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Surprising Things You Can’t Bring on a Cruise Ship

Surprising Things You Can’t Bring on a Cruise Ship

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Come sail away, but don’t bring these contraband items on board

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While you’re sailing to the sandy beaches of the Caribbean, the glorious glaciers of Alaska or another one of the most gorgeous coastlines in the world, the last thing you need is the buzzkill of learning that you packed a prohibited item. Most cruise lines have fairly clear packing tips on their websites, offering suggestions about what to bring (you may need at least one fancy outfit) and, equally important, what not to bring, and you might be surprised by some of the items that aren’t permitted on cruise ships.

There’s no universal list of items that are banned across the board, so we combed through lists of prohibited items for the world’s largest cruise lines — with a few smaller lines, just for balance. Some of the prohibited items are no-brainers, but others were legitimately surprising. We also picked up some tips from Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com, a leading cruise resource. 

One note: our list doesn't cover every item banned by every line. Don’t wait until the last minute to check your own cruise line’s website or travel agreement to make sure your careful planning job doesn’t get sunk at the security checkpoint.

Animals

Animals

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Even though many airlines will let you fly with your pet, cruises are not generally pet-friendly. “Cunard Line is the only cruise line that regularly allows dogs on board, with kennels available for boarding,” McDaniel said in an email. “Animals are banned on all other lines, with the exception of service animals.” Emotional support animals, which do not qualify as service animals under the Americans With Disabilities Act, are generally not allowed.

Baby monitors

Baby monitors

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It’s understandable that nervous parents might want to keep track of their little ones on board (especially on one of the best cruises for kids), just as they would at home. Some lines ban baby monitors, and others have special rules about them, so verify before you go. Disney Cruise Lines notes on its prohibited-items list that baby monitors will be collected for inspection by the ship’s chief electrician and, if approved, will be returned for onboard use.

Hoverboards

Hoverboards

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Hoverboards don’t really hover in the air, but are self-balancing scooters. Not only do some cruise lines ban them, but even if they are allowed, you may have trouble getting them there if you’re flying to the cruise terminal. Many airlines do not allow them in carry-ons or checked baggage because of fire risk.

Liquor

Liquor

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If you want to turn the onboard buffet into a bottomless booze brunch, we suggest you purchase the beverage package instead of smuggling liquor bottles on board, as alcohol policies vary widely by line. Some lines allow any alcohol, others may allow only a bottle or two of wine or Champagne, and others don’t allow any booze to be brought on board. “Do be aware that for lines that allow guests to bring wine on board and consumed in the ship’s restaurants, you might incur a corkage fee,” McDaniel said.

CBD oil

CBD oil

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Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is derived from cannabis and is legal and widely available in the U.S. Some use it to relieve pain, anxiety or other issues, but the cruise industry’s strict no-drug policies mean it is forbidden by most major lines. Here are some other helpful things to know about CBD. 

Candles

Candles

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You may want to order room service, light some candles and turn your stateroom into a romantic restaurant, but quench that flame. “Cruise lines are vigilant about fire safety, and guests are prohibited from using open flames on board, which also means flame-lit candles are not permitted on board,” McDaniel said. In fact, the biggest difference between cruise ship kitchens and restaurant kitchens is the fact that all cruise ship stoves and ovens are electric, with no open flames.

Clothing irons

Clothing irons

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Pack carefully, because McDaniel said you can’t bring a clothing iron on board — it can pose a fire hazard, and you won’t find one in your cabin. What to do if your dress for the formal dinner comes out of your suitcase wrinkled? “We’ve had some luck with wrinkle spray, and many lines also have laundry services that offer pressing as a service,” McDaniel said. Wearing wrinkled clothing to formal night may be an etiquette mistake, but as everyone’s in the same boat (literally), it can be forgiven.

Realistic toy guns

Realistic toy guns

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Real guns aren’t the only issue — realistic toy guns, whether they’re water pistols or part of a Halloween costume, are most likely banned on your cruise line, too. The reason is obvious: They can be mistaken for the real thing. However, Disney Cruise Line notes that store-bought lightsabers, plastic toy pirate swords and plastic toy replicas of Thor’s hammer are allowed.

Mace, tear gas or pepper spray

Mace, tear gas or pepper spray

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Have a small canister of pepper spray attached to your keys or hidden in a purse? Remove it before you sail. While they may help keep you safe while traveling, these kinds of sprays are almost certainly banned.

