10 Unusual Laws You Could Break Cruising Without Knowing It!

Discover the 10 Unusual Laws You Could Break Cruising!

I’m going to look at a whole bunch of laws that you may find you end up breaking without even realising it when you’re going on a cruise – some of which can have incredibly serious consequences.

0 Unusual Laws You Could Break On Your Next Cruise

Wearing camouflage

The first of these laws is around camouflage. Many countries, in fact, about 11 countries around the world ban the wearing of camouflage clothing. Many of those are in the Caribbean. So, if you’re cruising in the Caribbean, you can’t wear anything that’s camouflage designed or, in fact, anything that looks like a military uniform. In the Caribbean, camouflage is banned in Antigua, Barbados, Granada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. You’ll also find it’s banned in some places in Asia, for example the Philippines, and many countries in the Middle East, plus if you were to go on a river cruise in Africa, you’d find that it’s banned in Zimbabwe as well.

So, leave your camouflage clothing at home.

Prescription drugs

The second law that you could potentially fall foul of is by taking either over-the-counter drugs, which are legal in your country: the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, etc; or even prescription drugs, which are illegal in the country you’re visiting, and could land you with a fine or even a serious jail sentence if you’re caught with these products out and about. Obviously if you’re on a cruise, the chances are that they’re going to be in your cabin, so you should be okay, but bear in mind that there are a lot of rules and regulations around what you can take, and some of them are quite surprising.

The key group of medicines to be aware of is painkillers, particularly strong painkillers like codeine or tramadol, or sleeping pills like temazepam. This could even apply to things that you might not consider harmful, like cough mixture. Codeine, for example, is banned in many countries, including Greece, Japan, and some other countries in Asia. Even some well-known brand names can get you into trouble, including Sudafed, Benadryl, Vicks Inhaler, or like in Japan, Tylenol arthritis pain capsules. The key places to worry about would be Japan, parts of the Middle East, and some parts of Asia.

If you’re taking drugs, particularly prescription medicine, make sure you keep them in the original bottles and ideally have a prescription or a note from your doctor. If you’re going on a cruise, particularly somewhere a little bit exotic, it’s important that you are 100% sure that you can take those drugs in. Most governments have a list of the things that you can and can’t take in, but if in doubt just search the name of what you’re taking in and the country or countries that you’re cruising to.

Smoking and vaping

If you are a smoker, or even more importantly a vaper, you may find there are very strong restrictions on your ability to do that in some countries. It’s important to understand the rules around smoking or vaping in the countries that you are visiting. Many countries ban vaping totally, and even bringing vaping equipment into the country could get you a big fine. For example, at the time of writing, vaping is banned in Brazil, Singapore, Seychelles, Uruguay, Thailand, and India. In Singapore, fines can be as much as $2,000 (about £1000) for possessing one. It’s important to be clear if vaping equipment is allowed as you head out and about. Also, with smoking, many countries have become more and more strict, for example as in Thailand where you cannot smoke on the beach.

Public displays of affection

The fourth area to think about is public shows of affection. This tends to be in more strict religious countries, particularly in the Middle East, but certainly into parts of Asia, like Indonesia too. In these countries, public displays of affection are not just frowned upon, but actually not allowed, and could lead to very serious consequences. And that’s not just for LGBT couples where there could be some issues around whether it’s even legal to have those kinds of relationships, but even for heterosexual couples. I remember recently we were cruising into Dubai and there was a big briefing, not only about clothing, but also warning against public shows of affection. So, bear in mind if you’re heading out, you may want to keep your displays of affection until you’re back on the ship.

There are, of course, some cultural areas where you would need to be careful, for example in Japan where public shows of affection are really not well thought of, and certainly if you’re on a cruise in the Baltics, into Russia and you’re a same-sex couple beware of showing signs of affection because of the pretty draconian approach of the Russian authorities.

Queen Mary 2 docked in St. Thomas Caribbean

Taking photos

The next law centres around the taking of photographs. When you’re heading out on excursions, particularly if you’re going with a tour guide, you can check if there are any restrictions on photography. Generally speaking, though, avoid taking photographs anywhere in or near airports, military or government buildings. I have been on various excursions in different countries where the guide has said to us, ‘don’t take pictures of those buildings’.

