Carnival Cruise Line to Ban Passengers from Bringing Most Bottled Beverages Onboard

June 9, 2015
bottled water

(10:10 a.m. EDT) -- To increase safety on its cruise ships, cut alcohol smuggling and speed up embarkation, Carnival Cruise Lines will stop passengers from bringing bottled water, bottled soda and other bottled nonalcoholic drinks onboard, effective July 9.

Passengers will still be able to bring limited amounts of soda or juice onboard, as long as the drinks are packaged in cans or cartons; a 12-pack per person is the current allowance. In addition, passengers can pre-purchase bottled water at reduced prices and have it delivered to their cabins before they cruise.

The line released the new policy today in a letter sent to travel agents and booked passengers. Signs will be posted at embarkation ports, and Carnival will update its website to reflect the change.

In addition, all staff members who man security points and metal detectors in ports will be trained to confiscate bottled water and soda before passengers get back onboard. 

The policy is being changed because of several issues, all stemming from passengers trying to smuggle alcohol onboard.

Checking bottles to see if they have alcoholic beverages in them bogs down embarkation, as security has to check each container, the line said.

But most importantly, there have been security incidents, often with tragic consequences, stemming from passengers smuggling their alcohol onboard, said spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz.

"This is something that we've been grappling with for quite some time," she said. "The main goal is to try to ensure safety for our guests and to decrease the likelihood of a security incident that's tied to smuggled alcohol."

While the line did not mention specific incidents in its Q and A, there have been several high-profile deaths that have taken place on Carnival ships in the past few years.

Back in 2007, Carnival issued an outright ban on bringing nonalcoholic drinks onboard. The line backtracked a few months later.

This time, the cruise line is softening the burden by offering passengers discounted prices on bottled water -- $2.99, plus tax, for 12 pre-purchased bottles, delivered to your cabin. If passengers buy the water after they're already onboard, the price increases to $4.99, plus gratuity.

"We do not anticipate any increase in revenue as a result of this policy change, particularly given the significant reduction in price we have instituted," the line said.

The line's allowance for wine has also not changed. Passengers 21 and older will still be able to bring one bottle per person, carried in hand luggage, de la Cruz said.

What is changing is the line's stance on people who are caught smuggling alcohol. In the past, the line would confiscate the drinks and return them to passengers at the end of the cruise, she said. Now, the alcohol will not be returned.

Also effective July 9, bottles of alcohol purchased by passengers onboard or in port will be stored by the ship until the morning of disembarkation. At that time, cruisers can proceed to a designated lounge to pick up their alcohol before leaving the vessel. Under the current policy, stored alcohol is returned to passengers on the final night of each sailing.

--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor