9 More Ways to Get Free (or Cheaper) Drinks at Sea

January 31, 2012 | By | 98 Comments

Our 7 ways to get “free” drinks at sea post really had you opening up, so much so that we knew there’d be another round. This one’s on you, though. We’ve compiled nine great reader tips and tricks for scoring free or discounted pours on cruise ships.
One quick caveat:
With one or two justified exceptions, the following tips do not include wine. Policies vary, but most mainstream lines allow passengers to bring vino onboard in some fashion, though you’ll likely have to pay a corkage fee to drink it in a restaurant. Check out our full rundown of cruise line alcohol policies for more information.
Opt for in-cabin bottle service. “Some of the lines offer bottles of liquor via room service,” writes Scott. “So we often will order a bottle of vodka, and a six pack of seven up or sprite, and mix our own vodka-seven cocktails. It actually can save a lot of money, and you can have a cocktail in your room instead of having to go find a bar and wait in line.” Not all lines offer this bottle service option, but those that do include Oceania and Princess. Prices do vary by line, and so, too, will savings. Here’s a look at Princess Cruises’ liquor bottle price list.
Make nice with the bartender. “My husband and I have always found that if we frequent the same bar staff during the majority of the cruise, and be sure to tip generously, we get excellent service,” writes Linda. “May not always be free, but the bar staff tend to be more generous.” Linda also recommends asking your favorite barkeep where he or she is going to be when. Tim agrees. “They will treat you right with strong pours and drinks that never find their way to your tab,” he says.
Liquid courage? While we can’t condone alcohol smuggling — mainstream mega-ships are nearly unanimous in their restrictive policies (save for the aforementioned wine) — many of you offered various means of subterfuge. But be warned: “I just got of a Carnival cruise in MIA,” says Heidi. “I normally hide my rum in an ice tea bottle, but this year I put vodka in my water bottles. The port security got smart and took the bottles out of the plastic wrap from the store and shook each one to check out the bubbles. They snagged the only four bottles I put vodka in and let me go with the rest of the water.”
More loyalty perks. In our first boozeworthy piece, 7 ways to get free drinks at sea, we mentioned the free-flowing past-passenger perks offered by Royal Caribbean and Holland America. Many of you wanted to toast the loyalty programs of other lines. “As Elite loyalty members with Princess, we receive a free mini-bar selection on embarkation day,” says Jenny. “Too bad we don’t drink alcohol at all, but we can usually find someone who does!” Adds Anne: “We are on the Celebrity‘s ‘Select’ tier, one of the perks is a free wine tasting seminar. It was interesting and there were six wine ‘tasters’ — great if you enjoy wine!” See our story on cruise line past-passenger programs for more info.
Buy yourself the gift of liquor. “On Princess, we always buy ourselves a ‘Bon Voyage’ gift or two,” writes Kim, referring to the pre-cruise order options, which can be delivered to your cabin. “Liquor is a particularly good deal. Extra bonus — when the gift is set up in your room, it includes a nice set of glasses to use during the cruise. You are not supposed to take these drinks out of the cabin, but we have never been questioned when doing so.” Here’s an example of Princess’ prices. Carnival’s list is even better. “Saves tons of money rather than buying drinks at the bars,” writes Samantha. Cruise Critic called the line’s Bon Voyage department (800-522-7648), and a friendly lady told us the prices for liter bottles of Absolut ($60), Beefeater ($50), Jim Beam ($55) and Jamison ($60). You can certainly do much better at your local liquor store (as in 1/2 the price or better), but it’s still an decent savings over the onboard prices.
Cocktail soup and drunken desserts? “On Princess they served a ‘Pina Colada Soup’ with some dinners,” says Art. “This ‘soup’ is remarkably cold and full of alcohol. For those who still haven’t caught on, IT’S A FREAKIN’ FREE PINA COLADA!” Deidra K. offered a similarly boozy tip. “On HAL‘s Zaandam, we were delighted to find the ice cream dessert bar at the buffet was doling out (you need to request it) large, overflowing tablespoons of delicious liqueurs on top of the vanilla ice cream — Wowza! They even offered coconut rum as well — Gratis!”
Use a travel agent who loves you. There are few better ways of saying “thanks for your business” than finding the gift of vino in your cabin. “Our travel agent buys us a bottle of wine for every cruise we book through her,” writes Gloria.
A river of beer and wine. “Take a river cruise,” suggests Drew G.. “We are taking a Viking cruise in Europe, and were told we could bring anything we wanted onboard. Booze. Beer. Wine. They volunteered the information. Plus, wine and beer are complimentary at night.” Indeed, most river cruise lines include wine and beer, often locally sourced, with your evening meal — and most are liberal about passengers taking on local ales or vintages. River cruise fares are certainly more expensive than those found on a mainstream mega-ship line, but the inclusivity and hassle-free attitude is a welcome touch.
Consider an all-you-can drink package. “Celebrity has sauce packages that are bottomless and worth it,” writes Mike B. “If you drink, get one and save. Added benefit: You know how much you’re going to spend. Also, I’ve found that waitstaff prefers cash tips. It’s a pain to carry extra cabbage, but worth it.” Many other readers proclaimed the merits of beverage packages, which are offered by Celebrity and Oceania, as well as a few Royal Caribbean ships. Still, they’ve been controversial. Some readers firmly believe that “all-you-can-drink” could contribute to creating a frat house vibe. Learn more about the packages here.
Feeling loose-lipped? Share your best tip for getting free or subsidized drinks at sea.
Check out another 7 ways to get free alcohol onboard.
Get your very own Lido Deck subscription.
    Please share this post!


    98 Responses to “9 More Ways to Get Free (or Cheaper) Drinks at Sea”

    1. Sarah
      January 31st, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

      On Celebrity, we would bring mini bottles of liquor from ashore and put them in our pockets, bra, whatever, and walk through the metal detector. As long as it, nor your bottles have any metal, you win. Then, just buy some juice and mix it yourself in the cabin. Easy.

    2. Ken
      February 1st, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

      My wife and I cruise on Holland America. I don’t bring booze on board at the originating port, it’s too obvious. But, I buy Mexican brandy in the Mexico stops and put it in my backpack for the return. I’ve never been questioned. Then, drink it neat in my room, which I call “prefunctioning”. The few drinks I buy in the bars don’t seem so expensive, since there aren’t that many.

    3. sylvia schurr
      February 1st, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

      Don’t forget the free champagne at the ART Auction :-)

    4. Mary
      February 1st, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

      When flying across country and boarding a ship it is hard to bring wine….leaking onto clothes, etc. We bought the 4 pack plastic bottles of wine at Target instead of their wine box. Packed them in our shoes and socks in our checked luggage. Never had a problem! Before dinner we would have a glass of wine, and also take a glass of wine to dinner using the glasses in our cabin. While we were at dinner our room was made up and fresh glasses were replaced. We also made sure we ordered wine from the Somelier at dinner just to be polite.

    5. Michelle
      February 1st, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

      I can’t believe that one of Carnival’s little known secrets is not listed on here. We just got back from a 4 night cruise on the Esctasy and on the last evening, there is an event called Fun Farewell. It is 1 hour of free drinks and Carnival does not advertise it much. It was in the Fun Times in small print. I read about this on the boards here so I knew about it ahead of time. My husband and I had probably $200 worth of mixed drinks and beer between the two of us in that one hour for free.

    6. Vera Novacek
      February 1st, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

      Cunard company will allow you to bring liquor on board, as long it is reasonable. We never had a problem, bringing 1 litre of Scotch and some wine bought at the duty free shop at the airport. Also we do buy beer at the ports to take back to the cabin, some port prices could be pricey though, it might be cheaper to buy in local stores than duty free at port.

    7. Cruise Critic
      February 1st, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

      @Michelle, that tip is on the first round (7 ways to get free drinks)!

    8. Dale Donaldson
      February 1st, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

      Nov. 2010 we were on the Grand Princess and they had unadvertised drink specials each evening after 8 pm. Bar hard stuff, some beer and 2 or 3 mixed drinks (pina colada, singapor sling), slighty smaller than normal for 3.99 each. Signs were in the bars, but on the back shelf hard to see, not really advertised but if you asked what was on special they would tell you. Almost nobody on board was aware of it and many past passengers who had sailed with them many many times had never heard of those specials and wer unaware. We made use of them.

    9. jmw2323
      February 1st, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

      disney of course lets you bring on embarkation. They also do not confiscate your duty free island purchases.

    10. speedlady
      February 1st, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

      We are Elite on Celebrity and enjoy the nightly 2-hour Happy Hours in a private Elite lounge with premium pours. This is a HUGE perk over a long cruise. Also get a special wine-tasting event and a special breakfast with mimosas or bloody marys.

    11. Liz
      February 1st, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

      We sail Carnival every year (out of Port of Miami). We usually take a two liter bottle of Ginger Ale and fill it with clear rum. I pack it in our suitcase (they will check you closely at the Port when you go through check-in process, but never care about your luggage)…I also pack water and soda, so we can have drinks with us all day. We bring the red “Carnival” cups we bought on our first cruise…I carry a small water bottle of rum with us and the lemonade and tea are free in the Lido deck all day long…Hard Lemonades and Hard Ice Teas…yum…never had anything conviscated.

    12. Jon Edens
      February 1st, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

      best tip is to be friendly with the bartender. every cruise that i have been on i have been served free drinks. make conversation with a couple of different bartenders in your favorite areas of the ship. tip them cash and tip them big on the first day, and your set.

    13. Roberto
      February 1st, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

      I always try to buy beer cans(not bottles…that would bring suspicion!!lol) in two backpacks(mine and my wife’s) in every port of call. So far, I have done it on Carnival and Celebrity..and never had a problem. I guess they figured that they are just soda cans, and they are focusing more on big 1 liter bottles. On my first cruise(Carnival) leaving from San Juan, Puerto Rico…I embarked with a six pack of beer and one wine bottle that I put on my wife’s luggage..and no one said anything :). A friend of mine told me that you could take a family-size empty bottle of Listerine and fill it up with scotch, I guess that’s another great idea to score free alcohol!!! ;). Some friends of ours are persuading us to go to the Oasis of the Seas with them..but I’ve read that they really check the luggage, open every single plastic container and smell it!!!..and if it turns out to be alcohol, they order you to throw it away!!!..no liquids!!..period!!..they don’t even let you bring regular water bottles!!..for me that’s a reason to stay away from that cruise!!!

