13 November 2009
Smuggling Alcohol On Board Cruise Ships
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As I prepared to embark on my first three day cruise in December of 2007 I asked myself what I'm sure many ask, how do I get my own alcohol on board? I scoured the Internet for tips, read the legal mumble jumble on the Royal Caribbean website and eventually decided my safest bet was to try and disguise my alcohol as best as I could. People like myself who like to cover all their basis will read the Royal Caribbean terms and conditions and get a little scared when you read about their alcohol policy. Royal Caribbean doesn't just have the ability to confiscate your alcohol, they can remove you from the ship, and if you're as amped up to travel as I am you may not be able to imagine a worse scenario than being removed from your cruise ship.
Luckily, I am also a calculated risk taker so I chose to go all out and disguise my alcohol in my luggage. For my first cruise, I kept it simple. I took a bottle of Listerine and dumped it out and let it soak for three days in hot soapy water. When I prepared to pour in the Vodka I noticed it still had a hint of mint but I suppose that's the cost of doing business, so I poured an entire bottle of Absolute in. Finally, to disguise my efforts more I added two drops of green food coloring into the bottle, this little extra made it look identical to mouth wash! When we arrived at the port I made sure to tip our baggage handlers extra well and then waited a nerve racking 5 hours until our bags were delivered - Success! We had made it through.
Mouth wash is the oldest trick in the book, yet it works. The key of course is to use green food coloring to give your "mouth wash" the look it needs. If you really want to play it safe, put a little super glue in the cap to make it look like it has never been opened.
We've read several other tips about smuggling alcohol on board from ports of call. In our experience this is NOT possible. They make you discard all items before re-entering the ship, including water bottles.
On my second three day cruise, this time with Jenny, in November of 2008 I prepared to take it up a notch. Little did I know at the time that Jenny is a master in all things smuggling. In fact, I have underestimated her abilities several times and never will I again. She strategically hid alcohol in her cosmetic bag, in water bottles and in little compartments I didn't know existed. While I don't recall exactly what we took I will say there was Tequila, Rum, Vodka and Champagne for mimosas, once again all items made it through.
In March of 2009 Jenny and I undertook a 7 day cruise in the Caribbean and once again I left her majesty to her alcohol smuggling ritual. This time, she surprised me yet again by purchasing alcohol containers and working diligently for three weeks to make sure we had enough booze to last our entire trip. Between the two of us we had prepared nearly seven bottles of liquor and even some left over Landsharks in our luggage. Because neither of us travel light and it was a seven day cruise we had six suitcases and we utilized every nook and cranny. Once again utilizing water bottles, hidden compartments and the like to fool Royal Caribbean, and once again we tipped our luggage handler well.
Unfortunately we weren't so lucky this time around. Several of our suitcases had been searched and about half of our stash had been confiscated. In fact, they searched so well that even the most well hidden items didn't make it. Luckily, as stated about half of our liquor made it through, including two Landsharks and we made do with what we had. I feel as though my three attempts have given me enough statistical data to make several educated guesses at how Royal Caribbean works, and I have provided them below for your convenience.
Our Observations and Educated Guesses
- Considering we took 2 three day cruises and made it through both times without an issue, and more importantly, had less baggage to hide our liquor leads me to believe that security on a three day cruise is extremely light. While I'm sure they do check baggage, the frequency of those searches must be less than longer cruises.
- While each time we tipped our baggage handler well, we realized after our third cruise that the baggage handler actually had no control over whether or not our bags were searched, despite popular belief.
- Perhaps the most important tip became clear after the seven day cruise. Regardless of how well you hide or pack your liquor, if they search your bag it WILL be found! I was amazed at how thoroughly they searched our bags. This leads me to a very important tip, on seven days cruises you do NOT need to disguise your alcohol! If they search it, it will be found...regardless.
- I personally am a man of statistics. I believe math is the universal language and while I couldn't pass Calculus for my life, I do understand statistics. When you consider the facts presented above I believe it is only logical to suggest that when embarking on a cruise you have the greatest chance of success to get alcohol on board when you equally disperse the liquor throughout all of your luggage. I do not recommend taking any good liquors, simply get the cheapest liquor that you will drink and place it in EVERY suitcase. For our next cruise we will place a bottle of vodka and a bottle of tequila in each suitcase, this way you have a greater statistical chance of getting your alcohol on board!
Royal Caribbean claims that Red Bull is not allowed to be brought on board. Jenny and I both enjoy Vodka and Red Bull so we brought several cans with us. The Red Bull happened to be in the suitcase searched and yet it was not confiscated. It was not hidden - This leads us to believe that Red Bull can be brought on without risk of it being taken.
An Important Update - Originally Posted 7/21/2009
Jenny and I have come across many sites online offering the best solutions for smuggling alcohol onto cruise ships. I'm sad to report however, that many are extremely flawed. One post we read on About.Com suggested that if you're caught there is no recourse! They simply take your alcohol and give it back to you once the cruise is completed - FALSE!
First, while they may not kick you off the ship they certainly have the right, feel free to browse the policies of any major cruise line. Second, they do not give you your alcohol back. If they confiscate it you'll find a lovely yellow note that says "We confiscated _________" where they list what they took.
The bottom line is each cruise line is different, and with each cruise line different policies. Further, while one bag may be inspected by "Joe I Don't Give A Shit" another may be inspected by "Robert Hardass". Your best bet is to always play it safe, disguise what you can and what you cannot simply play the numbers game by bringing as much luggage as possible. At the end of the day it's all statistics, they can't check every bag!