How to sneak alcohol on a cruise ship

How to sneak alcohol on a cruise ship

18th April 2020 2 By Cruise Mummy
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The price of drinks on some cruise ships will be similar to your local pub, but on other cruises, the drinks prices can be pretty steep with $10 for a glass of wine being the norm. If you’re on a budget you may be tempted to try to sneak liquor on your cruise ship to save yourself some money.

Sneaking booze on a cruise is strictly prohibited. However, a study by showed that 19% of passengers admitted to smuggling alcohol on to a cruise ship at least once.

You should know that there’s no foolproof way to sneak alcohol on a cruise. However, there are many different ways that people have tried.

The top 10 ways to sneak alcohol on a cruise:

  1. Shampoo bottles
  2. Mouthwash bottles
  3. Wine bottles
  4. Rum runners
  5. Tampon flasks
  6. Fake beer belly
  7. Wine rack bra
  8. Binocular flask
  9. Umbrella flask
  10. Wine handbag

Scroll down for more info on each of these methods…

Disclaimer: I have never smuggled drinks on a cruise myself and am in no way encouraging you to do it. I am just showing you how others have done it in the past so that you can make your own decisions about sneaking alcohol on-board.

Can you take alcohol on a cruise?

Before we start discussing the ins and outs of how to sneak booze on a cruise, it’s worth pointing out that many cruise lines allow you to bring a certain amount of alcohol on the ship.

The following table shows the alcohol allowance for each cruise line.

Cruise LineAlcohol allowance per passenger
CarnivalOne bottle of wine
CelebrityOne bottle of wine
CostaNot allowed
CunardOne bottle of wine
DisneyTwo bottles of wine or six beers
MSC CruisesNot allowed
NCLUnlimited wine – $15 fee per bottle
P&O CruisesOne litre of wine, Champagne, beer or spirit
Princess CruisesOne bottle of wine for free. ($15 per additional bottle)
Royal CaribbeanOne bottle of wine

Click here to read more about taking drinks on a cruise inclusing which cruise lines allow you to take water and other non-alcoholic drinks on-board.

The cruise line with the most generous policy on bringing your own drinks on-board is P&O Cruises, who allow you to bring up to one litre of spirits per passenger plus unlimited mixers. P&O Cruises also have the best bar prices at sea so there’s really no need to try to sneak extra alcohol on-board.

Most cruise lines also offer drinks packages which can be great value for money. And wouldn’t you much rather have a freshly-made coctail than to try to sneak your own spirits into soft drinks?

Do cruise lines check for alcohol?

All cruise lines will check luggage for alcohol as well as drugs, weapons, irons, drones and other prohibited items during the embarkation process. They will check all checked and carry on luggage with scanners as well as manual spot checks.

Can cruise ship scanners detect alcohol

Cruise ship scanners usually have no problem in detecting alcohol hidden in luggage. Liquid appears dark on an x-ray and the shape of bottles are easy to detect.

If bottles, cans or other containers are detected on the x-ray scanner, port staff will open the bag to have a closer look.

Some cruise lines, including Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line prohibit all drinks including water (unless it’s needed for medical reasons) to be brought on-board. This speeds up the process of having to check every bottle to see if it’s water, soft drinks or alcohol.

10 ways to sneak alcohol on a cruise

There are many ways to smuggle alcohol on cruise ships. The best way to sneak alcohol on a cruise depends somewhat on the type of booze you wish to conceal (vodka is easier to hide than beer) and how much of it you want to bring.

To help you to work out how to disguise alcohol on a cruise, I’ve listed all the methods that cruisers have been known to use. These include home-made booze disguises and specially-designed alcohol bags for cruise ship use.

1. Shampoo bottles

Putting alcohol in shampoo bottles for cruise holidays sounds like an interesting idea, but it has many flaws. The first is that the design of shampoo bottles makes them very difficult to clean and so you’ll never fully get rid of all of the shampoo residue. This will make your drink taste horrible.

The second reason why you shouldn’t use a shampoo bottle to hide alcohol is that shampoo and conditioner bottles aren’t watertight. I once had a bottle of shower gel explode in my suitcase and it was messy. Imagine the same but with red wine. No thanks!

