9 Worst Packing Mistakes Cruisers Can (And Do) Make


Cruise Packing Mistakes

9 Worst Packing Mistakes Cruisers Can (And Do) Make

You Are about to discover the 9 worst cruise packing mistakes people can and will do!

Are you packing for a cruise? It’s important to think carefully about what to pack.

What are the worst packing mistakes that cruisers make that can also get them into a lot of trouble? In this article, I’ll walk you through these so you can avoid them.

Watch my Cruise Packing Mistakes Video

Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/3zzHInItK-g

Cruise Packing mistakes – #1 Drugs

Bringing drugs on board could get you into a lot of trouble. There are the obvious ones which are illegal drugs, and people have been caught on cruise ships surprisingly often.

For example, last year, there were a couple aged 71 and 72 called Roger and Sue Clark, pensioners from the UK that were arrested in Lisbon carrying 20 pounds of cocaine. They got up to eight years in prison.

Also in the same year, two men were arrested trying to bring drugs on board – the Allure of the Seas in Miami, and a group of girls who were known as the “Instagram cruise drug babes” were arrested in Sydney trying to smuggle drugs onto Princess Cruises.

You also need to be extremely careful with prescription drugs or even over-the-counter drugs, because in some places that you’re cruising to, you might find that they’re also illegal.

Prescription and over-the-counter

For example, if you’re cruising into Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, there’s a lot of drugs are illegal – like any drugs with codeine. Even simple drugs like Tylenol (Arthritis relief) is illegal in that country and can get you in a lot of trouble.

A gentleman was arrested and held in prison for many months for trying to bring Temazepam into the United Arab Emirates. In Japan there’s also lots of restrictions as well – for example you’d have an issue bringing Sudafed into Japan.

So, if you are going on a cruise and you have over the counter drugs, check that you can bring those into the country (especially if disembarking there). If you have a prescription drug that you’re taking with you, my big tip is keep it in the original packaging, so they can see your name, and ideally also have a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor.

In short, be careful as even simple drugs you bring on board could get you into a lot of trouble.

Cruise Packing Mistakes

Cruise Packing Mistakes – #2 Remote control devices

The second area that could get you into a lot of trouble if you pack them are remote control devices and items that can be launched off a ship. Even balloons are no longer allowed on most cruise lines. You can’t bring balloons on board because the concern is that you’ll release those balloons off a ship and the rubber will endanger marine life.

If you want to bring a drone on a cruise, you’re pretty much excluded by all cruise lines. I’ve tried many times to get drones on board and very few cruise lines will even let you bring them on board – they’re usually confiscated. Some cruise lines will let you hand them over to security and they will let you get it when you get on and off the ship, but pretty much every single cruise ship will ban drones.

They also ban things like remote-controlled aircraft. At the time of recording, Royal Caribbean and Carnival are the only liners that will let you bring drones on board but will normally keep them with security – they will only let you use them when you head off on a port.

Cruise Packing Mistakes – #3 Dress Code

The third area that could cause problems for you is not packing for the dress code. Depending on the cruise you go on, they will have different restrictions in terms of dress.

If you’re heading on a very formal cruise like on liners like Cunard, Princess and Holland America they have formal nights where they require gentlemen to wear jackets, normally with a tie or a tuxedo and they’ll require ladies to wear very elegant gowns and you can’t get into any of the key dining venues without that dress code!

Some cruise lines are pretty strict – if you’re not wearing the dress code, you can’t go into the public areas, so they won’t even let you go and watch a show or go to the casino if you’re not adhering to the code.

Of course, the opposite is also true – if you’re going on a nice relaxed cruise, you don’t want to be bringing all your fancy gear because you may not get a chance to wear it.


Understand if there’s any other restrictions in terms of dress. For example, some cruise lines have banned fancy dress after they had problems with inappropriate fancy dress, and some cruise lines are really strict around fancy dress and clothing, (particularly with slogans), and they will only let you bring on fancy dress relevant to a particular theme and those themes tend to be fairly innocuous like “white night party” or “red, white and blue”.

So double check before you pack- you may not be able to bring that fancy dress. Also, depending on where you’re going, don’t pack camouflage gear as some islands (such as the Caribbean) will not let you wear camouflage gear out and about.

If you or your kids have things like those shoes with little wheels on most cruise lines also don’t allow those. Also, some cruise lines will only let you wear jeans to dinner if they’re dark smart jeans (but won’t let you wear faded or ripped jeans), so that’s something important to bear in mind.

When you’re packing, have a think around the dress code and check if your particular cruise line has any rules around what you can wear.

Cruise Packing Mistakes – #4 Valuables

Another really big packing mistake that I have seen a lot of people make is packing valuables and things that they really don’t want to lose in their check-in bags.

Make sure that you keep all of those in your carry-on bags. I’ve had people contact me about how they’ve had really valuable stuff in their check on bags (which either have gone missing or have been damaged), and then they’ve had no recourse for those.

