Study: 19.1% of Passengers Sneak Alcohol on a Cruise; Progreso Named Least Favorite Port

When it comes to alcohol on a cruise ship, people spend plenty of money — with 41.0% reporting they spend at least $100 on drinks during their cruise. Even with that amount of money being spent, a large number of people — 19.1% — report sneaking alcohol aboard their cruise.

And that’s not all. Progreso was named the least favorite Caribbean port, with 23.7% of cruisers naming it as their least favorite (Nassau, Bahamas came in a close second).

These results come courtesy of a recent survey conducted among active cruisers. In addition to these findings, we also discovered some other interesting findings about cruising that may surprise you…

The Survey

Our survey was conducted over a four-day period from September 17-20, 2016 . The 10-question survey was conducted online in the United States, with a total of 287 respondents. Our goal was to uncover the preferences and behavior of cruise passengers when it comes to things like how much they spend, why they sail for a certain port, and much more.

The survey consisted of 10 multiple-choice questions:

  1. Which factor has the biggest impact on where you cruise from?
  2. How much do you spend in total on your average cruise?
  3. How much on average do you spend on drinks during your cruise?
  4. Have you ever snuck alcohol on a ship?
  5. Have you ever done an illegal drug while on the ship?
  6. Why do you prefer to cruise versus other vacations?
  7. What do you find to be the biggest frustration about cruising?
  8. Which is your favorite port to visit?
  9. Which is your least favorite port to visit?
  10. Have you ever had sex outside of your cabin on a trip? (Balcony is considered outside your cabin)

Key Findings

Throughout the results, we were consistently surprised by a number of answers to our survey. The following sum up the results of each question.

Cruise passengers overwhelmingly select where they sail from due to its proximity to their home. Nearly a majority — 45.6% of passengers — rated a port’s proximity to home as the main reason for sailing from there.

Biggest impact on where you cruise from

We believe this data is a major reason that cruise lines (especially Carnival) continue to put ships in relatively small markets such as Mobile, Jacksonville, and Charleston. Having cruise ships within driving distance obviously is a major reason why people decide to cruise from a port.

Most cruisers spend between $2,001 and $5,000 on their cruise, despite cruise lines advertising extremely low rates.

Average spend on a cruise

While cruising is known to be a relatively cheap way to travel, that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a significant amount of money. Roughly 39% percent of cruise passengers spend between $2,001-$5,000. More interestingly, 83.7% of passengers spend more than $1,000 on their trip. Considering how many cruises are advertised at stunningly low rates (at times as little as $250), it goes to show how quickly items like drinks, taxes and fees, excursions, and gratuities add up to make a cruise cost a significant chunk of money.

The vast majority of cruise passengers buy drinks on their trip, with 89.2% of passengers saying they spend at least some money on alcohol. Forty-one percent of passengers report spending more than $100 on drinks during their trip.

How much is spent on drinks on a cruise

If you’ve ever wondered how big of a money-maker alcohol is for the cruise lines, consider that if the average person spent $100 on drinks during their cruise, a ship with 4,000 passengers would bring in $400,000 in revenue during each cruise. These results help to explain exactly why cruise ships continue to do everything they can to discourage people sneaking alcohol on the ship. We’ve already seen some cruise lines put bans on bringing any beverages on board — even water.

A huge number — 19.1% of respondents — admit to sneaking alcohol on a cruise.

How many people have snuck alcohol on a cruise

That’s right, nearly one in five cruise passengers have snuck alcohol onto the ship. On the world’s largest cruise ships, which carry up to 6,000 passengers, that equates to roughly 1,200 people sneaking on booze. Of course, just because someone said they had snuck alcohol on the ship doesn’t mean they do every time. Still, this represents a staggering number of passengers who choose to flaunt the rules and bring their own alcohol in their luggage.

Illegal drugs are not common on cruise ships. Only 2.4% of passengers admit to doing illegal drugs on the ship.

Graph of people doing illegal drugs on a ship

While nearly half of adult Americans have admitted to trying marijuana, they are definitely leaving it onshore. In our survey, only 2.4% admitted to illegal drugs on board — covering marijuana or anything else. That’s good. Illegal drugs on the ship are a major no-no and being caught would result in serious trouble, especially in foreign countries.

Passengers are frustrated with too little time in ports, followed by excessive gratuities and hidden fees.


There’s likely no subject that will raise as much argument among cruisers than onboard gratuities. We expected this to register as the largest single frustration with cruising. As it turns out, passengers are much more concerned that there is too little time spent in ports, with more than one-third (36.3%) saying this was their biggest frustration. In second place was the complaint of gratuities, with nearly a quarter of responses. Other complaints included drink prices and the time it takes to get off the ship.

Cozumel ranks as the favorite Caribbean port, and Grand Cayman a close second.

Survey of favorite ports

In our survey, we provided nine Caribbean ports, along with an “other” category if a cruise passenger’s favorite port wasn’t listed. Cozumel ranked highest, with 24.3% of the vote. Grand Cayman rated second with 13.4%. Among “other” entries, St. Thomas was mentioned the most times.

Progreso ranks at the least favorite Caribbean port, and Nassau is in second place.

Graph of least favorite ports

In addition to favorite ports, we also asked about the least favorite ports among cruisers. Progreso was the clear loser, with 23.7% of people claiming it was their least favorite. Nassau was the next in line, with 17.3% of the vote. Not surprisingly, both of these ports finished lower in our “favorite” ports question. Within the “other” category, most people mentioned that they had no least favorite port.

Finally, some people enjoy getting risque on their cruise. Nearly 10% of respondents to our survey admit to having had sex outside of the privacy of their cabin. (Note that in our question, we defined the balcony as outside the cabin.)

Question 10

In our survey, 9.3% of people admitted to having relations outside of their cabin. On a ship with 5,000 passengers — or about 2,500 couples — that would equate to 230 couples doing the deed where they could be caught.

It goes to show that something about vacation simply makes people let loose. Maybe it’s the alcohol, maybe it’s spending all day by the pool, or maybe it’s the carefree mindset of being on vacation. Whatever the case, it’s obvious that people like to open up a little more on their trip.


Our survey results shed some light on topics that many cruisers had always wondered, but never been able to get a clear answer. Yes, people sneak alcohol on the ships frequently. Passengers love Cozumel, but can’t stand Progreso (keep this in mind when booking your next trip). And despite cruises always being advertised with cheap headline fares, the total cost for adds up to thousands of dollars.

All in all, we’re happy to be able to finally have some hard data to give more insight into what cruise passengers think and how they act. Oh, and if your cruise is headed to Progreso, you might want to think twice.

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