    14. BigTipper
      February 1st, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

      Well, a few other pointers…

      While not “free”, you can save money on drinks by buying special cocktail cards and wine packages on certain cruise lines. We always buy these as we drink wine with dinner, and we have cocktails during the day. Further to the point made above, about making friends with your favorite bartender, the bartenders get tracked (and likely bonused) on how many of these they can sell to guests. If you buy all of these from the same bartender, you will notice how grateful they are with the aforementioned free pours, and the odd free drink (in fact, I’m sure one or two of the initial sales pitches started with the bartender telling me he would include the first drink special on the house, if I took the card).

      Also, I have to say that I have brought beer, wine, and hard liquor on board just about every cruise ship I’ve been on (Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America), and never had any confiscated. I haven’t exactly tried to hide it, but I didn’t wave it around either. I seem to recall that, with the possible exception of some wine and champagne, the beer and liquor was always brought on mid-cruise. I don’t know if that makes a difference, but so far I haven’t had any issues with their policies. In most cases, it’s been brought on (clinking loudly) in plain plastic shopping bags, straight from the liquor store. It has even gotten scanned, and handled by the security staff, getting back onto the ship. Don’t know if I’ve just been lucky, or if they just don’t enforce their policies very stringently.
      I wi

    15. Yada Yada, Jr.
      February 1st, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

      We put a box of red wine in the suitcase and had no trouble at all with either Carnival or Royal Caribbean… add to that one liter bottles of Sprite and Coca cola in our carry-on. The former filled with Grey Goose, the latter filled with Maker’s Mark and tinted with 4 drops each of red and blue food coloring!

    16. Bob Pearsall
      February 1st, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

      Occasionally on Norwegian, they’ll have reduced prices for your morning after wake-me-up. Specifically bloody marys and mimosas. We get one or two of each without ice and store them in the fridge. When the show is over and before bed, our nightcap is waiting.

    17. Joe Smith
      February 1st, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

      Anyone have any comments/information on MSC?

    18. Terry
      February 1st, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

      We have been on four cruises on foour different lines and never had any problems taking wine in our backpacks at both embarkation and on stopovers.
      On our last cruise, we were both given a tab for $250 so that was nice.
      I am bemused by the desperate measures people go to (liquor in mouthwash bottles!. Really, you are on holidays. Just figure the cost of alcohol into your spend.

    19. Monty Fisher
      February 1st, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

      Princess allows 1 bottle of Champagne and wine aboard p/p not bad. We order xtra o.j. for room service breakfast and make mimosas, also if you have Vodka order xtra tomato juice’s and have bloody Mary’s. Right on Bob !

    20. connie
      February 1st, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

      My hubby and I do just fine without the alcohol. We don’t need a buzz to relax and enjoy ourselves.

    21. Susan
      February 1st, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

      Going on the NCL Epic soon; anyone have any suggestions/experiences, etc?

    22. Don
      February 1st, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

      Norwegian stuck it to our son who brought 4 or 5 bottles of premium wine aboard. Xray luggage- $15 per bottle. Soo knowing that, on Holland A we opened the box of box-wine and laid the box and the plastic liner flat. It’s invisible to prying Xray. Great to have a pre-dinner wine or whenever. The whole box costs about like two wines aboard and you can control quality too.

    23. karen
      February 1st, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

      I often buy small bottles of alcohol in ports and never had a problem taking them back on board (Holland America LIne), I’ve also been known to put rum in a diet coke plastic bottle with no issues. This one was Princess.

    24. Tom
      February 1st, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

      I cruise out of NY whenever possible and always use carry-ons for luggage. Port security could care less how much booze you bring on board and since I carry my own luggage, it never goes to the ships security section where it will be x-rays and the bottles confiscated with those nasty notes sent to your stateroom.

    25. MJD
      February 1st, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

      In 2005, on HAL, I packed two 1.5 liters of cheap vodka in my checked luggage — no problem. ON a subsequent HAL cruise, in Barbados I bought a liter of Stoli and emptied into my water bottle in the restroom (trust me, there were bottles upon bottles lining the stalls of the restrooms in port!) No problem. I had met a gentlemen who emptied his Scotch into a water bottle and said when they questioned him, “I spend thousands of dollars on these cruises yearly, you got a problem with me?” They let him go. If they made decent cocktails, I wouldn’t mind spending $8 plus tax on a drink, but they have low pours and it’s a blatant rip-off so no wonder people “subterfuge” their liquor.

    26. Mary Ann
      February 1st, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

      Connie, I’ve been married to my best friend for over 53 years. We both enjoy a couple glasses of wine daily on our frequent cruises? Try a couple Chardonnys and you might not be so uptight about everyone else.

    27. Mary Koeneman
      February 1st, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

      On a recent Celebrity cruise we brought a bottle of rum aboard in Lima,Peru. We didn’t drink all of it so my husband triple wrapped the bottle in plastic bags to take home. The rum was cheap compared to bar prices,plus tip, onthe ship but the dry cleaning bill from the leaked rum on my jacket was not.Oh well,it was very good rum.

    28. LBR
      February 1st, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

      RCL Oasis is very strict at check in. Confiscated my luggage because they “thought” I had liquor… it was shampoo. They had hundreds of pieces of luggage that they held for possible liquor or other items. Had to open in front of everyone before they would let me take it. When returning from port with soda, they shook the bottles to make sure it was soda. Bought minis in port once though, and they made it through in a backpack.

