Smuggling Alcohol on a Cruise

Unless you are booked on one of the all inclusive cruises with alcohol included you could be staring down a big surprise when it comes time to settle up your cruise tab at the end of your voyage. With watered down cruise drink prices hovering around $7 a pop and beers running around $5 it adds up fast even for light drinkers. As a result many cruisers are left wondering if they can bring alcohol on a cruise ship in their luggage. More often than not that answer is basically – No. There are exceptions as you will see below. Since most cruise lines do not allow you to bring on beer or liquor, savvy cruisers have found countless ways to sneak alcohol on to a cruise ship. From the simple, just add it to your checked luggage, to the complex method of adding vodka to your mouthwash trick. They’ve tried it all. Some have been successful… others not so lucky.

In this post we will try and list out some of the main line alcohol policies and maybe even provide some of our favorite ways for smuggling alcohol on a cruise. These of course are just ways we’ve heard about… here at Cruise Legs we would never condone such cost saving strategies in these robust economic times…;) Besides if we did, the holier than thou formal night cruise police would get us.

Carnival Cruise Alcohol Policy
Drinking age on Carnival ships is 21 and they don’t appear to have any exceptions on European itineraries. The policy for bringing your own alcohol onboard is as follows:

Guests are prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages on board. However, at the beginning of the cruise during embarkation day, guests (21 years of age and older) may bring on board one bottle (750ml) of wine or champagne, per person, only in their carry-on luggage. A $10 corkage fee per bottle will be charged should you wish to consume this wine in the main dining room; $14 corkage fee per bottle in the steakhouse.

Norwegian Cruise Line Alcohol Policy
The official drinking age on Norwegian Cruises leaving from the United States is 21 but those 18 and over are allowed to purchase and consume alcohol with their parents consent. The parents must sign a “Young Adult Alcoholic Beverage Waiver” and this is not valid on cruises from Alaska or Hawaii. For cruises leaving from Europe the drinking age is only 18 and a parental consent is not needed.

As for bringing alcohol on board the policy from NCL is as follows:

Guests are allowed to bring wine or champagne onboard. These will be subject to a $15 corkage fee regardless of size. Wines that are not featured on NCL’s wine lists are subject to the corkage fee including wine sent directly to the ship by Travel Agents, friends, family, from another retail source, etc. The bottle will have a sticker or stamp placed on it showing that the fee was paid, and that the guest will be allowed to have the product onboard. This fee will be charged to the guest’s onboard account. Wines that come in boxes are not allowed onboard.

Disney Cruise Alcohol Policy
Finding the official policy from Disney is a tough nut to crack and I’m guessing that is because they surprisingly have one of the most liberal policies by allowing guest to bring liquor on board for consumption in their stateroom as long as it fits within their carry on luggage. I guess though I shouldn’t be too surprised considering they charge three times as much for a Disney cruise. If you can afford to take one of these cruises you probably aren’t too concerned about onboard drink prices. Do note however that the drinking age on all ships and itineraries is 21.

Princess Alcohol Policy
As a sister cruise line to Carnival the drinking age and alcohol allowance is the same as Carnival above. You must be 21 to drink on all ships including Europe and you can only bring one bottle of wine or Champagne in your carry on luggage which will be subject to a corkage fee.

Royal Caribbean Alcohol Policy
The drinking age on all Royal Caribbean ships is 21 but for South American and European cruises parents are allowed to sign a waiver for children between the age of 18-20 which allows them to drink onboard the ship. In another surprising move Royal Caribbean takes possible the harshest stance on bringing alcohol onboard by not allowing alcohol of any kind including wine or liquor. The official policy is as follows (note the disembarkation clause):

Guests are not allowed to bring alcoholic beverages onboard for consumption or any other use. Alcoholic beverages that are purchased in ports of call or from onboard shops will be stored by the ship and delivered to guest staterooms on the last day of the sailing. Security may inspect containers (water bottles, soda bottles, mouthwash, luggage etc.) and will dispose of containers holding alcohol. Royal Caribbean’s Guest Conduct Policy may be enforced, up to and including disembarkation, if a guest violates any alcohol policy. Guests under the age of 21 will not have alcohol returned to them.

Rum Runner Cruise Kit

Best Way to Sneak Alcohol on a Cruise
Because cruise lines make a large portion of their revenues from onboard consumption of alcohol they have started to really crack down on those smuggling alcohol onto cruise ships. I’ve yet to hear of anyone not being allowed to cruise for trying but plenty have had their booze confiscated and as noted in the above RCL policy… they can kick you off the ship. Also noted in that policy is the admission that they are on to the mouthwash and water bottle trick so… you’ve been warned.

That being said the most effective method for getting alcohol on to a cruise seems to be the Rum Runner Cruise Kit I’ve only read a couple of cases where people were caught with these and that was because they had something else in the same luggage that triggered a check or their bag was subject to a random check procedure. Sometimes you just get unlucky. If we here at Cruise Legs were to ever use something like the Rum Runners we might be inclined to say something like… “worked like a charm”. But since the cruise policy police are lurking we will just let you try them out.

Celebrity Cruise Lines Beverage Package
If you aren’t a fan of sneaking alcohol on to a cruise ship then Celebrity Cruise Lines comes to the rescue for the serious drinkers with the two new all inclusive cruise packages including alcohol. The Classic Package cost $44 a day and includes beers up to $5 and wines and spirits up to $8. For $10 more a day ($54) you can upgrade to the Premium package that includes all available beers and wine and spirits up to $12.

Let’s go ahead and do the math for a seven day cruise to see if it’s worth it or not…

Classic Package

  • $44 x 7 days = $308
  • $308/$5 Beers = 61 beers ( about 9 beers a day)
  • $308/$8 Drinks = 38 drinks ( 5.5 drinks a day)

Premium Package

  • $54 x 7 days = $378
  • $378/$7 Beers = 54 beers ( about 8 beers a day)
  • $378/$12 Drinks = 31 drinks (4.5 drinks a day)

The above numbers are the break even amounts that you would need to drink on a seven day cruise to make these packages worth the price. I personally couldn’t pound back 9 beers a day on a cruise so these don’t look like very good deals for the beer drinker but 4 or 5 glasses of wine or even a few cocktails a day are very doable. So for the wine and spirit lovers this isn’t a bad deal at all and it looks like your best bet is to go with the Premium Package for a faster break even.

Don’t worry beer drinkers… I’m sure you guys can get creative… and say… split a package with a buddy. Just don’t let the cruise policy police catch wind of it. They are always lurking around blogs and message boards.

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