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Sneaking alcohol on a cruise: 5 reasons you shouldn’t do it even if you really want to

Nov. 30, 2022
6 min read
A young woman hides wine in a thermos under the guise of tea.
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One of the most commonly asked cruise questions is “How can I sneak alcohol on a cruise?” Enjoying a beer or pina colada by the pool, wine with dinner or a craft cocktail as a nightcap are quintessential cruise vacation pastimes — but the high cost of drinks on board can force budget travelers to consider alternatives. While most cruise lines allow you to carry on a bottle of wine or two, they also forbid passengers from bringing additional beer, liquor or other alcoholic beverages on board.

These policies, while understandable from a business perspective, have led to a black market of sorts, where cruisers purchase contraptions to sneak alcohol onto a cruise ship, either on their person or in containers hiding their true contents. It’s an arms race between creative cruisers looking for illegal ways to smuggle booze and the security teams on board and in port who are deputized to seek and destroy contraband alcohol.

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If you are tempted to sneak alcohol onto a cruise, TPG highly encourages you to rethink your plan and to follow the cruise line rules. Not only is rule-breaking frowned upon, but there are consequences if you get caught. Here are five reasons you might want to skip trying to sneak alcohol onto your next cruise.

Your alcohol will be confiscated

If you are caught smuggling booze on board, port and cruise security staff members have the right to remove the alcohol from your possession, and they don’t have to give it back.

“Any hard liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic beverage, and non-alcoholic beverages, outside of the exceptions referenced above, are strictly prohibited (in both carry-on and checked luggage) and such items will be confiscated and discarded, and no compensation will be provided,” states Carnival Cruise Line’s contract of carriage, the rules all passengers agree to follow when they book a cruise.

Related: Can I bring alcohol on a cruise ship? A line-by-line guide

Royal Caribbean has a similar policy. “Security may inspect containers (water bottles, soda bottles, mouthwash, luggage etc.) and will dispose of containers holding alcohol,” the line’s online FAQs make clear.

Get caught — and yes, security staff knows where cruisers like to hide their liquor — and your attempt at saving money might become a waste of money if you never see your alcohol again.

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You’ll be called out

Travelers who are brazen enough to flout the rules might not mind being called to account for their misdeeds, but know that it will happen. If your contraband alcohol is discovered on board the ship (rather than at port security), you might get called down to a crew area to ‘fess up to your rule infractions and receive a lecture on the ship’s alcohol policy.

“If your luggage is locked, the lock may be removed by security or, alternatively, the luggage will be held by security until you can be present for an inspection and any items in question further identified and/or surrendered,” states Princess Cruises’ passenger contract.

Don’t want to be embarrassed or shamed should you get caught? Follow the rules and don’t try to sneak more drinks on board than you’re allowed.

You’ll miss out on the bar scene

JIM HUGHES/NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

The fun part of drinking on a cruise ship is checking out all the different bars, sampling classic and craft cocktails and bantering with the bartender or other patrons. If you plan to only drink your own smuggled-in booze, you’ll be relegated to toasting your buddies in your cabin or slinking around dark corners of the ship with a flask. Don’t miss out on the best cruise nightlife simply because you don’t want to pay cruise ship prices for drinks.

Related: 15 best cruise ship bars

You could get kicked off the ship

On a more serious note, smuggling alcohol on board a cruise ship can get you booted off it. This especially applies to minors who get caught sneaking on alcoholic beverages to partake in some underage drinking, or adults who sneak liquor to cruisers under the legal drinking age.

“Guests who violate any alcohol policies (over consume, provide alcohol to people under age 21, demonstrate irresponsible behavior, or attempt to conceal alcoholic items at security and or luggage check points or any other time) may be disembarked or not allowed to board, at their own expense,” reads Royal Caribbean’s online FAQs.

You do not want to risk ruining your long-awaited vacation and losing all the money you invested in a cruise just for a couple of drinks.

Related: 6 cruise mistakes that will ruin your vacation in an instant

You’ll miss out on the best beverage package prices

It is likely that your attempts at sneaking alcohol on a cruise will fail — or you simply can’t carry enough liquor to last a week. Inevitably, you’ll end up buying some drinks on the ship, maybe even a drinks package. Your lack of forethought will cost you because you’ve missed out on the best time to buy a cruise line beverage package.

Many lines discount drinks packages purchased online in advance of the cruise ship’s departure. Once on board, prices go up. If you plan on drinking a lot, your best bet is not to smuggle alcohol on board but to sign up for an inclusive beverage package while you can still get a pre-cruise discount.

Bottom line

Drinking on cruise ships is not an inexpensive pastime, and on the cheapest sailings, you might spend as much on alcohol as you did on your cruise fare. However, the risks of sneaking alcohol on board are greater than the possible benefits — especially since the likelihood of getting caught and having your contraband confiscated are high. Play by the rules and you may be out a few more bucks — but it’s worth it to enjoy all a cruise ship has to offer without stressing about getting caught and possibly disembarked.

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Featured image by VYACHESLAV DUMCHEV/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
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10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
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    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

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  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

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  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees