Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise – Experiment & Video Documentation

Boats, Booze & Bribery

Did I end up in-jail or in-toxicated?

Often we’re asked about sneaking alcohol on a cruise ship. As a service to our wonderful Ship Mate community, I gave it a go.  Risking ship jail or worse, getting banned from my cruise, I attempted to smuggle 4x the allotted alcohol on my last sailing. I kept video documentation of the process, from preparation to outcome, solely for your amusement. Ok, that’s a lie – it was also in hopes of getting shipfaced on a budget.

smuggling booze on a cruise ship


Alcohol” is one of the most common topics in cruise forums. People love to discuss the cost of booze, smuggling alcohol, favorite cocktails, missing the ship, waking up in lifeboats, etc.

Cruises and alcohol go together like Bud Light and limes. Did you know that the average cruise passenger consumes 8x the alcohol that they would in their normal, daily routine?  Carnival Cruise Lines, alone, makes over $500 Million per year on booze.  It’s all true – here are more intoxicating stats.

People sneak alcohol on-board for various reasons.  Some have a strong preference towards their own brand, which may not be served on their cruise line of choice… hats off to my Bacon Vodka people out there.  Others seek convenience. Why leave the comfort of your balcony if you don’t have to?  Those stairs can be tough, especially after a few bacon vodkas.  Others enjoy the thrill. It’s a risk. They waddle through the metal detectors with rum sacks taped to their inner thighs like a whack-Pablo-Escobar.  But most often, it’s to save money.  I personally tend to spend more on my weekly booze tab than on the cruise itself. Don’t judge – much of that goes towards treating others.  I get generous when I get drunk.

The smuggling methods chosen by cruise-goers tends to vary, significantly.  The strategies I’ve come across range from clever to just plain stupid.  I’m always impressed with the individual that requires three trips to the local crafts store to manufacture their chosen smuggling vessel.  Often it involves razor blades and super-glue (and complete sobriety given these tools).

missed the cruise shipAnother common approach is to ride out the anchor-buzz.  Time at port is spent stockpiling the maximum amount of $1-dollar-cervezas into one’s being as possible. They then ride out this buzz for as long as possible once back on the ship (assuming they make it).  Somehow, the risks associated with getting as drunk as possible in a foreign location, while adhering to a pretty important deadline, are lost on some.

For my experiment, I picked the two easiest and most logical methods I could find:

  1. Including it in my checked bag
  2. Carrying it on my person

There were two of us going. According to the cruise line, we were permitted to bring one, 750ml bottle of wine each.  Instead, we brought the equivalent of five bottles (one 3L box of wine and one 750ml bottle).  To round out the arsenal, I tacked on a liter of vodka. This was emptied into plastic bladders (“Rum Runners”) and distributed throughout my lower half so I could waddle through security like a whack-Pablo-Escobar. The Rum Runner was the first product on the market for sneaking alcohol on a cruise, but now there’s a hilarious assortment of options, from shampoo bottles to secret suntan lotion containers.

what happens if you get caught sneaking alcohol on a cruiseThe “box of wine trick” is definitely a gamble. I’m batting 0.66 when it comes to successfully sneaking my favorite cubed, grape juice on board. Twice I was able to get it through and once I found a bright orange citation in its place.  To increase my odds, I came up with a strategy that I’m rather proud of. On the side of the box, I taped a $10 bill.  By doing this, I imagined a few different scenarios:

  • Security man recognizes the bribe, takes the bait, and leaves the wine. I win.
  • Security man is scared to take a box of wine with money taped to it in fear of being accused of theft, so leaves it.  I win.
  • Security man is very confused and chooses the easy route – leaving it. I win.
  • Security man un-tapes the $10 and takes the booze. I lose a little.
  • Security man takes both. I lose, big-time.
  • Security man takes both and unscrews my shampoo bottle to get back at me for messing with his mind. wtf.

When game-time finally approached, I was pretty nervous.  In my preparations to sneak alcohol on my cruise, I’d forgotten to consider one major hurdle. I’d be going through security belt-less… I had an extra three pounds of Russia’s finest in my shorts… and my 1990’s cargo-shorts were 3 inches too big in the waste.

Rather than spoil the ending, watch for yourself and see the conclusion of “Project: Sneak Alcohol on a Cruise Ship.”

Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise – Caught on Video

If you have any proven methods, please include them in the comments below. Also – let us know of any failed attempts to sneak alcohol on past cruises, or other cruise booze incidents you’d like to share.

Maybe the “all you can drink” package wasn’t a good idea…

Posted by Ship Mate on Monday, December 28, 2015


And if you’re not done talking boats and booze, you can find more in our cruiseline forum here: Sneaking Booze on a Cruise

Disclaimer: this is meant only for entertainment. We do NOT encourage sneaking alcohol on a cruise. Your wife will not be happy if you get booted off the ship before it ever leaves port. That would not be a fun car ride home.

105 Replies to “Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise – Experiment & Video Documentation”

  1. we went on a cruise in july of 2014 and were not allowed anything but wine…i only drink captain morgans sooo….i emptied out a listerene bottle (brown of course) and cleaned it out, poured the entire 5th into it and closed the cap. Then place the listerene bottle in a ziplock bag in case it leaked and put it in my checked bag! When our bags arrived it was in there still full!!! I was very happy the entire cruise lol!!

  2. Just came off a ship. Rum in mouthwash bottle no problem. Soda cases with only visible sodas and beer in the rest, no
    Problem. Shampoo bottles with vodka, no problem. Small
    Bottles in snack boxes, bugles etc…. Sailed right through. Water bottle given in line while wAiting…seal broken, agent smelled water and discarded as gin. LOL

  3. Get bottle of wine with with foil wrapper on top. Drink the wine and fill bottle with Capt. Morgan or beverage of choice. Put cork back in bottle and superglue the foil back of over the neck. Works everytime…if the cruise line allows you to bring one bottle of wine !!!

  4. I work for Carnival, no I am not going to look anyone up and red flag your VIFP profiles, however, the millions you stated made by all cruise lines is offset by many other factors and reflected in the bottom line. CHEERS has become more affordable as Carnival continues to offer VALUE based cruises, unlimited steak, lobster & shrimp cocktails and anything else you want to order in triplicate please consider the safety and well being of all our guests is our number one priority and sneaking on alcohol should not be a game.

      • One problem with the Cheers program is forcing everyone in the cabin to purchase one! My DH does not drink at all and therefore, does not need the package. This keeps me from being able to benefit! 🙁

        • Absolutely agree!! I totally understand making every adult in the cabin purchase if it was unlimited but since it is limited to 15/day what’s the big deal if it is shared or not. For our upcoming cruise it is an 8 day and would cost over $800 for the Cheers package. I think not!!

          • I totally agree with Laura Richards. On top of that you have to purchase it for the whole cruise, the days your in port its for most of the day so your only on the ship for 2-3 days average plus nights. If you could only purchase it for the days you want, it would be great.

    • I have to agree at $49 for the Cheers program is well worth not hassling with the smuggling. I myself will take my 2 bottles of wine and utilize my Cheers package

    • Shelly does the cheers program cut you off after 15 drinks? Or do I just pay after that? A day at sea could start with bloody Mary’s and end after dinner, I could surpass my 15?

      • Bought that package…..
        Used it very well thank you.
        Was greatly peeved when they said I had reached my max as was NOT TOLD 15 limit.
        Was absolutely livid when told I could not PURCHASE another.
        Lucky spouse had room left.

