What Happens if Caught Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise?

No doubt cruise lines make a large portion of their profits from the drinks they sell onboard, so it’s no wonder they try to guard these profits by setting rules within their guest policies.

With relatively high drinks prices, it is very tempting to think about or try to sneak alcohol on a cruise ship it is also well worthwhile considering what happens if you get caught.

What Happens if Caught Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise?

As you may already be aware, you must pass through security when you embark on a cruise ship.    This is where your luggage will be scanned, and you’ll find out if the cruise ship scanner can detect alcohol and how they can detect it.

It is essential to know no beforehand what will happen if you get caught sneaking alcohol on a cruise so you can weigh up whether it’s worth the risk. 

It also helps to know how much alcohol you can bring on a cruise. Some cruise lines let guests bring unlimited amounts on. However, if you bring wine on a cruise make sure you check the corkage fees in our post, as some can be excessive.

If there is a risk you won’t be allowed on board, it will hardly be worth the stress.   If, as is often the case, they simply confiscate your booze or hold it until the disembarkation day, it might be worth the risk for some people.

Consequences if Caught 

There are various possible repercussions and consequences if you are caught trying to sneak alcohol on board the cruise ship, on embarkation day, or returning to the ship from a port of call. Similar to if you were caught drinking on a cruise at 18 where the age limit is 21.

The worst thing that can happen if you’re caught smuggling alcohol on a cruise ship is that you would not be allowed to board on embarkation day or reboard from a port of call. However, this would be a rare event.

Be under no illusions, cruise line security staff know every trick in the book.  Some even mention specific alcohol-hiding containers that may inspect if they suspect anything, including water bottles and mouthwash.

Also, some of the potential consequences are serious and can be pretty costly, you may be pleased to know that if caught, it’s not something you will end up in a cruise jail for.

Cruise Security
Cruise security may take action

Royal Caribbean

If you take alcohol onboard from a port of call and present it to security, they will store it for you until disembarkation day. 

If you try to sneak it on, you risk losing it.

The Royal Caribbean guest policy states that if they find any alcohol concealed in containers, they will dispose of it.  There is no direct mention of any harsher punishments. 

Security personnel may inspect containers
(including water bottles, soda bottles, mouthwash, canteens, etc.) at any time and will
dispose of alcohol concealed in such containers.

Royal Caribbean

However, when including “attempt to conceal alcoholic items” under the same umbrellas as overconsuming and providing alcohol to underage guests, they mention a more severe punishment of being disembarked.

Here is the full quote taken from here.

Guests who violate any alcohol policies, (over consume, provide alcohol to people under the legal drinking age, demonstrate irresponsible behavior, or attempt to conceal alcoholic items at security and or luggage check points or any other time), may be disembarked or not allowed to board, at their own expense, in accordance with our Guest Conduct Policy. Guests who are under the permitted drinking age will not have alcohol returned to them.

Royal Caribbean guest policy.

Therefore, although it’s likely a lot of judgment is involved depending upon the circumstances, there is a real possibility that you won’t be allowed back on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Whether this would apply to first-time offenders or perhaps repeat offenders, we don’t quite know.  Not many people risk it again after being caught as there is too much to lose.

Carnival Cruise

Carnival cruises only allow guests to bring one bottle of 750ml wine or champagne on embarkation day.  So none from any ports of call.

If caught smuggling alcohol on a Carnival cruise, you can expect to have the items permanently confiscated. There is no mention of being able to claim the items back later.

Outside this exception, all liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage and such items will be confiscated and discarded and no compensation will be provided.

Carnival Liquor and Beverage policy here.

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise allows guests to bring an unlimited amount of bottled wine onboard, but they will charge you a $15 corkage fee for each one ($30 for larger 1500ml bottles)

If guests try to sneak hard liquor or any beer onboard, the items will be confiscated and secured safely until the final evening or disembarkation day.

There is no mention of any other consequences for smuggling prohibited liquor or beer onboard.  One can only assume that if they discover the liquor sneaked on in a container, they confiscate that too.

Disney Cruise Lines

Disney Cruise lines are one of the more generous regarding the amount of alcohol they allow guests to bring onboard, both when they onboard and at every port of call. They are also one of the few cruise companies that allow beer to be brought on board.

However, if you try to sneak more alcohol on in your checked luggage or it is discovered in your carry-on, you can expect to lose it.

Alcohol packed in checked luggage will be removed and not returned and no compensation will be offered.

Any wine or champagne in excess of 2 bottles or beer in excess of 6 beers is prohibited and must be discarded prior to entry and no compensation offered.

Disney Cruise Alcohol Policy

Princess Cruises

You can take unlimited bottled wine and champagne onboard a Princess cruise.  However, only 1 bottle per guest is allowed onboard for free. All other bottles are subject to a $15 corkage fee regardless of whether they will be consumed.

Princess Cruises do not allow any liquor, spirits, or beers to be brought onboard by guests.

