Cruise Lines Have Zero Tolerance Policy on Marijuana, Illegal Drugs and Banned Substances

drugs on cruise ship legalRecent cruise ship news headlines have featured drug busts.

Remember the two British senior citizens who were smuggling roughly 20 pounds of cocaine on a Marco Polo cruise ship around the Caribbean? Or the 14 passengers who were waiting to board a cruise ship in Port Canaveral, Florida when they were arrested for alleged possession of illicit drugs?

As you can imagine, illegal contraband of any kind is prohibited on cruise ships – even marijuana.

For example, in the cruise ship passenger ticket that must be signed by passengers embarking on a Carnival Cruise vacation, the contract states:

In accordance with Carnival’s Smoking Policy any marijuana possession or use is strictly prohibited on all Carnival ships at all times, regardless of local, state, or other laws which might permit use or possession of marijuana. Carnival abides by U.S. Federal Law which prohibits the possession or use of marijuana on its ships for any reason. Any Guest who brings marijuana or any illegal controlled substances on board, in violation of Carnival’s policy or U.S. or international law, including any law of a port or the flag state, will be reported to local and/or Federal authorities and U.S. Customs & Border Protection for possible detainment and/or enforcement action. You can read the entire passage of the contract here.

The 14 passengers arrested in Port Canaveral were hoping to enjoy an electric dance party cruise aboard Norwegian when they were detained. Norwegian, like other major cruise lines features a “zero tolerance policy” regarding drug possession and use.

In a statement, vessel operator Norwegian Cruise Lines emphasized that it does not permit illicit substances on board.

“We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to prohibited items aboard our ships, within our terminals, or at our destinations,” NCL said. “Along with the organizers of the event, we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement to ensure the welfare of all guests attending the festival.”

Should you take illegal drugs onto a cruise ship? Certainly not.

As stated on, “when you are on a ship, you are under the laws of the country the ship is registered in. In the passenger contract you signed, the cruise line’s zero drug tolerance is included. If you are found with drugs, you will most likely be escorted off the ship at the next port.” If arrested, The U.S. Consulate is required to be notified of your international arrest and/or your conviction, you should “expect to be detained and interviewed by Customs and Border Control when you arrive back in the United States.”

Would drug charges require the help of a cruise ship attorney?

Perhaps. If you were charged with trafficking or possession of illegal, banned substances, you would likely need the help of an experienced lawyer who could provide a clear and thorough understanding of your rights and help outline a path forward for you. The details of an arrest and/or conviction would likely determine whether you needed the counsel of a cruise ship defense attorney with deep experience handling cruise ship cases and drug crime defense.