Can You Smoke on a Cruise Ship?


Which Cruise Ships Can You Smoke On?

Bringing Tobacco On Board: Initially And After Port Visits

You’re about to be on a floating city for the next week. Can you smoke and vape, or should you bring a patch and some chew? What about tobacco you bring aboard or purchase during a port excursion?

Yes, Cruise ships allow you to use tobacco products in designated areas. All large cruise ships sell tobacco products on-board. It’s a different story for marijuana, details on that below.

All cruise ships have designated smoking areas in public places inside the ship and in areas on specific outside decks. A decreasing number of companies still allow you to smoke on your stateroom balcony, but that option is quickly disappearing.

As a general rule, unless you are in a designated smoking area you can’t smoke.

But don’t worry, cruises aren’t entirely smoke-free either, nor are they likely to move in that direction. Your cruise company doesn’t want to lose its tobacco-sales profits or alienate more than 16 percent of its market. That’s the percentage of Americans – 38 million people – who smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And that’s to say nothing of those who smoke tobacco products in other forms including pipes and cigars, or those who vape, chew, and otherwise use tobacco.

And for the vapers out there, in the eyes of the cruise companies and their smoking policies, vaping is equivalent to smoking cigarettes.

In general there are no restrictions on how many packs of cigarettes, or tobacco products in general, you can initially bring on board a cruise ship.

But there’s no need to take up space in your luggage bringing several cartons aboard. Once your ship has left port and the on-board shops open you can buy tobacco products duty-free. There’s a good chance this is a cheaper option than what you would pay back on land, especially if you live in a state where tobacco products are expensive. The on-board shops usually sell the major name-brand labels.

Then there are the ports of call throughout your cruise. There’s nothing like buying a box of Macanudos while you’re 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 is going to be screening you for any alcohol you’re 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 US customs at the end of your voyage.

9 Things Cruise Lines Don’t Want You To Know. And Won’t Tell You

Tobacco Taxes And Limits Upon Return

You can’t stock up on cheap tobacco products while you’re abroad and then bring them back into the US tax-free. When you arrive back at your US port of call you still have to 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 box of cigars. If you try and bring in more than that US Customs and Border Protection can seize it on the grounds that it’s not for personal use.

If not seized, then exactly how much duty you must pay depends on the tax laws in the US 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 US tax-free
  • If you’re coming back from a US beneficiary country or insular possession (like the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam) you can bring back 1,000 cigarettes (five cartons)
  • You can’t 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 US, even though the smoking age is 18.

Cheapest Countries In The Americas To Buy Cigarettes

When considering if and where you should stock up on cigarettes during your cruise, consider these statistics we pulled from the widely-trusted data research company Numbeo.

It computed the average cost-per-country in US dollars of a pack of cigarettes, using Marlboros as the common denominator. Here is 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.

Cruise Ships Online

While Cigars Are Presidential They Have Special Rules

Cigars and Fidel Castro are ubiquitous, Churchill inspired Churchills, and even some US presidents are associated with cigars. Historically and right up through the present day, for better or worse, tobacco has been a central 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’re on a cruise that goes through this region then cigars really ought to be addressed in your cruise company’s top-10 faq.

Where cigars can be smoked so can pipes. You’ll find the smoking areas for these 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’re passing through Bob Marley’s home country or almost half of all US states with a saltwater port that have legalized marijuana, shouldn’t 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 on-board.

The same holds true for medical marijuana. If you have medically-prescribed cannabis products you still cannot bring these on board 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 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. Seattle and most port cities in Alaska like Skagway and Anchorage are already miles ahead of California and you can find cannabis shops within easy walking distance of the water.

Just remember you can’t 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.

All this being said, as marijuana becomes more widely legalized you can expect cruise companies to eventually adapt their policy, 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’re on a cruise ship. In international waters you’re literally not governed by the law. Except for the law of the high seas, which says your captain is in charge, and that you are basically subject to the laws of the country under whose flag your ship sails.

Since most cruise lines register their ships in places like Bermuda, the Bahamas, Liberia, and Malta, there’s 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 a prison in Liberia or Bermuda, making a public display of your illegal drug consumption is a good 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’ll be lucky if the local police aren’t waiting for you at the port when you step off the ship. If things are really serious – if you brought drugs on a cruise ship you’ve probably crossed international borders and are now a drug trafficker – you might even get a long-term room at the Hotel Monrovia.

Jason Smith

Former Marine, IT Guy & Builder of Websites.  I have 5 US states left to visit. I enjoy hot springs, adventures, hiking, photography, sci-fi, wine, coffee & whiskey.  I am fluent in sarcasm, name that tune, & speak in movie quotes.  I spend most of my time building websites, fixing computers, metal detecting, magnet fishing and gaming occasionally.

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