Last updated: 10:10 AM ET, Tue June 09 2015

Carnival to Ban Carry-On Bottled Beverages

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Carnival Cruise Line | Theresa Norton | June 09, 2015

Carnival to Ban Carry-On Bottled Beverages

In an effort to stop liquor smuggling, Carnival Cruise Line is prohibiting its passengers from bringing bottled beverages onboard effective July 9.

Carnival says it’s implementing the bottled beverage ban for two main reasons. First, it slows down the boarding process due to security checks for contraband booze. Second, it can lead to behavioral problems caused by overconsumption.

“Bottled beverages are the most common means by which guests attempt to smuggle alcohol on board, which necessitates that bottles be individually examined by security personnel,” Carnival said. “This bogs down the embarkation process and requires security resources dedicated to checking bottled beverages. Most importantly, when behavioral issues occur on board and are ultimately investigated, smuggled alcohol often appears to be a factor.”

Cruise passengers who want to drink booze without paying shipboard prices get very creative in their smuggling efforts, sometimes going so far as to fill mouthwash bottles with liquor and tinting it with food coloring so it looks like the original product. Or, they’ll carefully remove some bottles of water from a package, fill them with booze, and replace them so the bottles and packaging look unopened.

Such smuggling has spawned a cottage industry of flasks, plastic bladders and even fake beer bellies that store booze and are said to be undetectable by security devices. Google the topic and you’ll find a plethora of advice columns and YouTube videos.

However, cruise lines — and it affects virtually all of them — have caught on and now inspect bottles to confiscate the booze. Carnival will continue to check mouthwash and other personal/grooming products in bottles as well as other apparatus designed to smuggle alcohol.

Yet Carnival said it realizes many guests carry aboard bottled water or cans of soda, and will allow small quantities. The line also is greatly reducing the cost of buying bottled water onboard.

“We will continue to allow up to 12 unopened cans or cartons of water, sodas and non-alcoholic beverages per person to be brought on board during embarkation,” the line said. “Guests can now purchase a 12-pack of bottled water from Carnival at a price of $2.99 plus tax online prior to their cruise or $4.99 plus gratuities once on board. We sincerely apologize for any disappointment these changes may cause. However, we firmly believe these changes will ultimately benefit all guests.”

Passengers age 21 and older can, however, bring aboard one 750-milliliter bottle of unopened wine or champagne in carry-on baggage on embarkation day. If they choose to consume it in a restaurant or bar, they will be charged a $15 corkage fee.

All liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages outside of these exceptions are prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage and will be confiscated and discarded with no compensation provided. All alcohol purchased in ports of call or onboard shops will be returned on the morning of debarkation.

Guests also are prohibited from bringing large coolers onboard since it’s an impediment to the boarding and security process, Carnival said. They can bring onboard personal-sized coolers, no larger than 12-by-12-by-12 inches to store small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages and/or medications.

Carnival emphasized that this bottled beverage ban is not a ploy to increase onboard revenues, as some will undoubtedly accuse. “In fact, 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 for 12-packs of bottled water,” the line said.   

Carnival is notifying booked guests and travel agents today.

“Bottled beverages are the most common source of attempted transport of alcohol on board,” Carnival said. “Often times, we find guests transporting alcohol onboard through unauthorized means, resulting in unmonitored consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately, this has led to behavioral and safety related concerns.”

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