Princess cruises state:

Please remember that luggage will be scanned and alcohol outside of our policy will be removed and discarded.*

Princess Cruises

They go on to clarify:

Princess is not responsible for any alcoholic beverages removed and discarded by shoreside security staff. Such items are not eligible for monetary refund or replacement. Guests found with prohibited items, including alcohol outside of the policy, may need to collect their luggage at a security checkpoint on board.

Princess Cruises Alcohol policy here.

As you can see, if you get caught sneaking alcohol on a Princess Cruise, you can expect them to put your luggage to one side to be checked, and you will have to collect it later from the security checkpoint, which delays you in being able to start unpacking your luggage.

You will also lose any prohibited alcohol they do discover.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises have a strongly worded guest policy regarding violating their terms.

They typically mention that attempting to conceal alcoholic items may lead to being disembarked or not allowed on board.

Guests who violate any alcohol policies, (over consume, provide alcohol to people under age twenty­one (21), demonstrate irresponsible behavior, or attempt to conceal alcoholic items  at security and or luggage check points or any other time), may be disembarked or not allowed to board, at their own expense, in accordance with our Guest Conduct Policy. 

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity cruise guest alcohol policy lets passengers know their security knows what to look for when it comes to smuggling alcohol onboard, specifically mentioning containers like water and soda bottles and even the mouthwash trick.  They state:

Security may inspect containers (water bottles, soda bottles, mouthwash, luggage etc.) and  will dispose of containers holding alcohol.

Celebrity Guest Alcohol Policy here.

MSC Cruises  

MSC cruises do not allow guests to take any form of alcohol onboard their cruise ships.

Therefore it may be even more tempting to smuggle some onboard.

Upon checking what happens if you get caught, we checked their “Items Forbidden on Board”.  

They state it is the duty of port security to search guests’ luggage and confiscate any items.

Port Security has the duty to search Guests and luggage to confiscate any article internationally known as dangerous for the safety and security of Guests, Crew and ship. Such items will be confiscated and not returned. Alcohol,”……..” MSC Cruises will be forced to deny access to any guests not complying with these mandated regulations.

MSC terms here.

While Alcohol is specifically listed, it is one of many amongst what could be deemed much more safety hazard items.  

Although it states you could be denied access, it is more likely your alcohol would be confiscated permanently.

Viking Cruises

There is no need to even think about sneaking alcohol on a Viking cruise because they let you take as much alcohol as you want on both boarding days and when you return from ports of call.

This is not just for river cruises but also for the Viking Ocean cruises.

Holland America

Holland America allows guests to take an unstated amount of wine and champagne, as long as not an excessive amount.  However, there is a $20 corkage fee for each bottle.

When it comes to checking your luggage, even if its locked, Holland America state:

If Your luggage is locked, the lock may be removed by security or, alternatively, the luggage will be held by security until you can be present for an inspection and any items in question further identified and/or surrendered.

Holland America

If the members of the port security find any prohibited alcoholic beverages, they will be removed and discarded, so you do not get them back.   There is no mention of any further consequences.

They state:

All checked and carry-on luggage will be scanned and any prohibited items, including alcoholic/nonalcoholic beverages will be removed, confiscated, and discarded

MSC Alcoholic Beverages Onboard policy here.

Real Experiences of Being Caught

I purposely looked for real examples of people being caught so you can see what really happens if you are caught and what you might have to go through.

Caught With Bottles in Checked Luggage

In this video below (beware contains some explicit language), the guest was called down to deck 2.

Security had spotted his luggage containing bottles of alcohol, in this case, 5 bottles of spirits and liquors.  It doesn’t look like he made much of an effort to disguise them.

His suitcase was reportedly covered in some tape marked “Alcohol.”

In this case, the guest is fortunate that he was given a receipt to collect his own bottles of alcohol back on the last day of the cruise.

In this case, the consequences are not so dire.   A little time wasted, and embarrassment isn’t too bad.  

Caught with Rum Runners

This cruiser got caught for the first time with her rum runners. She was informed of this via a letter in the bag which explained that during Carnival scanning, security had spotted the alcohol in her bag and removed it.   

As per the Carnival policy, she was told in the letter she would not be able to get her booze back. 

She thinks she got caught “smuggling” this time because she didn’t separate the rum runners like she usually does.   That’s her theory anyway (from the comments).

Frequently Asked Questions

Has Anyone Ever Been Kicked Off a Cruise Ship for Smuggling on Alcohol?

I’ve never heard of or can find any record of anyone being denied entry onto a cruise or kicked off after being caught smuggling alcohol onboard. If someone is kicked off relating to alcohol, it’s usually because they have violated more serious rules and terms.

If you are caught, always be pleasant to the cruise security staff as they are only doing their job.


As you can see from the above policies and examples, the cruise lines know some people will try and smuggle alcohol onboard.

Most often, the worst that happens is the passenger gets the alcohol confiscated.  Added to this is, for some, the embarrassment and awkwardness of being caught and a delay in receiving luggage while it’s checked is punishment on top.

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