Advice Magazine

How to Sneak Alcohol on a Cruise Ship

sneak alcohol cruise ship mouthwash bottles
Some cruisers sneak alcohol onto ships in mouthwash bottles. - Photo by ThinkStock

Ah, the age-old question: Can I bring booze on a cruise? The answer has changed over the years. It used to be “sure,” then “absolutely not,” and now it’s an ambiguous “depends.”

Each cruise line has its own stance, and we’ve produced a handy guide explaining cruise lines’ alcohol policies.  Still, some crafty cruisers, fed up with monstrous bar tabs, have come up with ingenious ways to tote their tipples onboard. We researched exactly how they’re sneaking alcohol onto cruise ships:

1

Pack a private “mini” bar.

The great thing about those little bottles of booze, once reserved for planes and hotel minibars, is that they’re less than 3 ounces and can fit in a quart-size bag, which means you can stash them in your carry-on bag. Those who bring this contraband onto the ship have been known to squeeze as many as five bottles into one bag. 

2

Repackage your “mouthwash.”

Believe it or not, many heavy drinkers — if YouTube™ videos are to be believed — are sneaking alcohol onto ships in large mouthwash bottles checked in their airplane luggage. (Hint: It helps if the carrier has a first-bag-free policy. Otherwise, the airline fee would seriously eat into your savings).

The classic method is to empty a bottle of, say, wintergreen mouthwash, sterilize the bottle with boiling water, and let it dry. Then fill it with alcohol and dye the liquid with green or blue food coloring. Wrap it in your unmentionables, and the odds of ship security discovering it are slim. Check out this humorous YouTube video (it has more than 100,000 hits!) with a short tutorial on how to tint alcohol to make it look like mouthwash.

3

Hunt down the right match.

Apparently, mouthwash comes in a wide variety of colors these days, so if you’re going to use this method, keep looking until you find your perfect hue. One brand sells a clear mouthwash, which can be emptied out and filled with your choice of gin, vodka, or white rum; another has an opaque white bottle, which makes it easier to conceal dark liquids. Our source, who insisted on anonymity, has done this several times with different brands, including an amber-colored mouthwash that he used for anejo rum. 

4

Remember to reseal.

The key to avoiding any drama, should your bag be inspected, is to make sure your doctored bottle is properly resealed so the contraband doesn’t leak all over your suitcase. Some people simply use super glue; others go so far as us Gorilla Glue® adhesive, which is waterproof. 

5

Bring a refillable water bottle. 

Some lines — like Disney Cruise Line — allow you to bring alcohol aboard but limit you to drinking it only in your cabin, or in a dining room if you pay a corkage fee. Whether you’re sneaking in alcohol or following the rules and leaving a bottle in your stateroom, bringing a refillable water bottle allows you to play bartender in your room but sip your libation by the pool.

 

It’s up to you to determine how far you’re willing to go to sneak liquor onboard. The worst that can happen: It’ll get confiscated. Think you have the chops to try this yourself? We don’t, but we’d love to hear your story and all the details!

YouTube is a trademark of Google Inc.

Gorilla Glue is a registered trademark of Gorilla Glue Co.


Chanize Thorpe
Chanize Thorpe   Google+

Chanize Thorpe is a New York-based contributing writer for Bon Voyage magazine who writes for Jetsetter, HotelChatter, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Budget Travel, Fodors.com, and Conde Nast Traveler.

12 Comments

BoozeBuddy's Avatar

Posted by BoozeBuddy 4 months ago

Check out our brand new website BoozeBuddy.com

Our site is totally new and designed just for the fun loving, cruise loving, wonderful people out there. We are the most fun website for helping people sneak alcohol on a cruise!!

bandit1arm's Avatar

Posted by bandit1arm 5 months ago

While on an Alaskan cruise I went to town at one of the ports and bought a mikey. Upon returning to the ship they were looking in bags of the people returning. I simply put the bottle in the pouch of my hoodie and walked on, no bag, no questions asked. Since it worked once I went back and did it again. No problem. Helps when you're someplace cool.

CommunityMangr's Avatar

Posted by CommunityMangr 6 months ago

Are you referring to a specific line or ship, Robsterco? Generally speaking, it can be possible to find cheaper prices in duty free shops--it really depends on which state you call home, since taxes on wine, beer, and spirits differ from state to state.

Robsterco's Avatar

Posted by Robsterco 6 months ago

Don't they have a duty free store that's cheaper than home bought ?

invinoveritas's Avatar

Posted by invinoveritas 7 months ago

We have signed up for the unlimited drinks package offered by NCL. It is expensive but so are their drinks. Now we don't have to worry about the bill at the end or smuggling booze on. BTW, my opinion is go for it. I have done it on planes as well. I don't know why anyone was offended by the article. I found it interesting.

FamilyGuy's Avatar

Posted by FamilyGuy 7 months ago

Dear Hmmmmm & Micheal,

Why must we get our panties in a bunch? Please get off your high horses for a moment and lend me your ear. There are several points to be addressed and I will list them below:

1) Anti-American sentiment - How does this article make Americans look like idiots? If anything, the reading comprehension skills of Hmmmmm should be in question. You make a big deal about this "NOT" being an informational piece, but a how to guide. Most people would have realized the direction the article was going after simply reading the title, "How to Sneak Booze Onto a Cruise Ship." To take your example of automobile thefts, if the title was "How to Carjack Someone" and didn't explain it, I might be disappointed. You clearly should have known the content of this article before reading it. Start with the title - Reading 101. BTW, I would apologize to the Americans if I were you.

