After the hair dryer-banning debacle of 2010, you knew no cruise line would be so naive as to attempt that again — the specter of thousands of frizzy-haired women descending on humid Caribbean ports is just too scary. But enormous hair dryers aren’t the only contraband that cruisers wanting to save money or look their best on formal night really, really want to pack. When it comes to breaking cruise-line rules or breaking your back with overstuffed suitcases, we’re here to remind you: don’t.
Don’t Pack: Clothes Iron
The clothes iron, that keystone to a frump-free formal night, is, as far as we can tell, banned industry-wide; after all, fire poses one of the greatest risks to safety at sea. While a few lines like Holland America (some ships) and Carnival (fleetwide) have self-service launderettes with ironing boards, not all do. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, for instance, lack such facilities. Your options are limited to paying the ship’s exorbitant pressing fees, hanging suit jackets in a bathroom for an hour with the shower on “scald” (not recommended) or wearing something that looks like a bull dog’s face.
Do Pack: Wrinkle-Releasing Spray
A garment bag certainly works for some, but Downy Wrinkle Releaser is a product our sister site IndependentTraveler.com recommends in its ingenious 10 Travel Essentials You Can Find in a Drug Store. DWR, which we’ve also used, “works by relaxing fabric fibers so that wrinkles can be smoothed out with your hand, and it’s safe on most fabrics,” says IT. “Just spray on your rumpled shirt, tug, smooth and wear.” It’s available in large sizes (checked bag) and three-ounce, travel-friendly containers.
Don’t Pack: Swiss Army Knife
It’s not technically a banned item on cruises — most lines allow passengers to bring knives onboard, as long as the blades are less than 4 inches. But in this age of heightened security awareness, we’ve heard plenty of stories from passengers saying airport or ship security gave them the stink eye and confiscated the item, however freakishly essential they argued it was. Remember, the bartender will be there to open your beer, and you probably won’t have need of a mini-wood saw. Caveat: Still, for every person who’s had a problem with a Leatherman, there seem to be dozens who’ve taken their trusty utility tools on cruises without issue — especially if they packed it in their checked luggage. In fact, the TSA, which has its own set of rules, says utility tools must go in checked luggage.
Do Pack: Your Toiletry Kit
We love the utility, but the most useful components for a cruise — a nail file, tweezers and small scissors — are already in your toiletry kit, a more TSA-friendly package. Need a corkscrew? Your cabin steward should have one. And the only screwdriver you need on a cruise is the kind made with vodka and orange juice.
Don’t Pack: Liquor or Beer
As a captive audience, passengers are beholden to a cruise line’s bar prices, which range from modest to sweat-inducing. And don’t think you can get around over-priced drinks with a BYO mentality. With their maritime versions of Prohibition, most big-ship, mainstream lines will confiscate liquor and beer brought onboard during embarkation. We won’t wade into the ethical miasma of flouting these rules or mention the exhaustive number of readers who lead double lives as booze smugglers. We will say that, if you’re discovered sneaking alcohol onboard, you may be shamed in front of fellow passengers and made to report to the “naughty room.” The contraband will typically be held for the duration of the cruise and returned on the last day. Royal Caribbean is less magnanimous. Its policy is to confiscate and destroy, explains spokesman Harrison Liu (though unopened duty-free booze with the original label brought on from a port will be held).
There are some exceptions. Wine is almost always an allowable substance (exception: Royal Caribbean), though lines will limit how much passengers bring and may charge a corkage fee for consuming it. Check out our piece, 5 Cruise Lines That Let You BYOB, to learn about the handful of players who are comfortable with passengers bringing their own.
Do Pack: Water and Soda
We can’t really help you here. But if it’s nonalcoholic beverages you’re after, many lines let you bring on a “reasonable” amount of bottled water and soda — and even a cooler to contain said items (if there’s no mini-fridge in the cabin).
Don’t Pack: Coffeemakers
While those inclined to pack coffeemakers are certainly in the minority, believe us, they exist. French roast partisans argue that the surcharge-free swill masquerading as coffee is a crime against cruisers. You can grab a halfway decent cup, but you typically have to pay extra for it at the now-industry-standard specialty cafe. But if you want quality java for free, know that bringing your own plug-and-play version of a coffee shop onboard is almost always against the rules.
Do Pack: A French Press
Passengers who enjoy their coffee minus the tar-like residue and wrinkled face that follows each swallow have some options. Makahiki Farms’ “Cruiser Paks,” for instance, include two four-ounce packages of Kona coffee and a 12-ounce Bodum French press, enough for two passengers to enjoy a cup every day for a weeklong cruise.
Don’t Pack: Books
Yes, passengers are even allowed to bring “Fifty Shades of Grey” onboard. Literary cheap shot aside, book nerds can easily spoil their perfect packing job with multiple tomes or make themselves crazy whittling their selections down to two titles. Our advice: bring one at most. Ships have libraries, and passengers are often surprised by the quality of the selections. Celebrity‘s Solstice-class ships and Cunard‘s Queens come to mind as ships with half-way decent book repositories.
Do Pack: E-Reader
As sentimentalists, we prefer the feel, smell, taste and heft of real books, but we also like having options, which e-readers provide. Even luddites begrudgingly admit how easily they acclimate to a Kindle or Nook. Plus, you have to give into peer pressure — everyone else on the sun deck is cradling an e-reader, so why shouldn’t you?
Need some help packing for your next cruise? See our series of slideshows on must-pack items for a variety of cruises.
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