How to Sneak Alcohol on a Cruiseby Chanize Thorpe | December 02, 2016
Many first-time cruisers experience sticker shock at the end of their sailing: That's when the final bill for onboard purchases arrives at your cabin door, and you see just how many glasses of wine you had with dinner, drinks you ordered by the pool, and cocktails you signed for while listening to the piano player in the lounge. Those drinks can really add up: On average, you'll pay $10 for wine by the glass, $6 for a bottle of beer, and $12 for a mixed drink. And that's if you order drinks with house liquor, rather than upgrading to a top-shelf liquor. Oh, and did we mention an additional 15% tip is automatically added? Ouch.
There are some ways around those high bar bills, though. For example, Disney Cruise Line, Cunard Line, and Holland America Line allow passengers to bring one or two bottles of wine or Champagne on board without an extra charge. But there are caveats: Consumption is usually in-cabin only, and hard liquor and beer are off the table. Plus, if you want to drink your own wine with meals, you'll have to pay a corkage fee in the neighborhood of $20.
There are also opportunities to sip drinks on the house while cruising. For example, most welcome parties, formal nights, and art auctions include complimentary drinks, usually inexpensive bubbly. Frequent cruisers get invited to additional soirees to mingle with the ship’s commander-at-sea, so it pays to sign up for the line's loyalty program.
Another option is to buy a drink package on board, but those packages are typically $40 to $50 per day. Even with the high price of individual drinks, moderate drinkers might find it a struggle to get their money's worth without overindulging.
But of course, the most cost-effective — and controversial — way of drinking on board is to disregard all the rules and sneak on your own liquor. It takes some prior planning, strategic packing, and the confidence to deal with it if you get caught. No, you won't be thrown in the brig or forced to scrub toilets as a penance. But your contraband will be taken away. If it's an unopened bottle, you can typically reclaim it at disembarkation. If you repackaged liquor in another bottle, it will likely be poured down the drain.
And there's another caveat: One downside to sneaking alcohol on board is that you'll have to be sneaky about drinking it as well. That means sipping screwdrivers in your cabin instead of by the pool. Sure, you can relax on your terrace with a sundowner, but if you're looking to dance the night away at the club or to hit the karaoke stage, you'll have to pay the same rates as everyone else if you want some liquid courage.
We don't necessarily endorse the idea of smuggling alcohol onboard, however popular the practice, and we've never tried it ourselves. But we are frequently impressed by the ingenuity we've seen by cruisers who want to make it happen. So, if you're totally set on a BYO cruise, check out these four wild and wacky ways to skirt the system ... we promise not to judge.
Chanize Thorpe is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides and Uptown.