Are There Bed Bugs on Cruise Ships?

Bed bugs frequently affect people going on vacation. Whether they’re in hotels or cruise liners, many holiday-makers have stories of bed bugs ruining their time abroad.

Bed bugs can infest the beds, bedding, and furniture on cruise liners. People unintentionally bring them on board in their luggage, and they spread. You can avoid them with simple steps, like checking and laundering your luggage. However, there are few reports of infestations as cruise lines take bed bug prevention seriously.

You shouldn’t let worries about bed bugs put you off taking a luxury cruise. We explain everything from the latest news stories, to how to protect against bed bugs on cruises.

How Common are Bed Bugs on Cruise Ships?

Bed bugs infest any place where they have access to hosts for feeding. Hotels and hostels, airplanes, and even hospitals have been known to harbor them. In these places, they encounter people that are still for long periods of time, either sleeping or resting.

They infest anywhere that people pass through. The more people in an area, the more likely they will accidentally bring a pregnant female bed bug with them. That’s why hotels have a terrible problem.

So, how common are bed bugs on cruise ships? There’s no exact answer. Neither cruise liners nor pest controllers release figures for the entire industry.

From the number of news stories and reviews that claim bed bug issues, it’s not a widespread issue. It’s certainly not as widespread as the issue of bed bugs in hotels, for example.

Even so, you should be aware that there may be some on your cruise. Taking basic precautions won’t do any harm, and won’t spoil your enjoyment of your cruise.

How Do Bed Bugs Get on Cruises?

Bed bugs get on cruises through hiding in people’s luggage. When a bed bug is hungry or wants to lay eggs somewhere new, they hide in bags and clothes. From here, the person will accidentally take them somewhere new. The bug will then hide in their new home.

Significant infestations start when an egg-laying female gets on board. These females can lay eggs for weeks after mating only once. She can lay dozens of eggs. From there, the infestation can become out of control.

News Stories About Bed Bugs on Cruise Ships

One case highlighted on, a site dedicated to cruise liner news, was shocking. The story relates to a couple that stayed aboard the Queen Mary, a cruise liner that now operates as a hotel. The couple recently filed a lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Rosemarie Libertelli “was bitten throughout her body, including but not limited to her face, ears, neck, hands, fingers, arms and back.” Her husband, Joseph, “also sustained bedbug bites all over his body.”

what cruise ships have had bed bugs?

While this is bad enough as it is, Rosemarie had to be hospitalized due to an allergic reaction to the bites. Like other kinds of an allergic reaction, this is a life-threatening situation. However, the Queen Mary isn’t operated as a usual cruise liner, so this story may not apply.

Cruise review websites like CruiseCritic indicate that bed bugs are a problem, too. The linked example includes pictures and a story that shows a severe bug issue. To state definitively that it was bed bugs, though, you would need a professional’s opinion.

To be clear, it is NOT just Royal Carribean cruises that are affected. Lots of other cruise liners have similar reviews. So, this is something that happens, even if it’s unclear how often it happens.

What Cruise Ships Have Bed Bugs?

There’s NO one company that’s known for having bed bugs or pest infestations. None of them are renowned for infestations. Each liner takes hygiene very seriously, and has the money to treat infestations as they arise.

Rather than being a problem with one or two liners, bed bugs on cruise ships are rare. As such, if and when they do occur, they are isolated cases. There is no cruise liner to avoid.

How to Protect Against Bed Bugs on Cruises

It’s challenging to avoid places with infestations. But you know how to protect against bed bugs on cruises, they won’t prove to be a problem.

Below is a step-by-step guide. It details everything you need to know, from before you leave the house, to how to check for bed bugs, and what to do when you get home.

1) Prepare Your House

Before you leave, you should prepare your house for your return. The idea is to fit your house so that any bed bugs you do bring back can’t start an infestation.

The best bed bug measure you can take is to buy interceptors. These fit around the feet of your bed, and can also fit around furniture legs. Bed bugs can climb in, but not climb out. Tropical bed bugs may escape them, so fill them with a small amount of water if possible.

You could also get a mattress encasement. These are like impermeable sheets that fit around a mattress. They zip up and enclose the mattress completely. They mean that no bed bugs can get in or out, preventing infestations.

2) Pack Light to Avoid Bed Bugs

The more bags you bring, the more likely it is that bed bugs will infest them. Bed bugs don’t live on people, but in their surroundings and personal belongings. So if you bring them home, they won’t be on you, but in your suitcases and bags.

Some liners have laundry rooms and dry cleaning services. If your cruise does, then you won’t need to pack as many clothes, as you can launder some of them. This will cut down on the number of bags you’ll need, especially on a long cruise.

You could also cut down on the amount of entertainment you bring. Cruise liners have onboard entertainment, from cinemas and TVs to pools, Jacuzzis, live shows and more. You may find that you pack your laptop, and don’t use it once. Bed bugs can infest electronics.

Of course, you can’t only go with the clothes on your back. You’re free to take as many suitcases as you like. But if you do want to take lots of things with you, be aware this could make bed bugs easier to catch.

3) How to Check for Bed Bugs on Your Cruise

When you board your cruise, you have to check for bed bugs. When you reach your cabin, be aware that there are two places they could hide. These are your bed and any bedside furniture.

  • Take the pillow and remove any pillowcases if applicable.
  • Take any sheet off the mattress. Check the sheet for stains.
  • Check the mattress for signs of bed bugs. Take special care to look at the fabric piping around the edge, or any buttons and zips they could hide under.
  • Flip the mattress and check underneath it.
  • Check the bed frame. Pay attention to any joints and cracks they could hide in.
  • Check nearby furniture. Look inside and behind drawers. Again, look for any cracks or joins they can hide in.
  • Look underneath the furniture.

You are looking for several things. These are the bed bugs themselves, old bed bug shells, bed bug feces, and bed bug eggs.

They may be elsewhere on the cruise, e.g., on upholstered furniture. While you shouldn’t allow them to ruin your trip, remain aware that you could catch them from couches or similar furniture too.

In the event you find some, report them to the cruise company in charge of the ship. They will allow you to switch rooms. If they don’t, you could sue. Repeat the checking process in your new room (don’t take their word for the room being bed bug-free).

4) Keep Your Bags Closed

The best way to stop your suitcases from getting infested is to keep them closed. Say, for example, that you left your suitcase unzipped, on top of your bed. Any bed bugs searching for a new place to hide, one that smells like people, could find it in an instant.

Keeping your bags shut prevents that. The only issue is if you have pockets on the outside of your bag. If these have zips, keep them zipped.

If there’s no way to close these pockets, you could keep your suitcase in a large, disposable garbage bag. By wrapping it up, you would stop bed bugs from even getting near it.

5) Bag Your Clothes to Prevent Bed Bugs

Throughout your break, you get through all your clothes. Because a vacation is time off, you may leave your clothes on the floor or the bed. You shouldn’t do this.

Bed bugs are attracted to things that smell like people. When you leave your clothes in places that they can find them, they may hide inside. When you later pack your clothes away, they may have bed bugs inside. When you unpack, you release them into your home.

how common are bed bugs on cruise ships?

Instead, you should bag your dirty clothes as soon as you’re done with them. This means the bugs won’t have a chance to be attracted to them, or infest them. Tie the bag at the top in such a way that you can re-open it, but nothing can get in or out. You may also want to double-bag to prevent tears.

Bagging your clothes has an added benefit. It means the bugs can’t smell them. They won’t be attracted to your luggage.

If possible, you should store this bag inside one of your suitcases. This will prevent any smell from getting out of the bag.

6) Can You Do Laundry on a Cruise Liner?

Some cruise liners have self-service laundry rooms that you can use. They may even provide you with detergent and ironing facilities. If they do, you can use these to help prevent bed bug infestations.

Before you head home, wash all the clothes that you’ve bagged up. Once laundered, put them into a new bag to take home in. This will prevent infestation, or re-infestation. Store them safely back in your suitcase before your journey.

Dry cleaning may be an option, but it isn’t an effective anti-bed bug tool. The process may kill them, but after the clothes are cleaned, they are placed with lots of other clothes. Here they may become re-infested.

It’s better to rely on your own judgment and care, even if it may take longer.

7) How to Check Your Suitcases for Bed Bugs

Before you leave, check your suitcases for bed bugs. These checks are simple, but can be time-consuming, depending on how many things you’ve brought.

You don’t need to check your clothes if you’ve kept them bagged up. But you should check the rest of your belongings. Here’s how to check your suitcase step by step:

  • Set yourself up somewhere that the bed bugs can’t easily infest your house from. Ideally, pick the yard. Failing that, choose the garage.
  • Take each item out of the suitcase. Have a good look at each thing to look for bed bugs, eggs, shells, or feces.
  • Put each item that isn’t infested in a sealed bag or box, ready to take indoors.
  • If you find infested items, bag and seal them separately.

Given that you’ve followed the steps above, it’s unlikely that there will be any bed bugs or eggs. But if there are, and you find them now, don’t worry.

You’ve likely caught them all. And if you haven’t, the interceptors and encasement you’re using will prevent them from infesting your things.

8) Bed Bug Quarantine After a Vacation

Quarantine involves preventing anything unwanted from the outside from getting inside. You check your belongings and treat them to prevent infestation.

When you get home, take the laundry bag straight to the washing machine. Open the bag directly inside. Don’t open it anywhere else in the house, e.g., to check for something.

You should also change out of your outdoor clothes. Launder these, too. This prevents any bugs that may be hiding in your pockets or hems from infesting your home.

Don’t take your luggage to your room, and don’t put your luggage on any furniture. Doing so would help the bugs bypass the interceptors you set up.

The steps above are set out so that while they are effective, they shouldn’t inconvenience you too much. Bed bugs are not a significant problem on cruises, unlike how they are in hotels. You can enjoy your vacation without worrying too much.

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Lou Carter

Hi, I'm Lou. I’ve long been fascinated by bed bugs, ever since a friend’s life was turned upside down. That’s why I’ve put together this specialist site. You’ll find detailed answers to all of your questions on how to get rid of a bed bug infestation. I hope you find it useful!

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