You can buy shampoo bottle flasks on Amazon which are made to conceal alcohol. These leak-proof bottles even include six ‘factory seals’ so that if a security guard opened the bottle they wouldn’t be able to smell the alcohol. Hidden alcohol bottles are also available to buy in the form of fake sunscreen bottles or deodorant cans.

2. Mouthwash bottles

Another of the popular things to hide alcohol in on a cruise has, for many years, been mouthwash bottles. Mouthwashes such as Listerine come in bottles of up to one litre. The idea is that you would add a clear spirit such as white rum, gin or vodka, and blue or green food colouring to make it look like mouthwash.

In reality, cruise port staff are familiar with this old hack and know that if they find a huge bottle of mouthwash it’s likely to be suspicious. Because who needs a litre of mouthwash on a one-week cruise?

The first thing they’ll do is open it and smell it to see what’s really inside.

3. Wine bottles

This is probably the most common way to sneak wine on a cruise. Most cruise lines allow you to bring one bottle of wine per person on-board. So what people do is they put one bottle of wine in their checked luggage and another in their carry on bag.

The bags are checked at different times by different people and it’s virtually impossible for cruise ship staff to match them up and see that you’ve brought more than the allowance.

As there’s no limit on how much luggage you can bring on a cruise ship (unless you also have to take a flight), you could easily bring two small cases per person, as well as some more cases for the kids.

One thing you do want to be wary of is wine bottles smashing in your checked luggage. If you are planning on putting glass bottles in there, you should always buy inflatable wine bottle protectors on Amazon.

4. Rum runners

Rum runners, also known as alcohol bags or plastic flasks are specially-made alcohol containers for cruises. Thousands of cruisers report having had success in using a rum runner to sneak alcohol on cruise ships.

You can buy rum runners on Amazon. They are essentially are reusable plastic bags which come with a funnel so that you can decant wine, vodka, tequila or any other liquor that you wish to bring on your cruise. Each one holds up to 32 oz (one litre) of liquid.

The idea behind alcohol bags is that on an x-ray they don’t look like a bottle so they won’t be detected when your bag is scanned. However, if your bag was manually checked for any other reason, it would be obvious what’s inside these booze bags.

5. Tampon flasks

If you’d like a virtually foolproof way to smuggle booze on a cruise, then tampon flasks may be it. These fake re-sealable tampon wrappers contain refillable mini flasks.

Even if someone had a really good rummage through your luggage, they’d be unlikely to open a tampon to check in there.

The downside to these is that each one only holds 1 oz (30ml) which is slightly larger than a single measure of spirits. Therefore you’d need a lot of tampons to cover a week-long cruise!

This product may be better for smuggling small amounts of booze into concerts or short events rather than a cruise.

6. Fake beer belly

An interesting method that may be used to hide alcohol when you embark your cruise ship is the ‘beer belly canteen‘. This polyurethane container looks like a beer belly when worn under clothing and holds up to 80 oz (2.3 litres) of booze.

This hidden liquor container certainly fits a lot of booze, with the equivalent of three bottles of wine. However, if you wear this you’ll certainly have to sacrifice looking good on your embarkation photos!

7. Wine rack bra

For women, there’s a similar version product to the fake belly, in the form of a bra, known as the ‘wine rack bra‘ which could actually boost your appearance, if that’s what you desire.

If you set off the x-ray scanner with something else, such as your watch, and called over for a pat-down, a wearable flask will easily be detected. As port staff won’t know whether you’re carrying booze or something much more dangerous, you’ll likely set alarm bells ringing and could get in serious trouble.

8. Binocular flask

Some of the things to hide alcohol in for cruise vacations are just genius. This binocular flask would be unlikely to show up as anything suspicious on an x-ray, and even with a manual search, it may go undetected.

Each side of the binoculars holds 8 oz (230ml) of liquor and it comes with a little funnel so that you can fill it up without spilling a drop. The two sides aren’t connected so you could have gin in one half and vodka in the other if you wish to create your own cocktails.

9. Umbrella flask

How about an umbrella for hiding alcohol for your cruise? This handy flask holds 9 oz (255 ml) of your favourote drink and is easy to pour out into your glass.

