like shoes or belts. Instead, you simply walk through the magnetometer. If it beeps, you will have additional screening to see what the cause is. 

What Can I Not Take Through Security?
When it comes to what you can bring with you, it pays to have some common sense. Items like weapons aren’t allowed. Neither are drugs allowed, including marijuana even if traveling in a state where it is legal. Cruise ships follow federal law in this regard. You can bring liquids that are allowed on the ship, such as water/soda for many lines, or bottles of wine/champagne. However, alcohol that’s not allowed (such as beer or liquor) will be confiscated.

How Cruise Security Differs From Airport Security

To sum things up, here are some major ways that cruise security is different than security at an airport:

No TSA Agents
The blue-uniformed folks known through airports nationwide are not around. Instead, private security guards perform the check-in.

No Liquid Rules
Cruise lines have rules about how much alcohol or soda you can bring on a ship, but there are no rules about only carrying 3 ounces of liquids. So things like shampoo and sunscreen are perfectly fine to take through security and don’t even have to be taken out of your bag.

No “Body Scanner”
Know those scanners that you step into and put your hands up? They aren’t at cruise terminals. You just walk through a metal detector. That also means you don’t have to take everything out of your pockets. You just take out whatever might set off the detector.

No Pat-downs
Worried about being patted down like you are a criminal? Don’t worry. We’ve never seen anyone being patted down for a cruise. They are looking for metal objects. If someone sets off the metal detector, then a wand will be used to find the object.

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  1. I’m concerned about cruise ships. The people who were just arrested for having 175 lbs of marijuana in their suitcases, and their luggage was already on the ship. Seems like cruise ships are just asking to have a terrorist come on board. There are a lot of people on cruise ships, and being in the middle of the ocean would be scary enough, but to end up like the Titanic would be worse. I think they need to change their policies to better protect the passengers and crew. In my opinion.

  2. It’s good to learn that while you do go through an x-ray machine, you don’t need to remove liquid from you bags. My husband and I would like to go on a cruise next summer. Maybe it would be good to have a walk-in x-ray scanner for my husband’s clinic, too.


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