How to Sneak Alcohol on a Cruise (Without Getting Caught)

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A passenger sneaking alcohol on a cruise ship in their luggage

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Many passengers try to sneak alcohol on a cruise to save money. Drinks on most cruise lines are more expensive than at your local bar, and the drink package isn’t worth it unless you plan to drink 6-10 alcoholic beverages daily.

Most cruise lines allow guests to bring alcohol on the ship, but it’s usually restricted to a bottle or two of wine.

Sneaking alcohol onboard is against cruise line policies. Passengers caught may have the beverages confiscated or may be removed from the ship – talk about ending a vacation before it starts.

While we don’t recommend sneaking prohibited items onto a cruise ship, there are several ways passengers have successfully brought alcohol on board the vessel.

Disclaimer: I’ve never smuggled alcohol onto a cruise ship. And this article is not an encouragement for you to try it either. We always recommend following the cruise line’s alcohol policies for a smooth and stress-free vacation. The article below is for educational purposes only.

Why You Should Never Sneak Alcohol on a Crusie Ship

A passenger sneaking alcohol on a cruise ship in their luggagePin

It’s never a good idea to try smuggling alcohol on a cruise ship. Not only will cruise lines confiscate your bottles but you may be denied boarding. Getting caught is a great way to end your cruise vacation before it begins.

As stealthy as you think you are, cruise lines know all the popular hiding spots.

Here are three reasons why you should never sneak alcohol on a cruise ship:

  1. Your alcohol will be confiscated
  2. You could get kicked off the ship
  3. Getting caught is embarrassing

The x-ray scanners at the terminal can detect liquid in your bags and luggage. And security is very good at locating prohibited items.

On most cruise lines, you can bring alcohol on a cruise ship, usually one or two bottles of wine or champagne. But many guests try to circumvent the rules and bring additional bottles against the cruise line rules. The rules vary by cruise line, so it’s a good idea to check with your line before embarkation.

Security screening at a cruise port terminal with metal detectors and baggage screeningPin

If the cruise line catches you smuggling alcohol on the ship, the prohibited items are confiscated by security. Cruise lines have the right to remove prohibited items, and they don’t have to give them back. Getting caught sneaking drinks on board a cruise is a great way to lose money on wasted alcohol.

If you still need convincing that this is a bad idea, some cruise lines may remove passengers from the ship if caught with prohibited items. Removal of passengers especially applies to minors who try to sneak alcohol onboard.

It’s never a good idea to sneak alcohol on a cruise ship, especially if you’re not of legal drinking age.

Losing your vacation and the money spent on the cruise is not worth the hassle of a few drinks.

How to Sneak Alcohol on a Cruise

A yellow and blue luggage bag at the cruise terminalPin

There’s no foolproof way to sneak alcohol on a cruise. But it is possible.

According to passengers who’ve successfully smuggled alcohol, the most effective methods involve keeping the alcohol on your person or swapping the liquid in other permitted bottles.

By keeping the alcohol on your person, the alcohol won’t pass through x-ray scanners and is less likely to be detected. But there’s always the risk of security patting you down and discovering the contraband.

While keeping alcohol on your body is effective, the amount you can carry is limited. You’ll only be able to carry as much as you can conceal while keeping it hidden beneath your clothes.

The most popular way people sneak alcohol onto the ship is by replacing the liquid in permitted bottles with alcohol. 

The thought is that by swapping alcohol into shampoo, mouthwash, and other permitted items, security is less likely to take notice. 

However, security may open bottles if they have suspicions about your luggage contents.

Here’s how to sneak alcohol on a cruise:

1. Shampoo Bottles

A woman putting travel sized shampoo bottles in her luggagePin

Shampoo bottles are one of the most popular containers passengers use to smuggle alcohol on ships.

The biggest issue with using a shampoo bottle is getting the bottle clean enough not to affect the taste of your booze. The awkward shape of the bottle makes it difficult to clean. No matter how hard you try, you’ll always have shampoo residue on the sides of the bottle.

2. Mouthwash Bottles

A person pouring mouthwash into a small cupPin

Compared to shampoo bottles, mouthwash containers are much easier to clean. And they come in larger sizes.

Keep in mind bringing a 32oz bottle of mouthwash on a 3-day cruise may arouse suspicion.

Though clever, cruise ship security is familiar with the mouthwash trick. If the security guard sees a large bottle of mouthwash through the scanner, they’ll open it to see what’s inside.

3. Wine Bottles

A passenger sneaking alcohol on a cruise ship in their luggagePin

Smuggling alcohol in a bottle of wine? Isn’t that a bit obvious?

Hear us out.

Most cruise lines allow guests to bring a sealed bottle or two of wine or champagne in their carry-on during embarkation. To get more of their money worth, many people replace the wine with hard liquor and reseal the wine bottle.

While security will open a suspicious bottle of shampoo or mouthwash, they are far less likely to uncork a bottle of wine or champagne to check the contents.

For this trick to work, you’ll need to ensure that the bottle is perfectly resealed. If the bottle looks like it’s been opened, it won’t be allowed on board.

4. Rum Runners

Two rum runners used to sneak alcohol on a cruise shipPin

Reading the cruise forums, you’ll find hundreds of passengers who’ve succeeded in using rum runners to sneak alcohol on cruise ships. A rum runner is a small bag or plastic flask container to smuggle alcohol on cruise ships.

The liquid appears dark on an X-ray. And dark bottle shapes are easy to spot.

The idea behind rum runners is that their unusual shape won’t arouse suspicion while passing through the security scanners. Because the alcohol won’t have the shape of a bottle, it’s more likely to go unnoticed.

Because of their popularity, many cruise lines are learning to spot rum runners hidden in luggage.

5. Refillable Water Bottle

A carry on bag with a refillable water bottle and bamboo toothbrushPin

Talk about hiding in plain sight. Many passengers have had success putting alcohol in refillable water bottles. Refillable water bottles are a common item on cruise ship packing lists, and many people fill them with water in case they get thirsty during embarkation.

By filling your water bottle with booze, it’s hiding in plain site and unlikely to be noticed.

While many guests have had success with this trick, I have had my own water bottle contents inspected by security. If I were trying to sneak alcohol on the ship, I definitely would’ve been caught.

What Happens If you Get Caught Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise?

If cruise line security catches you sneaking alcohol on a cruise, they will confiscate the bottles. Cruise lines have the right to confiscate prohibited items, which may not be returned at the end of the cruise. You may be denied boarding if caught sneaking alcohol or other prohibited items on the cruise ship.

Can Cruise Ship Scanners Detect Alcohol?

Cruise ship scanners can detect alcohol hidden in luggage. Any liquid appears dark on the security’s x-ray scanner. And the bottle-shaped outline is easy for security to identify.

Do Cruise Lines Check for Alcohol?

All cruise lines check for alcohol, drugs, and other prohibited items during embarkation and port visits. Cruise lines use x-ray scanners and metal detectors to ensure passengers don’t bring prohibited items onboard.

Can You Purchase Alcohol in Port?

Yes, you can purchase alcohol in port, but you can’t consume it on the ship. Any alcohol purchased in port is kept by the cruise ship until the day before you debark.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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