2) Rules are not laws. The article clearly states that the cruise lines have different rules. In essence, it is not illegal to transport a sealed bottle of alcohol onto a "Family cruise." Michael, I am not sure why you felt the need to highlight family cruise as if this were the era of prohibition and the use of alcohol outlawed. They sell alcohol on the cruise ships, so it is not an illegal substance. Being that alcohol is not illegal, Hmmmm, it's not like telling someone how to pack illegal drugs in "vaginas and rectums." Furthermore, given that the cruise lines excessively mark-up the price of alcohol and certain lines won't even let you drink legally purchased alcohol from their own duty-free shops or ports of call, why is it so atrocious that someone would want to bring their own alcohol? So, yes, cutting in line (rule), sneaking teens into adult comedy shows (rule) and bringing legal alcohol into your stateroom (rule) all fall into the same category.

3) Lawsuits: Hmmmmm, you mention that Americans are looking for free money. Do you not think people's time and money are important? If someone "financially prepares for" a vacation, takes a week or so off work, buys plane tickets and cruise fare to enjoy an experience only to have that experience become a nightmare of being stuck at sea, surrounded by backed up toilets and possibly sickened by the spread of enteroviruses, they absolutely deserve some sort of compensation. And while it has never happened to me, I can empathize with them and understand why they might want some type of compensation for their inconvenience. If the ship isn't maintained properly and it breaks down (mechanical, plumbing, etc), that is failure of the cruise line to deliver on its end of the deal. Would you make the same argument for an airliner that breaks down and falls out of the sky?

4) Cruise snobbery: Hmmmmm, I wouldn't want your family anywhere near mine either as I like to avoid people with champagne expositions on beer brained budgets.

MichaelPedder's Avatar

Posted by MichaelPedder 7 months ago

I find it difficult to assimilate your line of thinking. You just compared cutting in line, swim diapers and teens sneaking into comedy clubs to illegally transporting alcohol onto family cruises. Seriously? Please say that was just a flippant joke - since they are not even close to being the same.

Hmmmmmm's Avatar

Posted by Hmmmmmm 7 months ago

Dear Sherri,



I recently read an article on the rise in automobile thefts. Not once in that article was i told how to complete a car-jacking. There is a vast difference between covering the subject of passengers sneaking alcohol on board and this article which explains how to do it. This is NOT an informational piece - but it is a how-to guide. The entire article explains how to break the law. Ma'am - you did not get hired to promote illegal practices. But that is exactly what you are doing. You cannot justify this. Why weren't we told that this is not okay and that no one should do it? Instead we were told, "hey I wouldnt ever do this but you all can and if you do please write us and tell us the details." Disgusting.

BonVoyageEditor's Avatar

Posted by BonVoyageEditor 7 months ago

Dear Hmmmmmm,

Thanks so much for writing! To be truthful, I am a diligent rule follower myself and would not feel the need to sneak alcohol onboard. But, then, I don't cut in line either when I am waiting to get back on a ship in port. This is a controversial practice in the cruise world, and we feel like it's our job to cover these types of issues rather than shy away from them, regardless of whether we would actually do this ourselves. In a perfect world, nobody would sneak babies into pools with swim diapers or teenagers into adult comedy clubs, either, but that's not the world we cruise in, is it?

Sherri Eisenberg

Editor in Chief, Bon Voyage magazine

Hmmmmmm's Avatar

Posted by Hmmmmmm 7 months ago

To the author, Mrs. Thorpe, of this horrid piece of 'journalism' - you should be fired. To those who agree with this piece - you disgust me. You break the rules but its okay? You are the same people who think its okay to sue a cruiseliner because they have a breakdown or backed up toilets. You sign papers assuming the risk yet you will get lawsuit happy if you see a chance at free money. If you cannot take a cruise and stay sober for a week perhaps you have a problem! Prices too high you whine. Well, its a vacation and you should have financially prepared for it. Next you can do an article on how to pack drugs in vaginas and rectums so drug addicts feel welcome too. I don't want you on my cruise or anywhere close to my family. I cannot be the only person who feels this way. Sadly, you would only see an article like this from the United States. Damn. Is anyone honest anymore? Rules are not created for you to circumvent. They are for your safety. If I get illegally trashed in my room and the ship movement causes me to fall and bang my head can I sue the ship now? You all would say yes. Thanks for making Americans look like idiots.

Cruisegirl50's Avatar

Posted by Cruisegirl50 8 months ago

Check out BoozeCruiseBuddy.com. We cruise several times a year and have never been caught. Bags for wine and clean plastic bottles for liquor. Just follow thedirections. We've never had a bag or bottle leak or break. Andi aonly drink red wine! Saves all kinds of money$$$

CruiselineQ's Avatar

Posted by CruiselineQ 9 months ago

Good discussion on the Cruiseline[dot]com forum on this very topic: http://cruiseline.com/forum/post/sneaking-booze-on-a-cruise-ship

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