Packing for any trip is complicated these days.  With airline luggage restrictions on size, weight and liquids, and security increasing on all forms of transportation, knowing what you can bring in your carry-on and your luggage can be a downright guessing game.

When it comes to a cruise vacation, the days of throwing what you need in a bag and walking onto the ship are long over. Unfortunately, cruise lines are becoming more restrictive about what you can bring onto the ship, and security screening is becoming more thorough.

So here’s a quick general guide on what you can, and what you can not, bring along with you on your next cruise. Nothing listed here will ruin your cruise, promise!

Check Before You Pack

You absolutely need to check with your specific cruise line about any luggage restrictions.  It is different for every cruise company, and what’s fine on one ship may not be fine on another.  Most cruise lines have their luggage guidelines listed on their websites, but not all.  If in doubt, call the cruise line directly and ask.

Carnival has become one of the most restrictive when it comes to what you can bring on the ship.  Its rules are similar to those on airlines.  You are prohibited from bringing on weapons or life-like replicas of weapons (think martial arts training aids), heating devices such as an iron or even a little mini steamer, household items such as a coffee maker, anything that can light up such as a candle, or any other “dangerous goods”.

You can’t bring scissors on board if they have blades longer than four inches.  Scrapbooking or quilting scissors may be allowed, but you must let security know beforehand.

Let’s think about this a minute, you really wouldn’t expect to bring your bike or your surfboard, but you can’t bring any shoes with wheels like those popular Heely running shoes.  You can only bring your musical instrument if you are performing on the ship.  Most of the fishing excursions are catch and release, but if you find one that’s not you may end up with a big fish needing a way home since Carnival specifically says you “can’t carry on fish you catch”.

On Carnival, you’re not allowed to bring on any alcohol, with the exception of one 750 ml bottle of wine or champagne in your carry-on luggage (if you’re older than 21).  Small, personal-sized coolers no larger than 12” by 12” by 12” are permitted.

Carnival scans all baggage as part of your security screening when you board the ship, carry-on and checked, and it will confiscate any banned item until the end of your cruise.

Other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean and Holland America, have similar restrictions in place.  Most also restrict sporting equipment, such as baseball bats and hockey sticks.  Snorkel or dive equipment or golf clubs may be allowed for in port use only, but check what’s allowed and what’s not.  If you can’t bring it, most sporting equipment will be available to rent, which may be easier.

Generally speaking, if it’s against the law, dangerous, could hurt someone, or start a fire, your cruise line will tell you to leave it at home. Remember, fire is the biggest danger aboard a ship and what may seem like a little inconvenience is worth everyone’s safety.

But some items can be less clear cut.  You really want to check with your cruise line about alcohol or even non-alcoholic beverages. Don’t count on anything seized during security screenings being given back at the end of the cruise. However, all the cruise lines will collect the alcohol you purchase in port as you return to the ship, then return it you the night before you disembark.

The smart thing to do is to check with your individual cruise line, ask questions, and use your common sense.  Pack smart and you’ll have a hassle-free check in, and a great vacation.

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