    29. Margaret Willis
      February 1st, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

      If you guys enjoy wine and spirits you need to try the Luxury
      cruises like Seabourne and Silverseas. You will have all the wines, champagnes and high end spirits you can drink when-ever you want. In the end you really do not pay any more for
      a much more luxurious cruise. You have it in your room 24 hours a day and free in any bar you go to!

    30. MaryB
      February 1st, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

      The only problem I ever had with wine was on our first cruise on Carnival. Somebody put a bottle of red wine in their suitcase and it broke and soaked my garment bag which must have been next to it while the baggage was being loaded onboard. Well, my husband’s suit jacket and dress shirt got soaked as well, and when I complained to the purser, she told me that I “shouldn’t have put wine in my suitcase.” After a heated discussion, she agreed to send both items to be cleaned for free. So somebody else’s sneaky-ness resulted in a mess for me. My only consolation was how bad the real culprit’s belongings must have smelled! Remember that when you’re putting wine in your checked bags, please!!

    31. nancy
      February 1st, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

      MAN people are desperate to drink. I am shocked all the drinking that goes on these ships.
      Here’s a tip that will help you save tons of money; DON’T DRINK.
      My husband and I have been on many cruises and don’t find the need to drink . I can count on one hand how many we hae had in many cruises.

    32. Steve
      February 1st, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

      Google “Rum Runner Bags”.

    33. Lance
      February 1st, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

      Never had a problem with Princess in bringing a bottle onboard in checked luggage upon embarkation. In fact we purchased at the duty free shop right beside their registration hall in San Juan. And during the cruise, you are allowed one bottle of wine per person to bring on board per port of call – very civil whilst sailing the Mediterranean. On the premise the alcohol content was equivalent, we have brought back from ports 6 packs of beer in our back pack and again no problems. All bets off when speaking of RCI. BTW, I read about the discounted drinks by Princess after 8:00p.m. in the Princess Patter…. so it is not an obscure unadvertised promotion.

    34. fred
      February 1st, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

      Here’s one I haven’t heard: On back-to-back cruises any liquor bought on board is delivered to your cabin the last night. If you’re b-2-b, it’s never checked and you can enjoy it on the second cruise!

    35. Suzy in NJ
      February 1st, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

      We love Disney Cruise Lines! They watch our kids AND allow us to bring booze aboard!

    36. JAckie
      February 1st, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

      Rum Runners have worked for us forever! Just google them! It will save you tons! Clear bags that you can put liquor in! Simple.

    37. Ruthie
      February 1st, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

      OMG,I refuse to take up space in my bags with bottles, or bags of alcohol. I have to many other things to pack CLOTHES!!!!

      I would never considered sneaking booze onboard.The thought of booze spilling in my bag(s)brings tears to my eyes.

      How in the world do you drink $200.00 worth of drinks in one hour. At $10.00 a drink, that is
      twenty drinks. AA, should be considered, twenty drinks ????REALLY!

    38. jenny wright
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 3:16 am

      to connie, nancy and ruthie, what are you doing on a drinking site if you are all such lemon lips? if people choose to drink that’s none of your beeswax!

    39. Ana
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 7:48 am

      People , if you can not afford drinks at bar’s PLEASE STAY HOME..!! Thank you in advance.

    40. Steven
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 9:05 am

      “MAN people are desperate to drink. I am shocked all the drinking that goes on these ships.
      Here’s a tip that will help you save tons of money; DON’T DRINK.
      My husband and I have been on many cruises and don’t find the need to drink . I can count on one hand how many we hae had in many cruises”

      You’re the reason most of us have to drink….

    41. joe
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 9:36 am

      last april our crew of 6 all got caught trying to sneak plastic bottles of alcohol in our checked luggage. i have been cruising for over 20 years and never had a problem before. does anybody know how they are catching so many these days. how is it rum runner plastic bags get through and not the 1.75 ltr plastic bottles the boos comes in.

    42. Elisabeth
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 9:48 am

      I allow myself a couple of “cocktail” nights on board and other than that just enjoy the two bottles of wine we can bring onboard without being sneaky. I usually spend around $50 for cocktails for the week. I usually drink martinis or scotch … sometimes one frozen fruity thing during the day. I love the food on cruises, and find that too much drinking makes that less enjoyable … it makes everything less enjoyable really – so I just avoid excess … for me, that is more than 2 glasses/shots of alcohol anything per day. One or two nights of the cruise I do have 2 heavier drinks in the evening – usually timed after the past guest event since that is when I tend to drink enough to get carried away and drink more :P What can I say, cheap date.

    43. Michele
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 11:49 am

      Does anyone know about the strictness of taking alcohol onboard Norweigans Pride of America in Hawaii.Any money saving tips, alcohol or otherwise. Thanks

    44. Jim
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 11:52 am

      On a Norwegian cruise out of New Orleans, we were surprised that a bag was confiscated & I had to go down to an office where they required that I pay for my bottle of champagne or they would keep it. Since it was cheap champagne, I let them have it. For that, and other reasons (quality of food, crowded public areas) we won’t do Norwegian again. Other cruise lines generally allow you to bring on one bottle of wine per person.

    45. Ram
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

      Going on the NCL Epic soon; anyone have any suggestions/experiences, etc?

