Drugs Dogs At Cruise Ports & On Ships: What You Need To Know



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Whether you were hoping to sneak drugs onto your cruise with you (don’t…) or you’ve got a phobia of dogs, you might want to know more about whether cruise ships and cruise ports use dogs to check for drugs on a regular basis.

Dogs are some of the best tools that police and port authorities have for finding drugs – so how widely used are they?

drug dogs at cruise ports and on ships

In this guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about drugs sniffing dogs and cruises.

Are there drug dogs at cruise ports?

Drug dogs are used at some cruise ports, but not all. They are most commonly seen at ports in the US, Mexico, the Caribbean and Australia, but in Europe and Asia, they don’t tend to be used very often.

Typically sniffer dogs don’t tend to go near passengers though, they are more used for luggage. If the port authorities suspect that someone is carrying drugs then they may do a walk around with one of the dogs, but usually, the dogs are left to check bags instead.

drug dogs at cruise ports

That’s good news if you’re travelling with someone who is scared of dogs, but don’t assume that means you can get drugs onto the ship by carrying them on your person. If you’re found carrying drugs at the port, you’ll have them confiscated without reimbursement. And if it’s something harder than medical marijuana, expect to be arrested, and you won’t be boarding the ship.

Read more: The Things You Can & Can’t Take On A Cruise Ship

Are there drug dogs on cruise ships?

Drug dogs are not kept on ships, but if a passenger is suspected of having brought drugs onto a ship then some cruise lines will bring drug sniffer dogs onboard to help find the passenger in question. Random searches of the ship can also be used on some occasions.

There may be times when someone successfully brings weed onto their cruise ship and thinks they can then get away with smoking it in their cabin, or more likely on their balcony. But usually, someone can still smell it – whether that’s a crew member or a concerned passenger.

When that happens and it is reported, the cruise line may bring drug dogs onto the ship at the next possible port to find the culprit and make sure the drugs are removed, and the passenger potentially disembarked.

drug dogs at cruise port next to Queen Elizabeth cruise ship

But drug dogs don’t sail on the ships – they would only be brought onboard for a quick search while at a port. Once they’d identified a room, the guest would then be able to admit to the drugs or have their room searched by the dog and handler.

dug dog on cruise ship

Read more: Do Cruise Ships Have Police? How Crime is Dealt With at Sea

Does Carnival Cruise Line use drug dogs?

Carnival Cruise Line is one of the cruise lines that frequently uses narcotics-sniffing dogs to identify passengers trying to sneak drugs onto their cruise ship. The dogs are mentioned in the cruise line’s policy, including potential searches at foreign ports.

@bleach_boss Carnival cruise now uses trained dogs #carnivalvalor #carnival #cruise #cruiselife #germanshepherd #workingdog #policedogs #canine #security @carnival ♬ Hard Work – U.S. Drill Sergeant Field Recordings

Carnival won’t just search guests at their home port – many cruises go to places where drugs can be bought in the port, and so the cruise line works with port authorities in these destinations to find anyone breaking the rules.

drug dog sitting beside security officer

According to the cruise line’s policy, anyone found with illegal drugs will be denied boarding and won’t be offered any compensation or refunds, and the local authorities may also carry out other actions.

Carnival will scale its use of narcotics-sniffing dogs up and down, depending on the likelihood of drugs being used. The cruise line has stated that it brings more dogs into ports for Spring Break in the US and that random searches may be carried out.

And in 2023, the company reiterated its stance on drugs and committed to using sniffer dogs more.

According to Captain Andrea Catalani, “We are employing narcotic dogs in various locations. So, if you see Cucciolo or one of his colleagues at the terminal, at the destination port, or onboard, please do not interfere.”

Here’s a photo of Carnival ambassador John Heald with one of the working dogs on board Carnival Horizon…

Does Royal Caribbean have drug dogs?

Royal Caribbean does sometimes use drug dogs to identify passengers carrying illegal substances. The dogs may be used at the home port, foreign ports or on the ship if someone is suspected of possessing drugs.

Royal Caribbean’s Guest Conduct Policy clearly states that drugs are not permitted on the ship and that guests will be reported to local authorities, and may be prohibited from reboarding the ship. While the policy doesn’t mention dogs specifically, there has been evidence of the line using dogs from local ports.

Does Port Canaveral have drug dogs?

Port Canaveral does use drug-sniffing dogs to identify passengers who may be carrying illegal narcotics on them before they sail. US Customs and Border Patrol work with the port authorities to carry out checks using sniffer dogs to make sure drugs are not taken on cruises.

“In the past the sheriffs office has made many busts at the cruise terminal .They had even arrested 24 people going on a edm cruise”
Source: Reddit.com

It’s not just a scare tactic made up to stop people bringing drugs onboard – luggage and people can be checked by drug sniffer dogs at Port Canaveral and arrests have been made in the past.

drug sniffer dog

Does Miami cruise port have drug dogs?

The Port of Miami does use drug dogs to check passengers’ luggage and, if someone is suspected of carrying drugs, the dogs may walk down the line of passengers in the terminal. Anyone attempting to smuggle drugs on board at Miami will be arrested.

“Dogs go past your checked bags in the terminal before and after the cruise. Dogs also run through the line of people quite often sniffing at shoulder bags, backpacks, purses. If you are stupid enough to try to smuggle drugs on an international cruise going in and out of Miami...which is one of the strictest jurisdictions in the country...wow, just wow.”
Source: Reddit.com

American ports are typically very strict on checking for drugs, so don’t take the risk. Miami will often check you, and you have a high likelihood of getting caught.

Final word

You might think that you can sneak drugs onto a cruise, but if you’re at a port where there are sniffer dogs being utilised, you may be in for a lot of trouble. And even if you got the drugs past the checks at your embarkation port, you could be searched on the ship if you raise suspicion.

Don’t risk taking drugs onto your cruise – if the dogs catch you, you face massive financial losses (no cruise refund!) and you could end up in jail. It’s not worth it.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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