    • HOW do you justify the price you charge??? In March 2015 we took a CCL cruise. I was interested in ordering the Vineyard package whereby the wine is a little less money. But first, I wanted to know if there was anything I was even willing to drink available. I found two of the wines in the package also available at my local grocery store. My grocery store was charging $4.99 for the bottle of Barefoot Pinot that CCL charged $30.00 for. My local restaurant serves this same wine, by the bottle, for $9.99. I understand the need to make a profit. I understand the need to CONTROL over-drinking and the behavior. But this is simply unfair mark-up and causes all the smuggling that is being discussed.
      Ever consider a fair price, and strict cut-off rules?!?

      • Right on,its a giant money making racket,and remember these cruise line are selling you over priced booze at the bar that they are obtaining at duty free prices.
        So its a double rip off!!
        Pre this Lemmings type rush by the public,to do these ugly plastic floating fun parks called cruise ships,duty free on board actually did happen,when one travelled the world via steamships as air travel was only for the rich. Ask me,I did it.

        • I am a Canadian who booked an upcoming 13 day cruise for 2 about a year ago. At the present day exchange rate our manatory gratuity bill will be approximately $435 Canadian dollars. If we choose to go with Carnival’s ‘Cheers’ plan that will add approximately another $2093 to our trip cost ($50×2 people +15% gratuity\day x 13 days x 1.4 = $2093) ! for a total of $2528 Canadian dollars or approximately $1264/person!! I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Take a nice holiday once in awhile but if you lke to enjoy a couple drinks while watching the sunset, avoid cruise ships (Carnival at least. Haven’t looked into ‘additional/hidden costs’ of other cruise lines yet.)

    • The problem with this is also, that everyone in the room must pay for the program – I’m traveling with my sister whom is now pregnant, and her husband who doesn’t drink at all – and me turning 31 (reason for the cruse) I want to drink!! but I cant participate in the program. on top of that its $50 a day and on a 7 day cruise I have to shell out $350.. and if the people in my room have to as well that’s $1050.. not to mention the 15% they will add for gratitude. So in my favor it would be cheaper for me to take what alcohol i’ll be drinking, rather than paying per drink for 7 days.

    • So – I’m traveling with my old college roommates – we all turned 50 this year. One can’t really drink due to medications so the other 2 of us in the cabin can’t get the CHEERS package. Everyone in the cabin must purchase it. (over 21 of course) I was more than willing to pay the package price for the ease of use and no smuggling worries but they won’t allow it.

        • Everything I have read in recent days says all cabinmates must purchase it if one person is getting it… no exceptions. 🙁 I am diabetic and will only be able to drink a couple of drinks a day so would be okay with just buying them individually each day, but my cabinmate wants to buy the Cheers package because it makes sense for her. So, I have to buy it, too. I know it covers bottled waters and sodas, too (I think?) but I was going to just order one of those $4.99 12-paks of water to use. Oh well…

  5. What a lot of work and worry! I’d just buy what I need even if I need to save up and plan a little more! Not worth the worry for me personally.

  6. It was never a hassle bringing alcohol aboard for my wife and I. However, that also pertained to which cruise line we were sailing. Recently on a 4 night cruise on Disney the one bottle allowed for each was sufficient. If the cruise was longer than that, 7 days plus then it really saved money to bring our alcohol aboard. Although we did not drink excessively, it was more convenient to have our cocktail hour in our cabin without calling for room service. There was no limit on Crystal but recently I booked a couple on NCL and they confiscated their bottles. Of cause they returned the bottles at debarkation. Today, the better cruise lines are all-inclusive so you don’t have to sneak any alcohol aboard. .

