How Carnival and Royal Caribbean Handle Marijuana Onboard

Almost half (21) of the U.S. states have legalized cannabis consumption. A handful of others have legalized medicinal marijuana.

That has led many people to think that if they obtained their marijuana legally that they can bring it anywhere. The problem (and it’s a big one) is that federal law trumps state law and marijuana remains illegal on a federal level.

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The cruise industry faces further confusion because nearly all cruise ships do not sail under U.S. registration. Add in that, aside from Texas, all the major U.S. cruise ports have some sort of legalized marijuana. Florida, where the most Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines ships leave from, has legal medical marijuana.

That means that people actually have a doctor’s permission to possess cannabis for health reasons. You can understand how people would think that the product being legal in their state and the state they sailing from would make it legal on cruise ships.

You would think that, but it’s not true as Royal Caribbean and Carnival, not to mention MSC, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and of course, Walt Disney’s cruise line all follow federal law. That means that bringing any form of cannabis on your cruise ship is technically not allowed and the penalty for having it could involve you getting thrown off the ship and forced to return home at your own expense.

Image source: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Image source: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Reality of Royal Caribbean and Carnival Marijuana Policies

Before you can board a cruise ship, you have to enter a cruise terminal. Cruise terminals, as we learned during the pandemic, are federal facilities. That’s why you had to wear a mask when boarding your Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and other cruise line ships longer than you actually had to wear one onboard.

The cruise lines do not set the rules inside these facilities and drug-sniffing dogs can (and sometimes are) used by federal officers inside the terminal. Realistically, the cruise lines aren’t looking too hard for your edibles, and they’re probably not trying to take your smokable products, but they’re not in charge inside the terminal.

Once onboard, both Royal Caribbean and Carnival have only two places you can legally smoke onboard — a section of the casino and a part of the pool deck. You can’t smoke on your balcony and can get in trouble for smoking a regular cigarette let alone a marijuana-based product.

In practice, people get away with smoking and vaping on their balconies. It’s a risk as the cabin above you could most certainly report you, which could lead to a fine, or being asked to leave the ship, but it does happen. Smoking anything other than tobacco in the casino would almost surely lead to a visit from security, while anyone who has walked a pool deck through the smoking area after dark knows that people might be breaking the cannabis laws there.

So, people do bring cannabis on ships, just like some people smuggle alcohol on or find ways to get other contraband onboard. The cruise lines, however, do outlaw it based on federal law and will enforce those policies when they have to (even if they don’t appear to be actively seeking out people breaking this particular rule).

How Can You Legally Consume Cannabis On a Cruise?

Some cruise ports offer legal cannabis and even have dispensaries close to where ships dock. That means that if you can find a legal place while on land to consume your purchase, you can smoke up, have an edible, or consume marijuana in any other way legal in that jurisdiction.

The problem is that while many U.S. states and a handful of cruise ports have legalized the possession of cannabis, but not its public consumption. That means you need to be aware of where you can actually consume your purchase (it varies by locality).

You will also need to dispose of any remaining cannabis before you board your ship. In addition, in the same way cruise lines handle alcohol consumption, you could face security consequences if you’re not in control of yourself when you board the ship. And, of course, you don’t want to be the person who misses “all aboard” because you over indulged.

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This story was originally published April 23, 2023, 5:00 AM.

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