How to sneak booze upon a cruise ship is still the most common question we ever get, by email and in our forums, most often by first-time cruisers. Why shouldn't they ask? A cruise ship is little more than a floating hotel and you can bring your own liquor there. Well, we plan to give you the whole story because we know you will find it anyway, and we prefer that you read it where you can get the complete picture beyond "how" to do it.
Cruise ships are different from hotels - they are also nightclubs which do not allow you to bring your own liquor. Still, some lines do allow a limited amount of alcohol brought onboard, such as one bottle of wine per person. You can see our entire list of alcohol policies by cruise lines here.
Still, every cruise line will x-ray your luggage for security purposes and confiscate anything that appears as an unauthorized bottle of liquor. Some cruise lines will even check your water bottle to make sure it isn't vodka and your Listerine bottle to make sure it isn't crème de menthe. Most will give any liquor found in luggage back to you at the end of the cruise, if you insist.
While sneaking liquor into all kinds of places is a commonly accepted pastime; church picnics, nightclubs, sporting events, your senior prom... In fact, sneaking booze onto cruise ships is not a great idea. It often leads to the kind of undesirable results that happen when you drink too much.
But if you found this article by doing a search on Google we know you are going to find out what you want to know anyway, so rest assured we will give you the full low down and dirty on cruise ship alcohol procedures and policies. We already know how easy it is to find this information.
Google has an "auto-suggest" feature to complete what you are about to type. If you type in "smuggle liquor onto a crui..." the suggested phrase "how to smuggle liquor onto a cruise ship" pops right up. Even Google has it memorized and that's how easy it is, so let's click on that and see what we find - I'm feeling lucky.
In fact Google has nearly two full pages of listings on how to sneak liquor onto a cruise ship. The first listing reads like this:
1. How to Smuggle Forbidden Booze Onto a Cruise ShipFirst, you need a non-obvious vessel. A bottle of water will not do, because they may confiscate unsealed water bottles.
This web site knows one of the more common tricks, but not foolproof. They take a bottle of golden colored mouthwash, rinse it out and replace the contents with a clear spirit such as vodka or gin. Next they add yellow food coloring until it is the right shade. The author recommends eight drops and some mild shaking and you have just saved $150 in drinks - according to the author.
In the comments section below one person calls the author a dips**t and a probable alcoholic. Another person asks "Do you really think the security doesn't realize that is far more mouthwash than one needs for a single trip?" But does a cruise line really have the right to tell you not to bring booze onto a cruise ship?
Yes, they do - just like nightclubs, football stadiums, rock 'n roll concerts, casinos, college dorms and high school proms. You do not have a constitutional right to drink just because you are a paying guest. Nightclubs are in the business of being the sole supplier of liquor on the premises. The same is true of cruise ships.
There are also articles on how to sneak alcohol into those other places. Moving past the "how to smuggle booze onto a cruise ship" listings we saw an article called "10 Ways to Smuggle Booze into Events." This shows various hollow flasks disguised as commonly carried objects you can buy.
One is called "The Wine Rack" which fits under a lady's bra. Combined with a loose fitting shirt this "rack" can carry quite a bit of booze. A similar device called "The beer belly" fits under a man's shirts. It makes you look a little tubby but unlike the real thing it's a lot easier to take the weight off.
There are hollow canes, shoes, fake cell phones and more. There is the "Dear Diary" which is nothing more than a hollowed out book. The beauty of making it look like a diary is that it has a lock on it, and what kind of inspector would break into your personal diary? But if you are looking to get enough booze onboard for an entire 7-day cruise you need to get your head in the game.
Another article addresses the entire Zen of cruise booze smuggling. There are six important steps in this article:
Step number one is purely about frame of mind. It says, "Remember, there are no consequences if you are caught." Well, that is not exactly true. I personally witnessed a cruise line thoroughly embarrassing a couple who had a bottle of tequila folded into their suitcase clothes. When it showed up on the x-ray the security screener asked the couple to get out of line, loudly announcing "Please stand aside while I call security to take the bottle of tequila in your luggage" in front of hundreds of people.
Time wasting embarrassment is a consequence to expect if you get caught. These people stood aside for 10 minutes while hundreds of people gave them the evil eye. The couple recovered nicely, though. The man said, "Oh, we just bought it on a trip to Mexico. We didn't know we weren't allowed to bring it on the ship." They weren't trying to smuggle anything - they were just on vacation in Mexico pre-cruise. Um, but the cruise was leaving from Miami.
What was the couple's mistake? Since the cruise lines x-ray your luggage you can't just stick a bottle of champagne, Courvoisier or any other immediately recognizable bottle of booze in your luggage. Look to specially made containers that don't appear as recognizable shapes. Also avoid all metal as it is clearly defined on an x-ray.
We are talking about seven days so size counts. One of the simplest, but not exactly most elegant solutions involves the boxes of wine you can buy in grocery stores. Now, the wine is not the greatest, but inside the box is a plastic bladder. This can be filled with anything, placed in your luggage and should not show up on an x-ray at all. If you are really cheap - you can drink the wine. Otherwise just pour it down the drain and keep the container to fill with your favorite booze.
Even better is a special bladder called the Rum Runner Flask that is clear plastic with no metal parts at all. They come in a number of sizes and quantities.
Okay - there it is. Now please let us put in our two cents. In reality, very few regular cruisers ever sneak alcohol onto a cruise ship. If you get caught you will be embarrassed at the very least, but even worse, we have heard too many stories about people who sneak alcohol onto ships getting far too drunk and into trouble. Cruise ships are not parties at sea, they are generally family oriented.
Many of the most famous stories of people getting into trouble on cruise ships involve smuggled alcohol although we won't go into the details here. If you break the ship rules while intoxicated you may have your cruise terminated at your own expense. Cruise ships have a zero tolerance policy for fist fights, for example.
Drinking a little alcohol is enjoyable, but getting so drunk you don't know where you are defeats the whole purpose of being on a cruise. You want to enjoy your trip, not suffer through a horrible headache the next day when landed in a beautiful port of call.
There are ways to drink inexpensively on cruise ships. You can buy the strongest beer onboard - Foster's Ale on Carnival Corp. ships and Royal Caribbean's own brew called Royal Belgian Ale. Many cruise lines (other than Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and NCL) allow you to bring one bottle of wine per person on board. You can buy "six packs" onboard all ships - a bucket of six beers on ice for the price of five.
Please drink responsibly on your cruise - have fun and don't overdo it. We promise you will have a much more memorable time.