    46. Reg
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

      hehe….what the heck are the preachers doin on this thread, if you don’t drink? We do, so leave us alone….

    47. Marion Perry
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

      After reading the free drinks comments, some of these people should stay home. How cheap can some people be? especially Heidi who tries to smuggle booze in water bottles!

    48. Marion
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

      Joe: DON’T go on MSC. I have heard nothing but bad comments from passengers. A friend said they served pasta every night; the food is terrible.

    49. Randall Burton
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

      I suggested to Carnival a “Keg Klub Kard” years ago. Even if the price worked out about the same, it would be worth it just for the absence of the anxiety of over spending. People against drinking simply don’t have to purchase the package.

    50. Randall Burton
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

      Ram, check out rumrunners.com

    51. Pete and Monz Johnson
      February 3rd, 2012 @ 1:35 am

      Marion (48)
      We travelled with the MSC Poesia x NYC to Quebec and had nothing but praise for the friendly, helpful staff and the meals were great – certainly not pasta every night. There were quite a few dishes to pick from.
      We are traveling by cruise to Alaska later this year and wished that the MSC cruise lines were available to go there….. Would definitely go MSC again!
      Don’t know about their booze policy as we just bought beers and wine on board. They sold buckets of 4 cans of beer at a reasonable price. We would be keen to know what other MSC cruise people can advise ….???

    52. Steve
      February 3rd, 2012 @ 11:20 am

      I am just appalled at people and their opinions. If you don’t drink good for you. If I do and you don’t like it that my business and no one else s. My grandfather lived to be 98 and when asked he would be quick to tell you he drank a few shots of whiskey everyday. I say keep you opinions to yourself. You know they are like !@#$% everybody has one and they all stink!

    53. Barb
      February 3rd, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

      Holland America lets you bring wine or beer on board for use in your room. 2010 had wine in room everynight before dinner.

    54. Peggy
      February 4th, 2012 @ 8:33 am

      On Princess – we are ELITE and also get those little bottles of booze. We call Room Service and exchange our little bottles for beer and additional bottles of water or soda. We would prefer wine but my husband will drink the beer. They will not give you wine. Its always fun to sit on the balcony with a burger and beer at lunch time.

    55. Andy Smithers
      February 4th, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

      We participated in Pub Crawl on board. 25$ for 5 drinks and one hell of a party! Now I don’t normally get drunk, but I did. Some fun bar games were played and more drink we won depending on your performance.

    56. Roker
      February 4th, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

      Too much fuss about alcohol. We can take it or leave it and do leave it at American cruise line prices with their exorbitant 15% addition. However, they do serve delicious real lemonade free at times, and there is always their stewed coffee or weak tea available all day.

    57. nohogal
      February 4th, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

      Carnival (and possibly other cruiselines) offer free champagne to everyone attending the onboard art auctions. And you don’t have to buy art. The cruise als offered several opportunities at other times for free or half price drinks to all guests, and additional specials to returning cruisers (indicated by the color of your Sign and Sale card).

    58. Kevin
      February 4th, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

      Doesn’t anyone actually get it from this article?? If one likes alcohol then cruising is an absolutely terrible option. Pina Colada soup… are you kidding me?? And one bottle of wine from a travel agent or a free cocktail hour? Give me a break… some others have said it not so blatantly, but if you like to enjoy drinks, then don’t cruise. It’s an absoulte rip-off onboard. It’s one thing to suck it up and buy 10 dollar beers at a concert or sporting event, but it gets real old really fast on a boat that you are at the mercy of onboard pricing. Do yourself a favor and go to an all inclusive resort.

    59. Nancy
      February 5th, 2012 @ 1:11 am

      Regent’s prices may seem high, but when you consider all it includes, those rates can be worthwhile. Not only ALL alcohol throughout the ship, tips, excursions and very fine accommodations. Costs of alcohol, or ways to \smuggle it on\ are not even a thought.

    60. Kelly
      February 5th, 2012 @ 2:46 am

      Everyone enjoys vacations differently. Drinking or not. We will bring drinks on (rum runners) just in case we feel like drinking some and then most of the time we don’t drink any or much and bring it back home where it sits for about six months and makes its way on the next cruise. I joked with my husband we are going to get caught one day brining off the ship to go home. All that matters is you ENJOY YOUR CRUISE however you see fit. Kelly@BrewerTravel.com

    61. Dong Kim Ill
      February 5th, 2012 @ 11:21 am

      OK, I do not drink nor cruise; but have been on the bars of cruise ships. Regardless of how generous you think your tips are, we generally regard you as jrks for being very stingy on your pockets all while expecting more service. if you want to be treated special, make me feel special. ok? bon voyage.

    62. Crew member
      February 6th, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

      Sad… Thousands of $’s to spend on a vacation and the lengths gone to in order to save a little on drinking… Something you plan to do anyways… Its not just the $ kept out of the bars and the wasted energy dodging security… It’s the lost income for those who work to help you have an amazing vacation. Food coloring? Mouthwash bottles? Have we considered to just play by the rules so everyone has a good time? I’m just tired of asking adults to be adults and getting yelled at every single embarkation because you get caught and are embarrassed or your bottle broke and ruined someone else’s dream vacation. It’s all so unnecessary… By the way, we (the crew) read these forums everyday. Here’s my tip: be nicer when you get caught please… It’s already such a long day for me. Have a great vacation!

    63. Mrs. Fairbanks
      February 7th, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

      On Carnival you can pre-buy drink tickets prior to sailing from the Bon Voyage dept. Each ticket is $5.75 and includes the gratuity. So you save $.86 a drink. If the drink you order is more than $5.75 they will add the difference to your sail & sign card and you’re only paying gratuity on the difference. Great way to save some money.

    64. Bruce A
      February 10th, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

      I used to LOVE Royal Caribbean. So first i tried to hide 4 very small bottles in my luggage. They held my bags and made me go into a HUGE room where dozens of other passengers we forced to watch their security people go through your entire suitcase. They found all 4 of these small bottles. Ok…lesson learned. But get this. While returning from a shore excusion, I had an open small box of Ritz crackers that I had eaten about a third of the way through. They confiscated MY CRACKERS. They said no partially eaten food may be brought onboard. So later I asked the Purser’s office why they did that. The officer in charge told me it was Homeland Security LAW and that you may not even bring on food “just like the TSA would do on an airline”. I pointed out that the TSA will allow me to bring food…he said “this is how WE interpret the law”. Never heard such BS in my life.

    65. Boohow1951
      February 11th, 2012 @ 11:01 am

      Someone said it……use the same travel agent every time! On a cruise to Alaska we had free wine every night courtesy of Vacations R Us!

    66. Cindy
      February 13th, 2012 @ 5:25 am

      rumrunner.com sells thick plastic bags for this purpose. I have them in all sizes and they’ve never been found. The second set I have is used for toiletries in my airline carry-ons. Once you remove the air from the container they are virtually invisible on the x-ray.

    67. Carolyn
      February 15th, 2012 @ 8:09 am

      We always bring a big plastic bottle of blue mint mouthwash ( rum or vodka with a few drops of blue food color, and a little mint chapstick around the lid) to seal it we take plastic shrink wrap from easter basket, put around the lid and heat w/ blowdryer. Works everytime!!

    68. Mary
      March 28th, 2012 @ 4:52 pm


      Anytime I travel cruise or other Everything inside my suit case is in plastic bags. I layer the bottom of my suit case with a large (kitchen) plastic bag then I put other items in those air squeeze bags and the rest in zip lock bags with stickers with my name and address on them. Then on top on bag I put another large (Kitchen) bag on top. Most suitcases are not water prof. I had a friend who traveled and suitcase was soaking wet when she got it.It sat out in tarmac while being put on the plane. It was raining heavy rain. She had nothing that was not soaked or very damp. So Use plastic bags

    69. rebecca
      May 15th, 2012 @ 11:49 am

      ok so my sister and i cruise every year. We usually go with carnival but decided to try NCL out of New Orleans last year. We always manage to get a couple of bottle on board. Not this time. In my suitcase I had 3 ginger ale bottles filled with crown. No problem. But my sisters Bottles, all water bottles, were confiscated till the end of the cruise. Who knew that they were more concerned with water bottles and not ginger ale bottles? There was a man on the cruise that even had All his soda bottles opened because the bottles were tinted. Well guess what? They ruined a six pack of soda for him. I don’t think that we will be going NCL again. Not because of the alcohol. Because of the service. We had our fun but they were not to accommodating. just saying.

    70. Brian Harrison
      June 28th, 2012 @ 8:28 am

      Here’s a few suggestions. 1. If you don’t drink, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!!!! 2. If you don’t like people smuggling booze, congratulations, you have loads of money and don’t mind being ripped off by the cruise lines. Other people have budgets they need to adhere to in order to have a vacation. If people banded together and took other vacations, in other words, boycotted these thieving companies, they would soon bring their prices and heavy-handed practices in line. They won’t go bankrupt when it can be avoided. Why do you think the prices are so cheap, now? Rumrunners.com is the answer, otherwise. Stick it to them everybody.

    71. Cass
      July 12th, 2012 @ 11:57 am

      Dong Kim
      You are paid for doing a job the same as the rest of us. I don’t get any tips for doing my job so what makes you think you are entitled to any ,and then to be ungrateful for what you are given!! who made you so special, I don’t ask to be treated as special,just with common curtesy.

    72. Jim
      August 2nd, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

      Try P and O. 15 pounds for 2 litres of any spirit in the shop on board and you can drink it on board

    73. Jeff
      August 9th, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

      HAL was simple. Went to the gift shop, bought booze, took it back to the room, no problem. Celebrity, definitely a problem. Their “Bon Voyage” booze costs $80 per bottle!!! The “All-You-Can-Drink” package is for truly heavy drinkers only, practically forces you to drink all day every day if you want to break even.

    74. Claudiu
      August 28th, 2012 @ 8:48 am

      This “drinking” guide is awesome for us men. I`mm thinking of taking a cruise from charleston sc sometimes in the near future and this guide will come in handy :-) . Thanx for sharing.

    75. Jen
      September 12th, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

      If the cruise lines did not charge such high prices for their drinks there would be no smuggling problem. I do not mind paying for the odd cocktail here and there on board, but Im not paying $30 for a $10 bottle of Berrigner. (plus %15 for tip) You are on a ship, you are trapped. No, its not a matter of being cheap, its a matter of principal.

      So I shall continue to cruise on Holland America. When I asked the agent how much wine I am allowed she said “How much can you carry?” Good answer! I also had a Sprite bottle in my purse with vodka in it and no questions asked upon embarkation.

    76. Miss Charlotte
      October 19th, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

      My hubby and I have laughed ourselves sick over some of these posts! This is almost as much fun as the actual cruise will be.

      Especially the “lemon lips” comment. EXCELLENT, thank you everyone.

    77. Minina
      November 4th, 2012 @ 2:53 am

      Rum runners on Carnival was woderful!
      I will now take a norwegian cruise next year! Spring break!
      Any experiences with the rum runners?
      “lemon lips” comment! I loved it!
      *We should make this rich people pay for our drinks since they have so much money!!! ^o^

    78. RObert Miller
      January 4th, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

      After reading this and other posts about alcohol, my wife and I decided not to take our first cruise. We will fly to the destination and stay in a hotel. I looked at the wine costs of a cruise ship and they wanted $70 for a <$10 bottle of wine. I read people here saying if you can't afford the wine stay home and others saying such nasty attitudes. If these people stayed home, those that have no problem getting raped wouldn't have a cruise ship to sail on. The pricing structure is a blatant ripoff and you are left with only several choices.

      A: Smuggle
      B: Don't drink
      C: Pay the price
      D: Just don't go

      We chose D and feel good about keeping several thousand dollars from a company that has such a pricing structure.

    79. joey
      February 26th, 2013 @ 5:59 am

      here is what i am doing for my cruise in 12 days buy 1 cheap bottle of wine per person before cruise open it drink or pour out pour a fifth of liquor of choice into empty bottle get a wine corker and seals and there you go bottles of un opened “wine” you can enjoy in your cabin 4 people are going with me so 4 full wine bottle of the good stuff for cheap

    80. Peter
      March 3rd, 2013 @ 3:17 am

      I respect the attitudes, opinions and tips afforded on this thread. The ocean breeze, and tropical climate are synonymous with the consumption of alcohol from the glass of wine to the bar crawl folks. I find the comment that one fellow shared where he cancelled his cruise based on alcohol prices as asinine. Why not save more money and watch the discovery channel with your wife. For the alcohol celibate commenters, get a life or end the sorry one that see’s the loathing of people enjoying themselves on vacation. If you have ever worked for a tip, you will give a tip not based on performance but rather on the memory of what it felt like to be “judged” by another monetarily. And for the drunken vacation fools like me tip your bartender well always…

    81. Kong
      March 13th, 2013 @ 10:59 am

      great forum – the best are the people that don’t drink/cruise but yet search for and post on a drink/cruise forum!
      This is my first cruise and I found out that the drinking package is 55/day x 8 days and my wife must also purchase the package who doesn’t really drink. So $750 for a week of drinking, 3 days of which are off boat excursions, not included.
      Would $200/day for my booze make sense to anyone? So I’m here, but I think I’ll just have a couple nights of moderate drinking and pay the ridiculous bar tab of probably $200 or maybe I can get that in-cabin booze service if I’m lucky. all my options kinda suck.

    82. Sasha
      March 26th, 2013 @ 1:55 pm


      Did that work? im going on a cruise soon, with royal and i would like to know if that worked for you? and how much do they check the bottle?

    83. CharmingTortoise
      May 12th, 2013 @ 5:56 am

      Called Norwegian to purchase bottles of alcohol for our room. It was $80 for a liter bottle of Smirnoff and $120 for a liter of Grey Goose. Not a chance I’m paying those prices. I’ll see what we can manage to get on board. If it fails, we at least tried. If they had charged half those prices I would have gladly paid.

    84. Alan
      May 22nd, 2013 @ 9:00 am

      I have just read a whole host of pages worth of advice on “Drinks” on board. Only one person mentions the Cardboard Box. This does not squash, you can carry it in your hand lugguage, it DOES NOT show up on the X Ray as booze and you can always fill your Apple Juice carton for your favourite Tipple. Never had a problem yet.

    85. Denise Meller
      July 26th, 2013 @ 12:39 am

      Alan, I’m curious to know how you (re)fill a cardboard box wine cask once it’s been emptied as there’s only a tap for pouring, not for the reverse. Also isn’t hand luggage also sent through the x-rays? Denise

    86. Vladimir Marx
      October 4th, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

      It has been fun reading this board- and it is fun to smuggle too! I tend to try and have free alcohol in the room and just pay the bar prices for public drinking. I guess they don’t sell them in the west but in Africa you can by spirits in small plastic sachets…

    87. Derrell
      November 6th, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

      They limit you on how much you can drink in 24 hours with those packages

    88. madsand
      November 12th, 2013 @ 9:06 am

      We are lucky enough to be going on a 48 day cruise and our drinks package will amount to £1600 – and I don’t even drink alcohol!
      On the RC this was no problem as my husband just paid for a beer and I used the free soft drinks, coffee, tea etc offered by RC but I’ve been told that Costa charge for everything, even tea and coffee.
      Can anyone tell me if this is true or if there is a different package available?
      Also can you buy a week’s entry to the spa on Romantica?

    89. Cathy
      February 15th, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

      Check out boozeCruiseBuddy.com. Bags and bottles that are not detected by X-ray and are safe to use. Bags are best for wine and bottles work well for liquor. We’ve taken 50 cruises and never been caught. I don’t drink liquor, only wine, so a 10 day cruise can be a challenge without the right method. I’ve never had a bag or bottle leak or break just followed directions. Perfect solution.

