Know your cruise line's policies before boarding

It's no wonder ship guests want to bring their own drinks on board: Beers, wines, fruity cocktails — and other beverage offerings, too, like sodas and bottled water — can really add up over the course of a cruise. But don’t assume you can bring unlimited amounts of booze with you. Here’s what you need to know before you BYO.

Policies are strict.
Policies vary, but generally speaking, on mainstream lines, there’s a restriction on the amount of alcohol you can bring aboard. Most policies flat out forbid spirits and allow only one or two 750-milliliter bottles of wine or Champagne per passenger, which must be brought on in your carry-on bag at embarkation.

There is one notable exception: Some luxury lines, like SeaDream Yacht Club and Silversea Cruises — which have a drinks-inclusive pricing model — permit passengers to bring as much alcohol as they please onto the ship. Check your cruise line's rules before heading to port.

Corkage fees apply.
You can drink your bottle of wine or Champagne in the privacy of your own cabin at no added cost, but if you want to bring it to a dining room or specialty restaurant, a corkage fee may be charged. Expect to pay at least $10 per bottle.

Rules are enforced.
Passengers have been known to smuggle booze on board in all sorts of inventive ways (shampoo and mouthwash bottles and plastic flasks called "Rum Runners"). But cruise lines screen bags when you board the ship, and they are are cracking down and looking for smuggling during the screening process. Typically, confiscated booze gets returned at the end of your cruise, but lines such as Carnival Cruise Line have been implementing no-nonsense policies that won’t return the prohibited items.

Soft drinks may have softer guidelines.
Cruise lines are a bit looser when it comes to nonalcoholic beverages. Carnival, for example doesn't allow bottled juices, waters, or soft drinks because water bottles are the No. 1 way passengers try to smuggle booze. You can, however, bring on board up to 12 unopened cans or cartons in your personal carry-on.

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