  7. Earlier this year we went on RCCL and they didn’t allow anything at all – my husband had two little individual size bottles of wine that we got in Walmart for $1 each (big spender!) – and he had them in his carry on and RCCL called him out of line, discarded the bottles, and “reprimanded” him by pointing to the signs… LOL

  8. That is a lot of work prior to the cruise to my mind.
    In our case we have to fly a long distance so luggage weight is limited.
    If we take a bottle back after the cruise, a different story and packed safely not on plastic pouches.
    We normally order for the room online prior or when on-board first night some rum and cokes. Pricewise not that bad compared to home and a package helps or xn cans of pop , you get a few free ones.
    Compared to the price of the total cruise, airfare, hotels, tips et cetra, the liquor is minimal

  9. Three years ago I went on a cruise ship on the cheers program was new and it was separate you either bought the nonalcoholic package or the alcoholic package and now it’s changed to where it’s both nonalcoholic plus alcoholic beverages for about 45 dollars a day Per 21-year-old adult in the cabin no matter if they drink or not so for me I’m sneaking alcohol bitch

  10. Oh my goodness…..if you can’t afford to drink on the cruise, then you can’t afford the cruise. To me smuggling alcohol onboard is paramount to stealing. IMHO

    • The cruise lines themselves are largely culpable for architecting this “cat and mouse” situation. If they would either allow passengers to bring on a limited amount of personal alcohol or price their drinks reasonably, then this fiasco would not happen. My wife and I like to drink but we spend ALL our vacation money on just the cruise, leaving no money for anything else. I resent the patronizing of some people who say, “if you can afford the cruise..blah…blah…blah”. Here’s a tip, cruise lines, price competitively, or accept the “game”.

      • Exactly.. if I drink and my wife doesn’t why should I have to pay for both on a package I would gladly pay for me but if my wife doesn’t drink at all why should I pay double for the same benefits. . Or should I just cheat them ad they cheat me?

    • Yet the cruise lines are not stealing from you and I with their 500% markup on drinks. And its not just alcohol. Its all drinks. Until the Cruise lines charge a fair price for drinks I will continue to smuggle.

      • I’ve made sneaking alcohol onto a cruise ship an art form! I never pay for drinks on a cruise as the are way overpriced. It’s BS how the cruise companies nickle and dime you once you are trapped on their ships. I may purchase their unlimited non-alcoholic drink package to use as mixers, but that’s about it. It’s definitely not stealing! It’s only a method used to reduce the cruise-line stealing from you!

  11. HAHA smuggling alcohol onboard is stealing? WTF Let me guess you never have smuggled popcorn into a movie either!

  12. How does boxed wine travel when you check your bag on a plane? (Not carry on). Just wondering if anyone knows,as I don’t want a suitcase full of red clothes. Lol thanks for any tips.

  13. Just checked wine prices, versus cheers, versus drink too much in port.. The bottle of wine from Chile is $26.50. Sold at my grocery store for $3.99. THIS is why people sneak. Profit is one thing, this is the cruise line stealing from its VALUED customers – sorry.

    Does anyone know how strict the 1 bottle per person at embarkation is? If each person in a cabin takes 2, and says the other one is for my room mate, will they really ask to see your room mates bag too? You know the one with another two bottles. 4 bottles, 2 persons seems pretty reasonable.

  14. UPDATE: My kids just went on a HAL Med. cruise. They did not “believe” me, and so packed their ALLOWED bottle of wine in their suitcase. In the evening after embarkation they had all but one of their suitcases. Amazingly they received the one with the wine bottle. They got a call from “security” about a suitcase that had “liquid” in it. They went down to claim their suitcase. Security opened it in front of them and they removed a water bottle. GO FIGURE!!!

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  16. Some years ago, my ex-son-in-law, decided to bring his own ETOH onboard RCL (stock symbol). He figured he needed about 4 L of his top shelf stuff. Of course security had him down to open his bag. (I was there too because I had water in my suitcase) When he opened his bag, he removed ONE bottle and handed it over. He had packed his 4 bottles rolled in his clothing. He zippered his bag closed and carried 3 L of bourbon back to his room. Talk about big ones… but then again that is one of the reasons that he is an EX-son-in-law. He got caught… but that is another story.

  17. I’m going on a NCL in a few months. If I tape the plastic flasks onto my body, does the security pat you down like at the airport or do you just go through a scanner?

