Search for your ideal Cruise
Where would you like to go?
Departure month
Cruise type
Cruise line
Crusie rules main min
Credit: Shutterstock

Cruise ship rules and regulations you need to know

Author: Harriet Mallinson

Published on:

Updated on:

Cruise ship rules and regulations can be hard to get your head around, especially when they vary so much between cruise lines and destinations.

Cruise rules around alcohol on cruise ships and smoking rules on cruise ships entirely depend on the line - so it's vital to do your research and be prepared, even if it's not as relaxed as you'd hoped.

Of course, some cruise restrictions are very much for your own health and wellbeing, such as cruise ship balcony safety, so again it's important to be clued up to make sure nothing goes wrong to ruin the cruise holiday.

We've rounded up the burning questions you might have on cruise ship rules and regulations, from alcohol on cruise ships to what you should never do on your balcony.

Related articles

Can you smoke on a cruise ship?

Smoking is generally banned indoors onboard cruise ships, with guests only permitted to smoke in designated outdoor areas.

Smoking rules on a cruise ship very much depend on the cruise line. Some, such as Silversea, offer a wide selection of areas to light up in, while others, such as Regent Seven Seas provide very limited locations, so, it's worth factoring in how much you like to smoke before you book with a cruise line.

Looking at the major cruise lines, P&O Cruises says: "Smoking is not permitted indoors on any of our P&O Cruises' ships, including in guest rooms and balconies. This includes the use of any electronic cigarettes, which can only be used in the designated smoking areas. Each ship has designated outdoor smoking areas, which are signposted."

- READ MORE: Find your dream cruise with our handy Cruise Finder -

Royal Caribbean details: "Cigarette, cigar, e-cigarette and pipe smoking is permitted in designated outdoor areas. Outdoor areas near restricted areas, food venues, and kids play areas and pools will not allow smoking."

Marella Cruises explains: "All our ships are non-smoking, which means you can only smoke in designated areas of the open deck. Smoking isn't permitted on cabin balconies, either. As for e-cigarettes, you can use these in the designated areas on deck."

Friends smoking min
Cruise holidays: Smoking is generally banned indoors onboard cruise ships. Credit: Shutterstock

Can you take food and drink off a cruise ship?

Taking food and drink off a cruise ship is generally not permitted, particularly when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Your own pre-packaged snacks may be permitted, however.

The rules around food and drink also depend on where you are in the world and the local laws in place.

For instance, the Caribbean is very strict with food brought into the country and fresh food may be confiscated, while the EU bans travellers from bringing in products of animal origin, such as any food or drink contain meat or dairy.

A spokeswoman for Marella Cruises told World of Cruising: "The types of food you could take off the ship would be driven by the customs requirements of a destination, for example, you can’t take fruit or meat into Barbados.

"Therefore we don’t recommend that fresh food from our restaurants is taken ashore. Items such as packet chocolate or snacks and bottled water can be bought on the ship and taken ashore if customs allow."

In short, always check the rules for the country you are visiting and ask your cruise line for advice.

- READ MORE: Top 10 tips for planning your first cruise getaway -

As for taking alcohol on a cruise ship - some lines are quite generous with how much you can bring onboard in your luggage, while others are stricter.

For instance, Royal Caribbean says: "On boarding day, guests may bring onboard two 750 ml bottles of personal wine or champagne per stateroom in their carry-on luggage."

But MSC Cruises clarifies: "Passengers are not permitted to bring onboard any such drinks for use during the voyage, whether for consumption in their own cabins or otherwise."

So it's important to gen up on what your cruise line will permit ahead of stocking up on booze.

Man fruit min
Cruise holidays: Taking food and drink off a cruise ship is generally not permitted. Credit: Shutterstock

What not to do on a cruise ship balcony

Don't smoke

Guests are generally banned from smoking on balconies - and even if your line does permit it, it's worth thinking about how the smoke might affect neighbouring cruisers.

Don't make loud noises

For the wellbeing of others, it's also inadvisable to make lots of loud noise on your balcony whether that be music or you and your pals making merry in the wee hours. The same goes for those early morning risers - others might be still trying to sleep!

Don't get frisky

For your own sake you might want to think twice about any risqué activities such as having sex or sunbathing naked; not only can the first be dangerous and potentially disturbing to those around you, but if you're in port you might find you have an audience!

Don't get active

On a safety note, don't sit, stand or climb onto your balcony or furniture - you don't want to risk a nasty accident.

- READ MORE: Do you need special travel insurance for a cruise? -

Don't keep the door open

It's also a good idea to close your balcony door to prevent disruption to your cabin's air conditioning. It also might result in an alarming wind tunnel if someone opens the main cabin door.

Don't dry clothes

Travellers should avoid drying clothes out on the balcony - the sea air will likely not make much difference and they might get blown away!

Don't throw items overboard

You should also never throw anything overboard from your balcony - or indeed anywhere on the ship. It might endanger others or the ship and is also terrible for the environment.

Woman feet min
Cruise holidays: For your own sake you might want to think twice about any risqué activities on your balcony. Credit: Shutterstock

Drinking age on a cruise ship in international waters

You generally have to be over 18 to drink on a cruise ship - and over 21 to drink on a cruise in the US.

The fine print will depend on where in the world you are sailing and which cruise line you are travelling with.

Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises explain that passengers must be over 18 on sailings from South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand but over 21 on sailings originating in North America.

Some lines are more lenient. For instance, P&O Cruises allows 16 and 17-year-olds to have "modest amounts of beer, cider or wine to drink with a meal in the restaurants when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian."

Related articles