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How to Sneak Alcohol onto a Cruise Ship

Everyone's Got Their Methods for Getting Alcohol Onboard, But Which Ones Really Work?
January 08, 2014 By Matt Meltzer in Miami: Travel News  | 13 Comments

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Cruises are the ultimate American vacation: Eat grotesque amounts of food, watch overdone entertainment, and drink ungodly amounts of alcohol for no reason other than you’re out on the water. And while those first two are generally included in that $199 you threw down for an inside cabin, triple occupancy, that last one most certainly is not. So if you drink with the same voraciousness you eat, your liquor bill will end up being more than your cruise fare.

What does a cash-strapped, alcohol starved American do? Much like you would in an overpriced club, sneak your own stuff in. But it’s not as simple as just throwing a bottle of Skol in your suitcase. The cruise lines are on to you, so here we’ll show you some methods for getting booze on the boat and how effective they really are.




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The Mouthwash Bottle
What you do: Buy a bottle of Listerine and a bottle of Scope. Empty both, wash thoroughly, and fill the Listerine with brown liquor and the Scope with clear, then add a couple drops of green food coloring. Or mix whiskey with a splash of Blue Gatorade. Re-seal the plastic with a warm lighter, then make sure to CHECK YOUR BAGS. This avoids X-ray machines and is worth the $5 tip to the bellman.
Downside: Your drinks will all have a VERY distinct mint/antiseptic mouthwash flavor. Though a true liquor connoisseur probably isn’t smuggling Blue Label on a cruise anyway.
Effectiveness: Pretty Effective. Just makes for some nasty drinks.

The Wine Bottles
What you do: The cruise allows you to carry on one bottle of wine per person. If you weren’t hung up on having a nice Cabernet with your Flat Iron steak, you can buy a screw cap wine (recorking is about as easy as trying to dribble a football), empty it, then fill it with clear booze and add the appropriate (purple or yellow, or pink if you’re a freshmen girl) food coloring. Security will pull it out, see it’s wine, and wave you through.
Downside: You’ll have to buy wine onboard if you want it. You’ll also have to buy wine bottles.
Effectiveness: Very effective. This tip was actually given to me BY a security agent at PortMiami.

The Camelback
What you do: If you own one, take the rubber water pouch out of your Cambelback and fill it with alcohol. Again, make sure you check your bag.
Downside: You may ruin your Camelback, or at the very least have rum-flavored water the next time you go on a hike. Also, it’s pretty easily openable so if security DOES decide to check you’re done.
Effectiveness: Not Very Effective

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The Water Bottles
What you do: But liter-sized bottles of water. Empty them out and fill with your choice of select clear liquors. Then glue the caps back on to renew the seal. (Alternately: Boil the tops of the bottles and slide the caps off, seal intact, then replace).
The Downside: Security is on to this one, so they’ll shake any water bottle you try and bring through. If it foams at all, they take it, since bottled water won’t foam.
Effectiveness: Not effective

The Case of Water
What you do: Take an unopened, plastic sealed case of bottled water, slide the bottles out WITHOUT OPENING THE PLASTIC, and fill all the interior bottles with clear liquor. This way if a bottle is grabbed from the outside, they’ll grab water and your case of Don Q gets on no problem.
The Downside: They might slice open your case and check the middle bottles. In which case you’re done.
Effectiveness: Not very effective.

The Rum Runner Flasks
What you do: Hit a liquor store and buy these allegedly-undetectable-by-X-ray plastic baggie flasks and fill them up, put them in your suitcase, and CHECK YOUR BAGS.
Downside: If that box of #2 pencils you packed for Trivia night opens and hits one of these, all your clothes will smell like Jose Cuervo for the entire cruise AND you’ll be outta alcohol. Also, if your bag is opened for any other reason, like you forgot you left your .22 in your suitcase, they’ll see these and take them.
Effectiveness: Pretty Effective

The Secret Compartment
What you do: Fill up some water bottles with liquor and put them in a compartment under your main compartment. This can be done in any suitcase that has a cardboard liner at the bottom. Then put real water bottles on top of them as decoys.
The downside: If you lack a secret compartment, this is a LOT of work. Also, there is a slim chance they see ALL the bottles and wonder why only 3 of the 6 are visible.
Effectiveness: Fairly Effective

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BACKUPS:

The Foreign Liquor Store Pickup
What you Do: While you’ll be stuck paying $7 a beer until you hit a port, once you do run to the first liquor store and pick up pint flasks in plastic bottles. Make sure they have plastic tops so as not to set off the metal detectors at re-entry to your cruise ship. They don’t pat you down, so wear a baggy shirt and hide as many as you can in your waistband while walking back on. The Smirnoff pint sized bottles work well for this. An added bonus: Often you can buy at a duty free store which is even cheaper than Walgreen’s back home.
Downside: You can’t get back a whole lot at once, so if you’re trying to stock up for a long cruise you may spend your entire day in Nassau smuggling. Not that that’s unusual.
Effectiveness: Very effective.

