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Packing for a cruise? These items aren't allowed on board

Aug. 09, 2022
10 min read
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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 on their websites' Help or FAQ sections. Be warned: Some lines ban items you may think would be totally acceptable to bring on board.

TPG has you covered. We’ve compiled a list of things not to bring on your cruise, whether they're universally prohibited or only allowed by specific cruise lines. Whether it's your first or fifth cruise, it's always good to check with the line you're cruising to determine what to pack and what to leave at home.

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Whether you’re plying the Mediterranean or exploring ports of call here in the U.S., please leave these items at home.

Electrical appliances

(Photo by Marcus Chung/Getty Images)

Clothes irons and steamers

Your cruise ship is much like a floating resort; however, unlike in a hotel room, you won't find any iron in your cabin. That's not to say you should bring your own — quite the opposite. Irons and steamers are considered a fire hazard and banned from your cabin.

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 of them do, and they include irons and boards for passengers to use. Also, washing, pressing and dry cleaning services are available for a fee.

Coffee makers and electric tea kettles

You can add electrical appliances like coffee makers, electric tea kettles and the like to this list, too. Don't worry, your ship will provide plenty of places to quench 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.

Hair irons

Most lines — including Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity, Cunard, Seabourn and Vikingdo allow guests to bring flat irons or curling irons on board.

As of the time of this writing, MSC Cruises is the outlier on this one and includes "hair irons" on its list of prohibited items.

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.

Related: Everything you need to know about cruise ship laundry services

Sharp objects

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 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, under U.S. federal law, it's still illegal. That means even if you're legally able to buy it in your home state for recreational or medical use, you can't cruise with it.

Related: Can I bring marijuana on a cruise ship?

Surge-protected power strips and extension cords

(Photo by Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance/Getty Images)

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.

You might be tempted to bring a power strip with you, but if you do, make sure it's not a surge-protected strip. Those are banned on most cruise lines.

Look instead for cruise-compliant power strips with extra plug receptacles and USB charging ports or a European plug adapter, so you can make use of both the 110-volt and 220-volt outlets in your cabin.

Before you pack an extension cord, check with the cruise line you're sailing with. Some cruise lines 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 may 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, 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 it can detect actual fire.

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 that are 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."

Guns

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.

Some decorations

If you're celebrating a special occasion or holiday, or are simply 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.

Both 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."

Related: 27 cruise ship embarkation day do’s and don’ts

Food

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 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 snacks or specialty items that accommodate your food allergy or special diet.

Make sure to finish that vanilla latte before you board, though. 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 on a cruise, you're doing it wrong.

Certain sunscreens

(Photo by Jordan Lutes/Getty Images)

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 our 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 may result in a fine of $1,000 or more.

If your cruise itinerary includes any of these destinations, choose your sunscreen carefully.

  • Hawaii.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Aruba.
  • Key West, Florida.
  • Bonaire.
  • Ecotourism reserves in Mexico (including natural water parks like Xcaret and Xel-Ha, as well as Cozumel's Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park).
  • Palau.

There are plenty of reef-safe sunscreens out there. They are mineral-based products void of oxybenzone and octinoxate. Brands include Thinksport, Alba Botanica, Black Girl Sunscreen and Sun Bum.

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 two (750-milliliter) bottles of wine or Champagne per stateroom. 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.

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, may 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.

Related: Can I bring alcohol on a cruise ship? A line-by-line guide

Bottom line

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.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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