What Happens If I’m Caught Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise?

When it comes to drinking on a cruise, people know how to let loose. In fact, our survey showed that nearly 90% of people spend at least some money on booze during their trip. Even more surprising is that greater than 20% spend over $200 on alcohol during their cruise.

The honest truth is that it’s pretty easy to spend a lot of money on drinks. Cruise ships have a captive audience that’s ready to have fun, and they price the drinks accordingly. It’s not unusual to pay $6-7 for a domestic beer or $8-9 for a cocktail.

With prices so high, it’s no wonder that many people wonder about sneaking alcohol on with their luggage. In fact, YouTube is filled with videos of the best way to smuggle your favorite drink on board and Amazon offers up all the supplies you would need. It’s proof positive that the desire is there among cruise passengers.

Of course, all of this begs a big question. What if you are caught trying to sneak alcohol on the ship? Will you be fined? Kicked off the cruise? Put in jail?

The answer might surprise you…

Cruise Line Policies About Smuggling Alcohol

It’s not unusual that passengers will sneak alcohol aboard a cruise. In fact, in a recent survey 19% of passengers admitted to doing so at least once. It’s so common that the cruise lines explicitly state rules — and consequences — about bringing drinks on board with you.

These comments represent the “worst-case scenario” of what a cruise line could do to a passenger and serves as fair warning.

For example, Royal Caribbean states that they reserve the right to not allow you to board if you are caught sneaking in alcohol:

“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 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, in accordance with our Guest Conduct Policy.”

Carnival offers up a softer clause, that simply says they will take away what you sneak in and throw it out:

“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. All liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages outside of this exception are strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage and such items will be confiscated and discarded and no compensation will be provided.”

Of course, what a cruise line reserves the right to do and what it actually does may be two different things. So to get a better idea of what really happens if you are caught smuggling on alcohol, we went in search for real stories from passengers.

What Happens If You’re Caught

We found a number of stories from passengers with anecdotes about when they were caught. The central theme appears to be that those caught smuggling alcohol have it removed from their bags, and either returned at the end of the trip or poured out.

One person mentioned how her friends had their booze taken away:

“Ive actually never had the bottle of rum i put in my luggage taken away. Im like 5 for 5, so not sure how much they do actually check. Anyway, went w a big group last year and about 3 out of 12 people had their alcohol taken away. All that happened was it was confiscated and placed back in your room the last night before your cruise is over, so you really run no risk. This was all on a Carnival cruise line ship.”

Another said they received their confiscated booze back at the end of the trip:

“I’ve been caught twice but never been kicked off a cruise. The cruise line confiscated my liquor and responsibly returned it the last evening of the cruise. There are web sites that sell non-detectable plastic flask. I’ve used them many times.”

A report from a Royal Caribbean passenger said that they had their alcohol taken away, and not returned at the end of the trip:

“We had it confiscated from checked baggage on Royal Caribbean. We had two bottles, one plastic, one glass, in different cases. The plastic liter made it through, the glass on didn’t. We had to go and claim our case and they searched it and took the bottle. They would not return it at the end of the cruise either.”

Another Carnival cruiser said they had their wine taken out, but returned at the end of the trip:

“Experience with Carnival: Had 4 passengers (2 adults, 2 kids) on a 5 night cruise. We packed in 2 large bags and put 2 bottles of wine in each bag. Two bottles were allowed through (policy says one bottle per person), the other 2 were confiscated. We got a note in our luggage telling us to pick them up on the morning of debarkation.”

Nowhere in our research did we find a person be kicked off a cruise or not allowed to board due to bringing on alcohol. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but we have yet to see stories of it take place.

Should You Risk Sneaking Booze?

There’s no doubt that trying to sneak on alcohol is popular among cruise passengers. At the same time, the cruise lines are well aware of the tricks that people use and continually get better and better at detecting booze in luggage. It’s rare that you will be able to smuggle in alcohol using a trick they haven’t seen before. Still, given the volume of passengers being screened in such a short time, many people are able to successfully bring on drinks.

Our advice? It’s usually not worth the risk to try and bring your own alcohol. While stories of passengers getting kicked off the ship are sparse, there is a strong possibility that your alcohol will be destroyed if found. That can be expensive. Instead, we suggest simply bringing what the cruise lines allow and buying other drinks on board. (Use our calculator to see if you would save money with a drink package.)

If you do decide to try and sneak alcohol, be smart about it. There are a number of supplies that you can get that make your chances of success much higher.

Supplies for Sneaking Alcohol

If you do want to sneak some alcohol, the good news is that many supplies made for the task are easily available. The links below take you to Amazon where you can buy supplies.

“Rum Runner” type collapsible flask – $16

Rum runner

Shampoo bottle secret flask – $12

Shampoo bottle flask

Fake lotion flasks – $8

Lotion bottle flask

Lid seals for resealing open bottles – $6

Resealable lids



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    • Honestly, we don’t know the answer to that one. In our opinion it seems like it’s an informal process. They take the alcohol and that’s it. We haven’t seen any evidence of anyone being written up about it.

  1. My son has been successful twice using the rum runners and he’s making “arrangements” for our upcoming cruise in December. I don’t drink…if I did, I couldn’t imagine paying $10 for a drink in a plastic fish.

  2. I got caught on Carnival. I expertly replaced water with booze that would fool 99.9% screeners. I found the .1% zealot who shook the case to reveal bubbles that booze but not water produce. I was the bug not the windshield that day. It was taken with commentary or fan fair. Added to his collection.

    • Any repercussions other than it getting taken away? I am going on a cruise next January and am thinking about buying the rum runner shampoo and conditioner bottles.

      • I would think the shampoo/conditioner bottles would be a dead giveaway ….. your cabin is stocked with free soap, shampoo and conditioner.

  3. We use rum runners and tuck them into our clothes as we board. Spanx and a loose dress helps, plus I’m curvy. We put them in our carry on, go to the bathroom and put them on our person (bra and lower back for me, makes my butt look dumpy but loose dress hides it and no one is looking at your butt, lower back/top of butt for my husband, just before we board. You just board and go directly to the bathroom to put back in your carry on. Depending on cruise length you can refill in port and get back on the same way (bring a small funnel). They’re not strip searching people 🙂 We like to drink, but we are also frugal. We still hit up happy hours on board and often can get the 2:1 drinks/beer usually for husband, unopened and to enjoy at the pool or stateroom another time. Cheers!


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