  18. Ohh man..I cant wait I am going Oct 24 and I just bought the rummrunner set! I will be back to let you know how it went! Thank you ShipMateMike I now have more confidence on boarding!

  19. Pingback: Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise – Experiment & Video Documentation | PaleONeil

  20. In May 2015 before they new Carnival water bottle policy we got the following onboard:

    in checked bag
    1 box of wine like yours (with legal mixed fruit cups for sangria)
    2 saline containers 12 oz each of my favorite gin (& legal seltzer in carry-on)
    1 iced tea container (20 oz) with black label

    2 legal bottles of wine also came with us.

    Cabin Steward probably knew what was going on, and we tipped him generously for all the ice he left for my “joint pain”…

    Onboard we also purchased the 5 bottles of wine for cruising the vineyards for dinner, (split between 2 couples), shots and drinks of the day. (My bar bill was less than $30 for a 7 day cruise.)

    While the $50 pp alcohol option is nice for people that are planning on drinking a lot we were more concerned about the markup for the wine and top shelf alcohol. A $3-5 bottle goes for $26!! And being able to enjoy the balcony cabins we paid for.

    We also got another bottle in at port when we got a free bottle of blue label at duty free. We took 1 bag to the desk to be stowed away until the end of the cruise and the other with the smaller bottle didn’t get stopped. Oh well.

  21. Once you’re successful with the smuggling process, do you still have to be sneaky about where you store your contraband for when the house keepers come and make up the rooms? Has anyone ever left anything out and then had it confiscated mid cruise?

  22. Just a thought, if your gonna be drunk the whole time and not enjoy the cruise, then save a lot of money and it in your living room.

    That being said, I plan to smuggle on my coconut rum and a few bottles of wine to Carnival. Im not planning on being wasted the whole time tho

  23. i’m about to go on a cruise April of 2016. Last April we snuck on over 300 pocket shots!!! They are small clear plastic bag type containers. You can get them at Specs (What we have in Texas). They checking point lady never even searched our bags which we could have snuck on anything!!! Fingers crossed that this time things will go the same way!

  24. Havent had Pocket Shots in almost a decade.
    They were great for sneaking booze into football games back in college. Even if they pat you down they don’t feel them.

  25. Going on a 7 day Royal Caribbean cruise this month. Any updates on rum runners working in carry on bags vs checked bags? Has using these ever not worked? Also, on the website ( it states that you may not be allowed to board if caught with alcohol. Anyone ever hear of this actually happening? Would love any advice, thanks in advance!

  26. So if you conseal the rum runners to your body they can go undetected because they don’t pat you down and you only walk through metal detectors? Right? Carnival… Is that the best bet?

  27. I’m going on Carnival soon. The cheers program is not worth it, unless you are on the ship all day long and just want to drink. I have to factor in the exchange rate for Canadian dollar. It would cost my husband and I $1700 in alcohol for a 12 day cruise. It’s cheaper to order a bottle or two to your cabin and get the bottomless bubbles pkg. or order soda. You can still bring 12 cans soda ea. and wine. I want to enjoy my cruise not be half corked.

    • We just got back from a Carnival Cruise. We each packed a rum runner in our checked bags and they both made it through. We also poured the wine out of wine bottles (kept the wine at home) and replaced it with liquor. We resealed the wine bottles with shrink wrap we bought on Amazon. Those also made it through with our carry on bags. They actually looked over each wine bottle very closely, but made it through none the less.

  28. Going on Disney wonder in MAy 2016, leaving SF airport to San Diego. Can you carry on the wine at the airport check points and i believe Disney says you have to put wine in carry on luggage not checked luggage>!. So that means you would have to check carry on luggage at the airport.

      • Disney lets you take whatever alcohol you want. You don’t have to sneak anything. We had a carry ons dedicated to beer, 6 bottles of wine, bailey’s,and Malibu. You just have to keep it with you until your room is ready. No big deal! Our cabin stward kept our beer iced down for us! Best cruise!