The Onboard Duty-Free (LAST NIGHT ONLY)
What you do: Typically you’ll be out of your smuggled Charcoal filtered deliciousness by the last night anyway, and a little known fact is that whatever you purchase at the onboard duty free can be claimed after about 6:30 p.m. on your last night of the cruise. So hit up the duty free, pick up a $15 bottle of Finalandia (or 3) and save a ton of cash on your last night. And if you think you’ll blow through all your money playing Pai Gow before your cruise curtain-call, you can buy this on the first day and still claim it at the end.
Downside: It’s only good one night of the whole trip.
Effectiveness: 100% effective. You only fail if you forget to pick it up.

Related Categories: Miami: Travel News,

About the Author: Matt Meltzer is a featured columnist at Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer

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13 Comments on

"How to Sneak Alcohol onto a Cruise Ship"

Tara says:

I’ve been considering buying one of these bad boys for my next cruise. http://www.amazon.com/The-WineRack-200-008-Wine-Medium/dp/B001FYZZI2

Posted on 01/08/2014 at 2:51 PM

Tara says:

Also, I did the wine bottle trick the last time I cruised out of Miami with a green glass bottle of wine refilled with rum and it worked like charm.

Posted on 01/08/2014 at 2:55 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

Tara I loved that one, but it was a little too gender-specific for this.

Posted on 01/08/2014 at 5:15 PM

Ben B. says:

Just get a kit from BoozeBuddy.com They really work and are super cheap.  We have used ours for 2 different cruises already and not one issue. smile

Posted on 07/28/2014 at 5:19 PM

Rick says:

Hey Ben!  Thanks for the tip!  My wife went to BoozeBuddy.com and bought one of their cruise kits.  WORKED LIKE A CHARM!  Thanks for great suggestion, you saved us tons of loot.

Posted on 10/11/2014 at 2:29 PM

Kcs says:

My wife and I just returned from a 5 day cruise out of miami to the bahamas.  We had 5 Platypus bags (available at Sports Chalet or any sporting goods store that sells camping equipment) scattered throughout three pieces of luggage.  Some of these bags were 2 liters in size but we only filled them to 1.5L.  The bags were then put into heavy duty gallon size zip loc bags.  I put one inside the leg of a pair of jeans, another was wrapped up inside of a sport coat and I even put one inside of one of my wife’s knee high boots.

Everything made it on without incident and we proceeded to drink the entire amount of 4.5 liters over the next 5 days.  We also carried on a bottle of wine along with a bottle of champagne.  Needless to say we’re pretty heavy drinkers.

Feel free to also bring some weed aboard.  I put my weed in a zip loc bag then rolled it up and stuck it inside of a used speed stick deodorant container, reinserted the deodorant stick and capped it.  I bought one of those small metal pipes that screws apart into about four pieces.  Scatter those those around in your luggage as well and they’ll never know what they’re looking at.  The fan in the bathroom on our cruise ship would literally suck a kleenex right out of your hand so all of the partying took place in the bathroom with zero smell of smoke.

Posted on 02/10/2015 at 4:19 PM

RoseC says:

The listerine bottle trip doesn’t work anymore. Cruise ships see that big bottle and alarms go off, then all they do is shake it to see the bubbles just like the water bottle trick. You completely forgot to mention things like the fake shampoo/conditioner/lotion bottles that are sold specifically for smuggling alcohol. Also, rum runners are actually much thicker than you think and would be hard pressed for a pencil to open it up.

Posted on 04/26/2015 at 2:30 PM

mike says:

Amazon also sells hollow walking canes and fake bibles that hold liquor.  I haven’t tried them yet, but on my list for the next cruise.

Posted on 05/11/2015 at 9:13 PM

Brian says:

I didn’t tip the bag guy. My bag got my named ripped off it, searched. Then opened my sealed listereen and that upset me. It was really just listereen and the whole time I was concerned they positioned me. So tip the slacker.

Posted on 12/20/2015 at 11:26 PM

Michelle M. says:

I’m with Ben B. a few comments up.  I my family ordered a few kits from BoozeBuddy.com and it worked like a charm!  They aren’t expensive and believe me we made that money back in the first hour on the ship!  Highly recommended!!!!

Posted on 08/18/2016 at 9:39 AM

Jimi says:

Just go to Amazon.com and type in “cruise flask”.  There are a lot to choose from but I put my money on ShampBooze Cruise Flasks. If my luggage does get opened and searched they wont find an obvious bag of booze. It has a lot of good reviews.

Posted on 09/06/2016 at 11:28 PM

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