So, really important things – like passports, medications, camera equipment, laptops, smartphones and anything that is valuable (like precious jewels) – keep all of that with you in your carry-on bags, don’t put it in the bags that you hand in.

Cruise Packing Mistakes

Cruise Packing Mistakes – #5 Flammable items

Another important no-no when it comes to packing is bringing anything that has an open flame or is flammable.

You can’t bring fireworks, you can’t bring candles, you can’t bring incense burners, lighter fluid and anything with live flames are not allowed on a cruise ship.

Fire is the thing that captains and crew fear more than anything else. It is the most dangerous thing to happen at sea, so all flames are banned.

You might have seen on a cruise ship restaurant that they have tea lights with battery-operated fake flames and things like that, to avoid having live flames.

The only time you’ll ever see live flames is if you’re on one of those cruises where they do flambé like for crepe suzettes or duck at your table (and even then, it is really strictly controlled with a fire blanket and fire extinguishers). Anything that’s even vaguely flammable – do not pack in your bags.

Cruise Packing Mistakes – #6 Heating elements

My next tip is also linked to that – you can’t bring on pretty much any anything that has some sort of heating element to it. This means that you might find that most cruise lines will let you bring on board hair dryers, and some of them might even let you bring on curling tongs (but not all of them).

However, you can’t bring on things like irons, travel irons, kettles, coffee makers, hot plates or anything like that which has a heating element.

Also, if you are traveling with young kids and you need a bottle steriliser or a bottle warmer, check if your cruise line lets you bring that.

Disney does not allow parents to bring on board sterilisers or bottle warmers and they require you to work with your cabin steward and they will give you some equipment, but you can’t bring your own on board.

So, don’t bring anything that’s got a heating element on board because they will check for it and screen for that and will confiscate it.

You also can’t bring anything that is heated that plugs in, like lights.

Even if you’re heading off on a celebratory cruise, particularly at Christmas or something like that, you can’t even bring a string of Christmas lights or anything like that as they’re considered a fire hazard.

Cruise Packing Mistakes – #7 Sharp objects or weapon-like implements

The next packing mistake is around packing anything that is (or could be perceived as being) some kind of weapon or could be used as a weapon.

This is very important because although there are the obvious things you can’t bring, like shotguns, pistols or long knives with you, there’s a bunch of things that you might end up bringing on board that could get you into trouble without realising it.

For example, you can’t bring on board replicas of weapons, so if your kids play with replica guns you probably will find those are not allowed and confiscated.


There’s also lots of restrictions on self-defence equipment, so if you perhaps want to bring some handcuffs with you (for whatever reason) or pepper spray and those kinds of things, they’re a no-no.

Surprisingly, you also can’t bring along things that are sports equipment that could be used as weapons, so you can’t bring things like cricket bats and baseball bats or anything that looks like a club.

You’ll find that cruise lines will not let you bring that on board and if they find that in your luggage they will take it out, confiscate it and give it to you at the end of the cruise.

When it comes to knives and sharp objects, most of the rules say you can’t bring any knife that is longer than four inches long (10 centimetres). The only exception to this are those old-fashioned safety razors but again if you are bringing on board you might find you have some difficulties. Anything that’s perceived as or could be a weapon is restricted and would be a big mistake to pack.

Cruise Packing Mistakes

Cruise Packing Mistakes – #8 Too much alcohol

Another big packing mistake is bringing too much alcohol with you. I have made a video where I talk about the great lengths that people will go to to smuggle booze on board.

Most cruise liners will allow you to bring either one or two bottles of wine or champagne on board with you per person within your luggage, and anything over that they will clamp down on and take it away.

If you’re out on an excursion and you go to a winery or you just buy some alcohol, spirits, wine or champagne, when you come back on board the cruise line will take that away from you and they’ll hold it till the end of the cruise.

Some cruise lines even restrict things like water, sodas and other drinks, so make sure you really understand what you are allowed to pack so you don’t get into trouble.

Cruise Packing Mistakes – #9 Musical instruments

My final tip is around the whole area of musical equipment and instruments. Pretty much every single cruise line will allow you to bring onboard a musical instrument, and you are allowed to play that unless they get complaints. You can bring onboard musical instruments and play those in your cabin. But don’t play them out on deck!

I’ve been on cruises where people do this (and that’s really annoying) and it’s certainly one way that’s going to irritate other passengers. When it comes to things like playing music, you’ll find that pretty much every single cruise line will not let you bring big boom boxes or speakers.

They will let you bring onboard smaller musical devices which they ask that you only play with in your cabin. You cannot play your own music out on deck and need to use earphones. The rules say play within your cabin and again if you get complaints from your neighbours it will be taken away from you.

I’ve done a video about music being played on balconies and music being played on balconies is not something that cruise lines will encourage. In fact, if you get complaints you will find your equipment will be taken away from you.

That’s all of my tips! I hope you found them helpful. When you next pack for a cruise it is important that you avoid these mistakes, so you don’t get yourself into a pickle and into trouble with your cruise liner.

I have many more videos on cruise tips so why don’t you watch another one of those right now?

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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