Royal Caribbean cracks down on booze smuggling

It wasn’t all that long ago when guests booked on any given cruise line did not have too much trouble bringing a bottle of fine wine, some soft drinks or bottled water on to the ship at embarkation to enjoy in their stateroom. There was no “smuggling” needed and cruise lines, for the most part, allowed it. Today, rules are changing and being strictly enforced.

Cruise lines in general allowed guests to bring on one bottle of fine wine for a special occasion when they boarded the ship. The only caveat being that if consumed in the dining room the line would charge a “corkage fee” for serving it. Bottled water and soft drinks too were allowed. I have checked cases of bottled water with porters at the pier before and they were delivered to our stateroom right along with luggage later in the day. Soft drinks in 12-packs were easy to add to checked luggage too, also with no problem.
Hard liquor, beer, excessive amounts of wine (like in a box) have always been prohibited but common advice was to wrap it securely and put in checked luggage. One could almost bet on it making its way through security and on to the ship. No problem. Still, it was technically smuggling and it might as well have been gasoline. If caught, the cruise line would take it.

Today, we see more reports of cruise lines cracking down on booze smuggling with this recent report by a Royal Caribbean passenger just off Oasis of the Seas saying:

“We gave all our luggage to the porter. All our bags showed up around 2 PM, except for 3 bags that contained alcohol”

“Our cabin steward said if we had Irons (fire hazard) or alcohol in those missing bags, that we needed to go down to level 2 and claim them. We went down and were surprised to see this large room covered with luggage. I’m talking 100’s of bags”

“They greeted us by asking if we had alcohol or irons in the bag. They had 2 different sections of bags, one for the irons and one for the alcohol. After locating our bags, we had to take them to a table to be opened, inspected by security while you rummage through your bag and get out the alcohol that the cruise line somehow determined was in it it. They taped all the items together, marked our room # on it and said it would be returned the last night of the cruise. Our cabin steward did return it around 6 PM on our last night”.

“One in our party had a 4 pack of those small bottles of wine that they confiscated. She thought she had rummaged completely through her bag in front of security, but she missed one bottle so we had that one anyway.”

Moral of the story: Pack junk wine or decoy bottles on top with the good stuff deep down in the luggage? Be more creative, like Ziploc bags of booze taped to your body?

Probably not.Royal Caribbean’s rules are clear: “Guests are not allowed to bring alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages on-board for consumption or any other use.” Try and you’re just rolling the dice as to if your contraband makes it on the ship or not.

Better idea: Budget for liquor and other beverage purchases and have an idea of what you might spend on the sailing then just consider it part of the price OR cruise a line that has a more lenient policy.

Carnival Cruise Line’s policy also prohibits bringing alcoholic beverages on board but says “wine enthusiasts may bring fine wine or champagne on board only during embarkation at the beginning of the cruise” and that guests “may bring a small quantity of nonalcoholic beverages” but quickly points out that “All liquor, excessive quantities of wine and nonalcoholic beverages, to be determined at the discretion of security and/or embarkation personnel, will be confiscated and discarded without compensation.” Princess Cruises also has that exemption for a bottle of wine at embarkation. Other lines have their own policies and they change from time to time so be sure you know for sure what the policy of your line is.

Another part of Royal Caribbean’s policy that is probably overlooked, especially by passengers who drive rather than fly to the port of embarkation:

“Please Note: All guests must comply with TSA guidelines for transporting liquids.”

Uh oh!

That surely means they could confiscate bottles of shampoo, mouthwash, lotions, and other liquids in excess of the 3oz TSA limit. This one has a double whammy of trouble. First, (and probably why they added it) filling a large Listerine bottle with Scotch or an Evian bottle with Vodka is no longer a really security-proof option. Next, will 3oz of your favorite shampoo really be enough for a week? Odds are you can bring many little bottles of shampoo and really creative people will find a way to smuggle booze on to the ship anyway.

Better idea? TSA Compliant Travel Bottles and Kits for Liquids and Gels

Bad idea: The wine rack described as “Turn an A cup in to double Ds AND sport your favorite beverage for yourself and your friends! Better than a Boob Job and Cheaper Too! Not to mention the savings on over priced drinks.

This is where we hope cruise lines don’t start TSA-style patdown’s any time soon.

Flickr photo by theimpulsive buy