  29. Last two times I have cruised, I took two 32oz Gatorade bottles and filled one with rum, one with vodka, then add food coloring to make it look like the real thing. Best place to hide them is your golf bag if you’re doing a golf excursion. I have never gotten busted doing this. Also, if you buy codeiene from the pharmacy in Belize, bring a couple opaque robitusson bottles with you and switch the liquids out after you get to your stateroom.

  30. Some people can take the world way to seriously. Why does it matter to you if someone else wants to get tanked or be sneaky if it doesn’t affect you or yours…I think the creativity is tooooo funny. Love it.

  31. wish people would write their experiences after the cruise. Heading out in 6 days on RC out of Texas…would love the hear RECENT experiences.

  32. Question: I’m a first time cruiser here. Our second day is at port in Nassau. Can we buy booze on the island and bring it back aboard the ship or will they confiscate again as well?

  33. Carnival found my Vodka in a Mountain Dew Bottle in my suit case 8/14/2016
    and confiscated the 1.75 L, We got to Grand Turks and bought another bottle and six small plastic bottles, my wife was in a wheel chair because she hurt her back lifting luggage and getting back on the ship she was frisked and they did not find the quart bottle hidden under her bra?, I also watched Carnival frisk a 10 year old boy? at the same port what is going on money hungary ships. my wife does not drink and paying for two drink packages is out of the question.

  34. I will be going on a cruise with my best friend summer 2017 and this will be a first for both of us. We will be leaving out of Galveston and wanted some insight on the check in process.
    Will we be patted down by hand or will it be an x-ray machine?
    I’m planning on sneaking in a few small (8 oz) Rum Runner bags in my bra, I just don’t want to be patted down. Hahaha
    Thanks so much!

  35. I’m gold level VIFP with CCL, smuggled using rum runners on every cruise I’ve ever been on (usually 2+ handles of whatever we choose) and have never been caught. I wrap it in my jeans or under layers of dresses – never lost one. You can also unsnap the lining of your suitcase and use packing tape to tape the rum runner between the support bars there. I don’t usually go that intricate, but have seen it done.

    I’m not “stealing” or inflating anyone else’s cost of anything. As far as CCL is concerned, I don’t drink. 😉

    I do go ahead and purchase the bottomless bubbles (coke card) so that I don’t have to worry about mixers. Also, don’t forget to bring your own cup! The little bitty cups the cruise line provides annoys me when I’m on a mission to relax and catch a little buzz on the serenity deck.

  36. This is fantastic info! I had to google rum runners as I had no clue what you guys were talking about. Hiding them in the suitcase liner is genius! I was originally going to do the wine trick or the vodka in a mouthwash bottle with food coloring, but I like the rum runner idea better I think. Not sure which is the best idea, but I will be pissed if I have to shell out $400 for my 8 day New Year’s cruise! Last time I cruised was 15 years ago, and alcohol wasn’t even checked. This will be so different.

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  38. Royal Carribean frisked my husband after a port day in Jamaica and confiscated the rum he was attempting to get back on. Maybe he looked sketchy, lol. (You are allowed to buy liquor in port, but they keep it until you disembark at the end of the cruise). We’ve been on several cruises and I’m not a big drinker but would enjoy drinking a little bit while on vacation though it’s not worth the money they charge to me, so rum runners seem like a good option for us! We leave for our 5th RC cruise in April, I will definitely be looking into them. Thanks for the info!

  39. Going on our first cruise (Celebrity) older upper middle class travelers. We’re younger working class. Booked the cruise because I was stressed and it was a good deal, then I learned it’s a much older demographic. We will definitely need the booze. Any suggestions on getting it onboard.

    • Haha – don’t fret… often on cruises, it’s even easier to make friends when you’re one of few in the same age-range. You’ll likely see the same group at the bar every night and get friendly. Have an amazing trip!

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