    90. Kat Chalater
      May 25th, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

      I got the bright idea of getting large mouth wash bottles cleaning them out and filling them with vodka and a little green food coloring. It worked only downside was the mouthwash taste never completely disappeared and it still tasted like minty mouthwash. My son and his girlfriend gladly consumed it anyway. Not me. I don’t think I will try that again. Drinking Listerine is not to my taste.

    91. Mel
      June 22nd, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

      Love the suggestion about the wine bottle. I don’t even have to buy and drink the cheap wine. Just ask friends for their empties. I live in a wine region so I’m sure I can find someone to cork and reseal the bottle.

    92. Josh
      July 23rd, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

      I went on a carnival cruise and if you drink 10 drinks over the course of 24 hours especially if its a premium drink like an LIT the cost of 10 of those with the auto gratuity included is around $100. 3 days of that is $300 which is more than the cost of the cheers package which was $250 (4 day cruise. Well worth it in my opinion and for a 5-7 day cruise it would def be worth it even at $50 per day bc most mixed drinks are at least $5-$8 before the automatically added gratuity. so after 6 drinks in a day you have already paid for that. As for the rules of having both people in the stateroom buy the cheers package there are ways around that. Medical conditions, pregnancy, on medication… all these reasons will be checked out by the infirmary and then you would only have to pay for the one pass instead of two.

    93. LaVenda
      August 7th, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

      My husband and I were on the Royal Princess transatlantic a few months ago and the best purchase was the drink card that was $49 per day. For us it was a fabulous deal. We knew exactly what our bar bill would be. It included not just alcohol, wine but also specialty coffees, teas, bottles of water, gelato. No we are not lushes but when you start the day with a latte, sit around the pool and have beer or cocktail, glass of wine or beer with lunch. I fell in love with getting an afternoon tea from the tea tower. we would stop by bar on way to cabin and take a drink or wine to enjoy while getting ready for the evening. We had a group we meet for a cocktail before dinner. Wine with dinner, and a special coffee with dessert. Then some nights we would have a drink while watching a show. Plus the 4-5 bottles of water all day. We got our money’s worth.

    94. Opa Ziggy
      October 27th, 2014 @ 10:23 am

      We are about to go on our second cruise this year (got a great deal on NCL). First was on Carnivial where you are allowed two bottles of wine and all the water, soda or mixers you can carry. I took two wine bottles filled with tinted Absolut vodka, recorked the bottles and sealed them with shrink wrap. Got onboard even with the port guy looking closely at the bottles (here’s a great youtube video on how to do this). Guess we are getting older ‘cuz we only drank about 1/2 of one bottle and brought the other one home. This cruise we figured we’d just buy ala carte and enjoy at will. There was a time when we’d just about stayed plastered the entire cruise. We had a great time on Carnival and I’m sure we’ll have a great time on NCL. Enjoyed reading all the stories of smuggling operations. Y’all are pretty clever crusers! Keep Calm and Party On!

    95. Steph
      December 11th, 2014 @ 12:55 am

      My fiance and I are sailing next month on Carnival Dream. I ordered a bottle online to be waiting in the room when we board. A bottle of Sky was $85 but so worth it to me. I also ordered a 24 pack of bottle water to be in the room. The price with tax was $23.44. That is less than $1 a bottle. This way we can bring on energy drinks instead of water and not spend a lot on either energy drinks or water. WIN WIN!

    96. Jim
      January 5th, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

      My wife and I went on a Greek Island cruise on the NCL Jade. On the 1st night we went up to one of the two “Freestyle” dining rooms at about 8:30pm. There was a line up so they took our names, gave us a “buzzer” and 2 FREE drink coupons. As we were enjoying our drinks my wonderful wife remembered there were 2 such restaurants. I went up 2 decks, found another line up, got a 2nd buzzer and 2 more drink coupons!! So, 4 free drinks per night on NCL!

    97. Magoo
      August 30th, 2015 @ 5:11 pm

      My neice and I are going on a cruise in October 2015. We are going to set up a talk show during sale days on Lido deck and interviewed fellow sailers. It will be a blast. We will ask if we could video tape too. We will suggest they buy us a drink.

      The other thing we are going to try is to setup a painters easel. We would offer to paint a persons portrait for a drink. We will warn them that we aren’t great artists before they commit.

      Wish us luck!!

    98. Old Sea Dog
      September 29th, 2015 @ 7:34 pm

      My wife and I have just had a great time reading these very funny remarks as to how to get free or cheap booz on a cruise ship.
      I am surprised that no one mentioned how expensive drinks are at hotel bars and top notch bars and restaraunts infact they are far more expensive than on a cruise ship and they expect a 20% tip.
      Also people do not realise that the gratuitys on cruise ships is how the bar tenders and wait staff get paid.
      They get less than minimum wage and rely on your tips to live on.
      If they got paid better by the cruise line then that cost would be passed back to you and you would pay a lot more for your cruise and drinks than you do right now.

    Leave a Reply

  • Please follow & like us


  • About the Lido Deck

    The Lido Deck is written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, reporting from ships and ports around the world. The daily blog covers cruise news, reviews, advice, and hot topics from the Cruise Critic message boards. Please note: When commenting, Cruise Critic's community guidelines apply.

  • Facebook

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories