Security check-in on a cruise ship

I loathe going through airport security (no, really. I’m unique that way). But because I understand that it’s not *all *Security Theater, that I’m not qualified to tell the difference, that the TSA folks have their job to do, and that I have a plane to catch, I try to make things go quickly. Heading to the airport means comfortable, slip-on shoes, a laptop bag that’s easily accessible, no extra metal (e.g., belt buckle), empty pockets, etc.—as little as possible to make things easy. It also means no bottles larger than … well, anyone who’s been on a flight lately knows the drill.

We’ve never been on a cruise before. The best I can find on the TSA page is the TSA Passenger Vessel Group placeholder page—but there’s no information on it. What should we expect? Same thing as getting on an airplane? Same thing as an airplane pre-9/11? Like entering a Federal building? Backscatter pictures and patdowns? Aside from the cruse line rules (e.g., no liquor), is there anything we need to be aware of? If it makes a difference, we’ll have a couple largish drums as carry-on.


(Put this in GQ thinking there would be a set of factual answers, such as "don’t bring liquids larger than 3.4 oz; don’t tug on Superman’s cape; expect just as much/nothing like the hassle of air travel; etc.)

I went on a weeklong Columbia River cruise in the Pacific Northwest a few summers ago, and just had to show my ticket at the entryway - no security check of any kind. Ditto for an Alaska Inside Passage cruise a few years before that (also post-9-11).

I was on a Mediterranean cruise just under two years ago, and security was looking for big things, like guns of explosives. Must less stringent than airlines - you don’t have to take your shoes off, and pocket knives are fine. They are also looking for people smuggling alcohol on board, so they care about profit as a side effect of safety.

When we were in Alaska 3 years ago both the Alaskan Railroad and the docks for our cruise ship had large signs warning no firearms allowed. But there was no TSA style check in (i.e. metal detectors) or anything else whatsoever on either of them. So unless I’d been open carrying no one would had known had I chosen to bring a weapon.

Completely different story when we went to the Bahamas via a cruise from Ft. Lauderdale. Security was very similar to the airport and took just as long. Even longer when you add in going through customs.

This is a Ft. Lauderdale>Honduras>Mexico jaunt. So shoes off, pockets empty, etc. Any limitations aside from guns and booze?

When do you go through customs–on the way home?

This might be handy:

Basically, you fill out customs forms on the ship before you disembark, and then, if they need to, customs officials meet with you either on the ship or in the terminal.

Just got back from a cruise that left from FtL. No shoe removal necessary, so it seemed to be more like pre 9/11 airport security, although I did see a wheelchair-bound elderly woman get a real workover. Also, security staff was over-abundant as expected post-9/11.

Customs form was necessary only when returning to home port.

Being processed through Customs after disembarking was the big let-down. You’ve just had a splendid week or so on a beautiful ship, and when you get back to the home port, you leave the ship and get dumped into a stark warehouse with baggage strewn all around. I can’t remember if it was clumped by last name alpha order, or by deck, but at any rate, you need to find your bags, then get in line to show your passport, turn in the form and get out.

The process makes airport baggage claim look glamorous.

As Voyager said, pre-cruise check-in was mild, compared to airport security. Bags get x-rayed and checked for weapons or booze, humans go through a metal detector arch. Shoes stayed on feet, and there were vanishingly few laptops.

If I can piggyback a question onto this one:

What is the penalty for attempting to bring a small amount of marijuana onto a cruise ship sailing round-trip from a US port (ferinstance, I try to bring a dimebag onto the Carnival Liberty on a Miami-St. Thomas-San Juan-Miami cruise)?

A, uh, friend wants to know.

Bring it on board nothing. I do not think Panama enforces drug laws. But having in your posession on the dock could get you busted. Depending on the state and the security people.

I don’t think Panama would particularly care, even though they are entitled to care as the Carnival Liberty is registered in that country. Florida, however, will care, and FL seems to have some of the toughest anti-drug laws in the US. Possession of such a small amount would be a misdemeanor and could get your friend a $1000 fine and a year in jail.

Homeland Security will have jurisdiction too. Have you seen what they do to people who try to bring toothpaste into an airport? I don’t want to think what they’d do with pot.

Besides what the others said, even if they decided to let your friend go he’d miss the sailing, for sure (I bet they’d make certain of that) and I doubt travel insurance would cover getting you to the next port. Seems like a really bad idea to me.

I’ve been on Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, and Norwegian ships - both before and after 9/11. Security is like airports pre-9/11 as others have said. The only ports I ever remember going where security was very tight was Israel and Russia. In the U.S. it is just a metal detector with shoes on, and an X-ray for bags. I don’t think they ask you to remove your laptop from the case either, though I don’t recall. At the foreign ports themselves, most don’t even use a metal detector, but the ship does and they X-ray your bags too. As others have stated though, this seems to be more about preventing alcohol from getting on board. They do not have any issues with food or other liquids, so if your water bottle happened to have tequila or vodka in it, they would never know. Not that I have any knowledge of that :D.

Regarding marijuana, I suspect if they catch you before you sail, you will be handed over to the authorities and likely miss the ship. If the ship catches you mid-cruise or at a port, I have no idea. My guess would be that they would probably just confiscate it and let you back on without it. I would think if they handed you over to a 3rd world country that mistreated you, they could be liable since they would obviously leave without you and could strand you there since you always leave your passport on board. The ship could have you confined to quarters with a posted guard, but that is unusual. I have seen that done on a ship, but generally it had to do with sick passengers who would otherwise infect others. On a Mexico cruise once, I had heard someone got violent in the casino and was confined to quarters, but I couldn’t confirm if that was just a rumor.

Bingo We have a winner here.