As a rule, smoking is allowed in designated areas.
Cruise ships allow the use of tobacco products in designated areas only. Large cruise ships are known to sell tobacco products onboard. Cruise ships have set smoking areas in public places inside the ship and spaces on specific outside decks.
There are no restrictions on how many packs of cigarettes or tobacco products you can bring onboard a cruise ship, but to save space in your luggage, it is just as easy to buy tobacco products from the shop located on the ship. The onboard shops usually sell big name-brands and can be cheaper than purchasing on land.
Tobacco Taxes and Limits Upon Return
Then there are the ports of call throughout your cruise. There is nothing like buying a Macanudo cigars box while you are docked in La Romana or Punta Cana. Cigarettes can be even cheaper in foreign ports than they are on board. But are your cruise companies going to charge you a tobacco-equivalent to the outrageous “cork fee” they do for the booze you buy in port?
The answer is no. Once you come back on board from a visit to a port, your cruise company will be screening you for any alcohol you are trying to sneak by. But tobacco is different. You can bring this back on board and puff away to your lungs’ content in designated smoking areas.
At $10 a carton for cigarettes in some Caribbean countries, you might be tempted to stock up for the next five years. But you’d better think twice about that idea: things change when you bring tobacco products through U.S. customs at the end of your voyage.
You cannot stock up on cheap tobacco products while you are abroad and then bring them back into the U.S. tax-free. When you arrive back at your U.S. port of call, you must go through customs and declare what you’re bringing with you. There are exceptions for duty on small personal amounts of tobacco products, like one carton of cigarettes or one cigars box. If you try and bring in more than that, U.S. Customs and Border Protection can seize it because it is not for personal use.
If not seized, then exactly how much duty you must pay depends on the tax laws in the U.S. state you return to. Federal taxes always apply on top of what your state requires. The federal rules say:
- You can bring up to 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars from a foreign country into the U.S. tax-free
- If you are coming back from a U.S. beneficiary country or insular possession (like the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam), you can bring back 1,000 cigarettes (five cartons)
- You cannot bring back bidis (flavored cigarettes)
- The tax rate for non-exempt importation of tobacco products is $2.11 per cigarette pack, up to $0.40 per large cigar, and $1.55 per ounce of rolling tobacco
- Federal law states you must be at least 21 years old to bring tobacco products purchased abroad back into the U.S., even though the smoking age is 18.
When considering if and where you should stock up on cigarettes during your cruise, view these statistics, we pulled from the widely trusted data research company Numbeo.
It computed the average cost-per-country in U.S. dollars of a pack of cigarettes, using Marlboros as the common denominator. Here are how some countries in a week’s cruise range compare:
- United States – $7.00
- Canada – $10.26
- Puerto Rico – $9.00
- Panama – $5.00
- Dominican Republic – $3.99
- Costa Rica – $3.25
- Mexico – $2.47
- Colombia – $1.57
- Venezuela – $1.00
The trend seems to be, with few exceptions, that the further south you travel, the cheaper the cigarettes become.
While Cigars Are Presidential, They Have Special Rules
Cigars and Fidel Castro are ubiquitous, Churchill inspired Churchills, and even some U.S. presidents are associated with cigars. Historically and right up through the present day, for better or worse, tobacco has been the main crop for many countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, not to mention the United States itself. Tobacco pre-dates Columbus. If you are on a cruise that goes through this region, then cigars should be addressed in your cruise company’s top-10 FAQ.
Where cigars can be smoked, so can pipes. You will find that the smoking areas can be even more restricted because of their heavier aromatic smoke. Cigar and pipe smokers are usually directed to outside deck smoking areas or specific cigar lounges.
Do Cruise Ships Allow You to Bring or Smoke Marijuana On-Board?
Cigars are to Cuba like ganja is to Jamaica, right? If you pass through Bob Marley’s home country or almost half of all U.S. states with a saltwater port that has legalized marijuana, should smoking it be okay in designated areas?
Right now, the answer is no. Be it for reasons of marketing, prejudice, or misunderstanding, as it stands right now, cruise companies don’t allow you to smoke marijuana openly onboard.
The same holds for medical marijuana. If you have medically prescribed cannabis products, you still cannot bring these onboard your cruise ship, neither at your point of departure nor anywhere in between.
However, like other shops that cater to disembarking cruisers on a local visit, you can find marijuana legally for sale within a range of ports in cities, states, and countries where it has been legalized. California just legalized recreational marijuana so expect a thriving port business based on this soon. Like Skagway and Anchorage, Seattle and most port cities in Alaska are already miles ahead of California, and you can find cannabis shops within easy walking distance of the water.
Just remember you cannot bring it with you when you re-board. And the security at the port might be local authorities who smell an opportunity for greenbacks if they find you in possession of something illegal.
As marijuana becomes more widely legalized, you can expect cruise companies to adapt their policy eventually, but the present is still too soon. If you ask any regular cruiser, they will tell you it’s not unheard of to smell marijuana smoke on a cruise ship.
Can You Smoke “Illegal” Drugs On-Board a Cruise Ship?
The fun never stops when you are on a cruise ship. In international waters, you are not governed by the law. Except for the high seas law, which says your captain is in charge and that you are subject to the country’s laws under whose flag your ship sails.
Since most cruise lines register their ships in places like Bermuda, the Bahamas, Liberia, and Malta, there is nothing to worry about, right?
Wrong. The cruise company and your captain, who they employ, have a vested interest in appealing to families. Have you noticed how family cruise packages, family suites, and activities for children are pushed everywhere? Creating a welcoming environment for children means excluding hard drugs. If you want to earn yourself a one-way ticket off your cruise ship to prison in Liberia or Bermuda, making a public display of your illegal drug consumption is an excellent way to do it.
This is grounds to get you booted off the ship at the next port with an all-expenses-paid-by-you airplane ticket home. And you will be lucky if the local police are not waiting for you at the port when you step off the ship. If things are serious, if you brought drugs on a cruise ship, you have probably crossed international borders and are now a drug trafficker, you might even get a long-term room at the Hotel Monrovia.