In the Middle East, for example, there have been plane spotters who’ve been out taking pictures of aeroplanes and found themselves in prison for days on end and being treated as spies. So just be cautious, especially around anything that’s government or military.

Also, very importantly, avoid taking pictures of military personnel, or even people like monks or religious figures, and if you’re unsure, ask, or just don’t take pictures. For example, I’m just back from a cruise in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we were told very strongly not to take pictures of monks, but always to approach them and ask them as it’s seen as incredibly offensive otherwise.


The next area centres around the flying of drones. Taking a drone on a cruise ship is pretty much a nightmare anyway, as most cruise lines ban the use of drones completely. At the time of writing, Royal Caribbean and Carnival are pretty much the only cruise lines that will even let you take a drone on board. You can’t actually use it when you’re on board, but they will let you take it out into the port to use.

There are many countries that have not only severe restrictions, but some total bans on using a drone. There have been some highly publicised cases where some bloggers got caught in places like Iran flying drones, so just be cautious, and if you do own a drone make sure you’ve got the correct licence.

You’ll often find in certain places that you have to apply for permits before you go. Of course, if you use a drone, you’ll know that there are a lot of apps you can check, but drone flying can be a big issue.

MSC Cruises MSC Preziosa in Hamburg for Hamburg Cruise Days. For more: https://www.tipsfortravellers.com/hamburg


There are a lot of laws where you can get yourself in trouble around the clothing that you wear. Many places have introduced restrictions around going shirtless, for example, or wearing swimwear off the beaches into the towns, even in places that you would think were quite liberal because they’re quite beach-focused, like Turkey and Spain have the facility to fine you on the spot if you wear that sort of clothing off the beach.

For example, in Croatia, in Dubrovnik, going shirtless in a town could get you in a lot of trouble, and you could get a spot fine as well. So really the key rule is to keep your clothes on unless you’re on the beach.

Although it’s not illegal as such, it’s worth bearing in mind, particularly if you’re visiting religious places, as you head into Asia or even in holy places in parts of Europe, that you need to have your shoulders and your upper arms covered, and you need to have long pants or certainly cover your knees.

The spoken word

One of the most serious laws that you could break, that could actually land you in prison for up to 10 years is if you ever cruise to Thailand. Being overheard criticising the Royal Family or even standing on a banknote which has the Royal Family on it could get you into a lot of trouble. There are very strict laws around defaming the Royal Family, and they are rigorously enforced. So, bear in mind, when you’re in any country, be cautious and don’t criticise the government or leaders in public spaces because you could find yourself in a lot of trouble.

Windstar Cruises Star Breeze in Katakolon Greece

Eating and drinking

There are also a surprising number of rules and regulations around eating and drinking in public. In some countries it’s culturally seen as unacceptable, but more and more places are starting to introduce laws and regulations, sometimes just by local towns or municipalities, where you can get some quite big fines.

In Europe for example, there are quite a lot of restrictions on eating and drinking in some public spaces, particularly around religious or holy sites. In Florence and Venice, it’s an offence to eat and drink near churches, historic monuments, and public buildings; and there was a recent story about some backpackers who were fined almost 1,000 Euros for brewing and making coffee near the Rialto Bridge.

Many countries also have restrictions on drinking in public or on public transport. In Singapore, for example, chewing gum is a big no-no, and particularly the disposal of chewing gum. Linked to the whole food and drink thing there’s even a bizarre rule in Singapore where if you don’t flush a public lavatory you can potentially get a spot fine.

It’s worth being really disciplined about where you eat and drink, and a good tip is to look around and see what the locals are doing. If they’re not walking around eating a sandwich or drinking, you probably know it’s not appropriate and it’s possibly a law or at the very least a cultural issue.

As you can see from any of these rules, regulations, and laws, it’s often things that we could quite innocently do at home that could land you in a lot of trouble when you’re on a cruise in a foreign place. So be over cautious, watch the locals, ask guest services or check with your tour guide if there’s anything you should be aware of.

I hope you found that interesting. I have loads more videos packed full of tips and advice about cruising, so why not watch another of those right now.

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