How to Sneak Alcohol on a Cruise Ship

how sneak booze liquor cruise ship
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. 


Can you bring alcohol on your cruise?

Some cruise lines actually allow you to bring a certain amount of wine or spirits onboard, so check your line's alcohol policy before you go through all the trouble of sneaking booze onto the ship.


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!


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Join the discussion

Would you ever consider one of these methods?


Posted by MrChocoholic

Not going to reveal how to, only what to avoid. First of all, only an idiot would assume to be more cunning than ship's security. If you think you're smarter than they are, you're busted. If there is any trick to successful smuggling it's this: don't be obvious. They search not just with their eyes, but their hands and noses too. If it feels like a bottle, you're busted. If it leaks and you realize too late that gin eats cheap duct tape, you're busted. If you attempt the food-color booze in the mouthwash bottle and the color is distinctly pink, you're busted. If you act like a paranoid a**hole and get mouthy you're tipping them off. It's always better to spread your stash around several hiding spots including your carry-on and your body. If they get one, they won't get them all. Don't be greedy. If your bag is suspiciously heavy for what's in it because you packed a gallon of your favorite vodka, you're busted. Final tip: budget enough money to buy at least one drink a day while on board. At least SOME of the crew will benefit from your automatic gratuity.

Posted by bandit1arm

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.

Posted by Robsterco

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

Posted by invinoveritas

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.

Posted by FamilyGuy

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.

Posted by MichaelPedder

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.

Posted by MichaelPedder

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.

Posted by BonVoyageEditor

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

Posted by MichaelPedder

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.

Posted by Cruisegirl50

Check out 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$$$

Posted by CruiselineQ

Good discussion on the Cruiseline[dot]com forum on this very topic:

Posted by cruisingchick

Wow... lot of controversy here. We use the kits from and have never been caught and they have never leaked. Not sure what all the fuss is about.

Posted by CruiserNV

I don't know why some people don't want to share the secrets of what to do, but go to Amazon, buy containers that look like they are something else that are made for liquor. Then when you go to port, bring these containers with you and refill them so you don't run out. Typically I will put one in my luggage and distribute the rest as on the carryons. Order juices from room service in the morning so you have more mixers throughout the day since they don't serve juices all day long and store in your mini fridge. You can sneak booze in through water bottle containers at ports as well because they don't really check incoming carry on luggage that well. I brought an large bottle of tequila at the port in Puerto Vallarta through security and they let me right back on the ship and didn't confiscate. They are very relaxed going back on the ships and won't stop you from bringing water bottles back on, especially if they are their name branded water bottles. Just don't flash it, keep it in your backpack and usually you will be good.

Posted by noname111

I'm surprised that this is a featured topic on any cruising website. This may be an unpopular opinion but... if bringing alcohol on to a ship is strictly verboten, maybe people should stop doing it? Sure, people share stories about how they got contraband alcohol onto a ship. Just keep in mind that these discussion threads are also monitored by cruise lines. Advertising innovative ways to bring contraband on board gives the cruise lines intel as to how their security personnel could do a better job with screening.

Posted by MisterPlay

Maybe if drinks were not that ridiculously expensive no one would think about this! Please cruise lines charge less !

Posted by CruiseChica

So my fellow cruisers, before you even make it on the ship, you have to go through pier security. Believe me when I tell you they know all of the tricks. They have confiscated the water bottles filled with vodka, gin in the mouthwash, and so much more. In fact they look for the booze because at the end of the day, they, pier security, take it home. I work at the pier, and have seen this. So if you think you can sneak booze on the ship, go ahead and try.😏

Posted by Yazee

I carry several minis on-board by putting them in the one-piece bathing suit I wear under my sundress. Dh managed a few beers by ace-bandaging them to his body under his clothes once, but he decided it was definitely not worth the discomfort. Any suggestions for getting your beer on board would be appreciated.

Posted by MyLushCrush

@michaelpedder. I’m offended. *waves tiny American flag while sipping from my rum colostomy catheter

Posted by Dickbeater

I reseal wine bottles with rubber corks and shrink black covers from Amazon. I evan do coke cans with rum in them. Mouth wash is always good to do. Keep all plastic bottles easy to get to, there going to check them. I have 16 oz bottles of hand sanityzer with rum. I use an an eddible thickening powder. 24 cruises on Carnival

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