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The 12 Weirdest, Craziest Rules Onboard Cruise Ships

Think twice before reserving a lounger on the Lido deck.

Even for seasoned cruisers, some rules and customs while at sea are still head-scratchers. These floating hotels have laws they must abide by, sure, but some are just so darn weird we can’t help but call them out. Read on to learn about the background and history of these strange rules—especially so you don’t break them on your next sailing. Many of these rules are more than failure to practice proper social etiquette. If you’re caught not complying with these rules, you could be banned from the cruise line for life. And that might be worse than getting off at the next port.

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Limits on Liquor for Texas Departures

If your cruise embarks in Galveston, Texas, you can only drink wine, beer, or spirits certified for sale in Texas, per the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. While Texas is a huge state and one of the top states for alcohol distribution, not every beer, wine, and spirit sold and served on board a cruise ship qualifies. This means a limited drinks menu is in effect until the next morning. Furthermore, on most cruise lines, even if you bought a drinks package, you can’t start cashing it in until the ship reaches international waters. Good thing all cruises are at least four nights out of Galveston. That first night will likely be “drier” than the rest.

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Courtesy with the Captain

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was the very real threat of Norovirus and other easily transmittable diseases among passengers and crew. While no vacationer wants to be quarantined to their cabin, if the captain can’t sail, well, this is a major problem. If you try to shake hands with the captain at a cocktail event or while they are greeting guests on board, the captain’s crew will politely (and gently) steer you away. No one wants to get the captain sick!


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Limits on Soda and Bottled Water Brought Onboard

If you envision loading up your cabin’s mini fridge with Diet Coke, think again. Due to strict food and drink policies, you can only bring on board a Royal Caribbean cruise up to 12 cans or bottles of soda (up to 17 ounces each) for each passenger on embarkation day, and Princess Cruises also caps it at 12 cans or bottles per person. This also applies to bottles of water. The rest must be bought on board. Carnival Cruises does not allow any packaged beverages to be brought on board. If you truly need your soda, consider buying a drinks package, as it includes unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, too. Also, check with your cruise line, as the rules vary.

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Hair Irons Are Prohibited

Of course, you want to look good in your vacation photos. But for some cruise lines—like MSC Cruises, Oceania Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Line—guests are banned from bringing on a curling or flat (straightening) iron and there is not one available on board either. The reason? This is thought to be a fire hazard if left unattended. Hair dryers are provided at no charge in nearly all cruise lines’ cabins. Along those lines, do not try to bring an electric kettle on board. This is another heat-generating item that could cause a fire.

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Camouflage Apparel Is Not Allowed

If you plan to wear your cool cargo camouflage pants or a T-shirt in the same vein while in port, think twice if going to select countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Some countries where cruises dock have a ban against camouflage apparel. They include Jamaica, Dominica, Bahamas, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, Ghana and Nigeria. The reason for this clothing ban is to avoid confusion by locals about who is with the local law enforcement and who is not. What you don’t want to happen is to wear camouflage clothing off the ship and then have to return to your cabin to change your clothes, losing precious time during a port call or missing out on a pre-booked shore excursion.

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Banned Drones

Drone fanatics can’t imagine traveling without their drone to snap gorgeous photography because how else are you going to capture aerial shots? But cruise lines don’t like drones. Only two cruise lines—Royal Caribbean (for use on land only, not while at sea, and not at Perfect Day or in Labadee, Haiti, and only outside of the port area) and Carnival Cruise Line (with the drone in the ship’s possession and owners “checking it out” for their use, but only while in port)—allow passengers to bring their own drone. If you use a drone not in compliance to the above rules, it will be confiscated until the end of your sailing.


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Homemade Snacks Are Not Allowed

If you’d like to celebrate a family member’s birthday on your multi-generational family cruise by bringing a cake on board that you baked at home, know that this is not allowed. The process of boarding a ship is just like entering a foreign country: there is a lot of concern about importing contaminated materials or any ingredients that can wreak havoc on local crops. If you really do want that cake, place an order with the cruise line: that’s what they’re there for, whether it’s a wedding, anniversary, or birthday. And now you don’t have to pack it in your luggage. The same goes for slices of your mom’s yummy banana bread: if you didn’t finish it before you arrived, in the trash it goes.

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Baby Monitors Are Not Permitted

Some parents might want to leave young children alone in the cabin for a bit while they visit family or friends in their cabin or ask grandma to babysit while they go have dinner. A baby monitor could be seen as a handy tool. However, on most cruise lines, baby monitors are banned. This is due to safety: those monitors transmit signals that could interfere with the ship’s navigation. On Disney Cruise Line, you can bring a baby monitor on board, but it should be in your carry-on bag so it can be inspected by the Chief Electrician to ensure it complies with safety standards. Baby monitors are not allowed on Royal Caribbean ships and most other cruise lines, too.

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Restrictions on Celebratory Decorations

A cruise is a popular destination for celebrating a special occasion, and in your mind, that might mean boarding with helium balloons to help commemorate. These are not permitted, unfortunately. You’re better off bringing signs or other décor for your cabin’s door or interior walls. In fact, there are many, many shops on Etsy that sell magnets to place on one’s exterior door, letting everyone know this is your milestone birthday, you just got married or you’re simply glad to be on vacation.

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No Jeans, Ball Caps, or Sandals at Fine-Dining Restaurants

It should come as no surprise that dining on cruise ships is as casual as you’ll find in your hometown. However, with specialty-dining restaurants and some evening meals (except for the buffet) on lines like Viking Cruises, you need to consult the dress code: “elegant casual” means a dress, skirt, or slacks (with a sweater or blouse) for the ladies and trousers with a collared shirt for men. Otherwise, you may be denied entry if you’re wearing jeans, a ball cap, or flip-flops, even if you already have a reservation.

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No Reserving Lounge Chairs on the Lido Deck

No one wants to be that person hogging all the chaise chairs for your friends who are taking their sweet time at the buffet. You’re getting side eye after side eye from frustrated passengers who can’t find any empty chairs. Most cruise lines have a 30-minute limit for leaving a chair empty. Trust us, the employees are watching. They have the right to remove not only the towel on that empty chair but everything else on it, too.

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Ship Time Versus Real Time

Many ships’ itineraries cross time zones, and the tendency is to switch your wristwatch and digital devices to that new time. But the rule is “ship time over real-time.” For example, if you sail from Belize City, Belize, to Cozumel, Mexico, that first port is in Central Standard Time, and the second one an hour ahead in Eastern Standard Time. Putting this rule into practice, if the port of call is 4 p.m., then that means CST, not EST.

krw95462 May 30, 2024

I was thinking "bombshells." None of this stuff is all that serious. Not really. 🤓


I've always find found the Time changes  on cruises to be extremely annoying! I bring a manual watch for that purpose!

colocat May 22, 2024

Everyone needs to check their specific cruise line before sailing as #4 is NOT TRUE to the majority of cruise lines anyway.   You are not allowe to bring an iron, but that does not include hair irons (curling or flat).  Before I posted this comment, I have looked up mulitple companies, including Carnival, and confirmed that hair irons are not subject to the iron rule.