Scissors with blades over 4 inches

Scissors with blades over 4 inches

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A small pair of scissors might seem like one of those things you should never vacation without, but if you decide to bring a pair of scissors with you, stick to nail scissors. Generally, cruise lines disallow scissors with blades that exceed 4 inches.

Incense

Incense

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Incense can make a romantic evening even more lovey-dovey (or make those tiny cabin bathrooms smell better.) But as with candles, it’s likely to be prohibited on your cruise line as a fire hazard. Stick to perfume or an air freshener.

Balloons

Balloons

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Many travelers take cruises to celebrate a birthday or anniversary and may want to deck out their stateroom with balloons and decorations. Again, check with your line. Helium tanks, even small ones, are probably forbidden, and Disney Cruise Line, for one, bans both balloons and kites.

Inflatable kiddie pools and pool toys

Inflatable kiddie pools and pool toys

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Cruise ships are known for having some outrageous pools. So not only do you not need to bring an inflatable one, but unless your line specifically says otherwise, you should leave the blow-up doughnuts and pool noodles at home. Yes, even on Disney — the pool will just get too crowded if everyone brings a gigantic unicorn inflatable.

Coffee makers

Coffee makers

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Yes, many of us cannot live without our daily caffeine fix. Rest assured your ship will serve plenty of java, and will likely forbid packing you from your own Mr. Coffee, Keurig, espresso machine or any other type of coffee maker.

Archery equipment

Archery equipment

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This one will surely bum out Hawkeye from “The Avengers.” You may be the best archer out there, but leave your bow and arrows at home for safety reasons. No crossbows, either.

Drones

Drones

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Drones can be an entertaining diversion, soaring through the sky and capturing great aerial video, but don’t assume you can bring yours. Not only is operating a drone from the pool deck one of the most annoying things you can do on a cruise, many lines ban them as a safety hazard, McDaniel said, and the ones that do allow them do not allow onboard use. It’s also not a guarantee that the ports where the ship stops will permit the use of drones on shore, she said.

Shoes with wheels

Shoes with wheels ("Heelys")

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Kids and kids-at-heart may love those wheeled shoes, but even kid-friendly Disney Cruise Line doesn’t allow them. It also forbids other wheeled items, such as skateboards and inline skates — imagine the potential for collisions if an enthused wheel-wearer meets with a slow-moving passenger.

Extension cords with surge protectors

Extension cords with surge protectors

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Outlets are never where you want them to be, it seems, whether in a hotel room or a cruise ship stateroom. An extension cord might seem harmless (and bringing one to a hotel is a genius hotel room hack), but some cruise lines do prohibit or restrict them. Holland America Line, for example, says they are allowed “when used with proper caution,” but prohibits the type that come with surge protectors.

Diver spear guns

Diver spear guns

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Cruises can take travelers to some of the world’s best destinations for snorkeling and scuba diving, but diver spear guns are banned on many cruise lines, and other diving equipment, such as air tanks, may also be prohibited. Check with your line, which may be able to arrange rental dive equipment in ports of call.

Boats/kayaks

Boats/kayaks

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Boating and kayaking can be the cornerstone of a memorable summer adventure. But don’t try to bring your own lifeboat, inflatable or other watercraft, on the ship. There may be opportunities for memorable boating excursions in the ports, but you won’t have to BYO boat.

Medical marijuana

Medical marijuana

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Marijuana laws are changing nationwide, but not on the seas. “Cruise lines are governed by federal law — meaning you are not allowed to bring marijuana of any kind on a cruise ship, including for medicinal purposes,” McDaniel said. “There are no exceptions.”

Weapons and ammunition

Weapons and ammunition

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All weapons are prohibited on cruise ships due to security regulations, even for those who have permits to carry a weapon back home. Guns aren't the only weapon banned. Don’t try to take other brass knuckles or throwing stars either.

Large coolers

Large coolers

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A drink cooler seems harmless, right? Maybe to keep extra beverages cold in your room? Check with your line, because coolers might not be cool with them. Princess, for example, only allows coolers approximately 12 inches-by-12 inches-by-12 inches. Princess makes exceptions if you hand-carry a larger cooler and if it carries absolute necessities, such as baby food or formula, kosher or special diet food, or medication, and many cruise lines have their own policy. Reading up on what is — and isn’t — allowed on your ship before packing is just one of many cruise tips that all first-timers should know.  

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