The BoozeBrella umbrella flask has bubble wrap under the cover so that it feels like an umbrella rather than a hard bottle.

This type of hidden container isn’t likely to be discovered, particularly on Northern European cruises where rain is likely. Take it to the Mediterranean in summer and it may seem slightly more suspicious!

10. Wine handbag

The PortoVino wine purse is a beach tote with a hidden, insulated compartment which holds two bottles of wine.

This stylish handbag comes with a secret zipper with an insulated pouch inside which keeps your wine cool for hours. This bag probably isn’t ideal for bringing booze onto a cruise ship as it may show up solid on the scanner when filled with liquor.

However, it could be an ideal way to enjoy wine from your room by the pool. Whilst some cruise ships allow you to bring your own wine on-board, you have to drink it in your room. With this device, you could fill your bag with chilled wine from your in-room refrigerator and sneakily pour it into a glass by the pool using the hidden tap.

Where to hide alcohol when you check-in

When you’ve decided what type of container to hide your liquor in, your next decision will be where to stash it. Your options are:

  • In your checked luggage
  • In your carry-on luggage
  • On your body

The best place to hide alcohol for a cruise is in your checked luggage. You can drop off checked luggage as soon as you arrive at the port. If something is detected on the scanner and your case is opened, you won’t be around to witness the embarrassment of being called out in public.

Checked bags can be tossed around so always make sure that whatever you’ve packed in there is properly protected from damage.

Can you sneak alcohol on a cruise on your body?

Sneaking alchol on your body is the riskiest way to do it. You’ll have to remove any bulky items and walk trhough an x-ray scanner. If it beeps for any reason (including for a random check) then you’ll be patted down and your stash will be discovered, no matter how well it’s disguised.

Bringing alcohol on-board in foreign cruise ports

Bringing alcohol on-board midway through your cruise is easier than trying to sneak it on as you embark.

When you get back on-board the ship you’ll have to pass your bags through a scanner. However, if you have a bottle of something which looks like water, even if it has been opened, it’s very unlikely that anyone would inspect it more closely.

What happens if you get caught sneaking alcohol on a cruise?

If you’re caught bringing alcohol on a cruise, the worst case scenario is that you could be denied boarding.

Royal Caribbean’s policy states:

“Alcoholic beverages seized on embarkation day will not be returned. Security may inspect containers (water bottles, soda bottles, mouthwash, luggage etc.) and will dispose of containers holding alcohol. Guests who violate any alcohol policies, (over consume, provide alcohol to people under the legal drinking age, 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, in accordance with our Guest Conduct Policy. Guests who are under the permitted drinking age will not have alcohol returned to them. “

However, other cruise lines simply state that if you are caught with prohibited alcohol they will confiscate and discard it.

Carnival’s policy states:

“Guests are prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages on board with the following exception – at the beginning of the cruise during embarkation day only, guests (21 years of age and older) may bring one 750 ml bottle of sealed/unopened wine or champagne, per person, in their carry-on luggage. Outside this exception, all liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage and such items will be confiscated and discarded and no compensation will be provided.”

Even when cruise lines reserve the right to refuse embarkation, that doesn’t mean that they will do that in practice.

What REALLY happens when you get caught smuggling booze on a cruise?

There are many online cruise forums where people have discussed their experiences in getting caught sneaking alcohol on a ship.

Here, I’ve seen numerous photos of orange confiscation slips inside suitcases in place of missing alcohol. As far as I could see during my research, nobody has reported that they weren’t allowed to board the ship. Interestingly, many people reported that they were even allowed to pick-up their confiscated alcohol at the end of the cruise!

The last word

Of course, I’m not recommending that anyone try to sneak alcohol, or anything else, on to a cruise ship. Selling drinks on-board is one of the ways that cruise lines cover their costs and if everyone tried to cheat the system by sneaking alcohol on-board they would inevatably have to put up the ticket prices.

Plus, getting caught with alcohol is embarrassing. Whilst you may be lucky enough to get away with finding a ticket in your case, if your case is locked you’ll be summoned to a location on the ship and asked to open it. If you get caught with excess booze in your carry-on bag, you’ll have to suffer the humiliation of all the passengers in the line behind you seeing you get busted.

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