Limiting Liquor on Board

| Monday, 05 Mar. 2001

There's a strange trend out there these days: Many cruisers are busy preparing a "booze bag" as they pack for their next cruise. These days, that seems to be more important to many cruisers than whether they'll need to pack a sports jacket and tie, or if the tuxedo is back from the dry cleaner.

At the extreme, they may worry whether their 12-qallon, gas-powered blender, 17 bottles of liquor, 18 bottles of wine, 12 bottles of champagne, 24 packs of beer and 90-oz. Sports Cups will all fit in the new suitcase they purchased. I guess no wants to see their weekend ruined by a shortage.

Any first-time cruiser who reads the CruiseMates message boards and sees all the queries about taking your own liquor onboard would likely believe that alcohol is not otherwise available on ships (of course nothing could be further from the truth).

They'd see cruisers offering all sort of creative tips about how to sneak their liquor onto the ships. Woe to the person who wraps their liquor up in a bundle of four pairs of slacks and a couple of sweaters, only to find their clothes reek -- even after they've removed the shards of broken glass and let them hang dry in the bathroom.

Of course, the simplest way to get liquor onboard is to purchase it onboard. There is no shortage of bars and lounges onboard, with waiters entertainingly spinning their drink trays, just waiting for you to raise your hand invitingly. Up until the last few years, on all the cruise lines, passengers could also purchase liquor by the bottle in the ship's duty-free shops.

Previously, the cruise lines had no objections to guests who brought liquor with them for consumption in their cabins. As is the case in hotel rooms, they may offer mini-bars with liquor for sale, but they didn't mind if you brought your own to enjoy a drink in your cabin. They were just going along with what is common practice on land.

Nowadays, however, this policy has been cut back on most of the major cruise lines. The exceptions, at the moment, are RCI and Princess, where you can still buy a bottle of liquor for in-cabin consumption, but with a small surcharge tacked onto the duty-free price.

The cruise lines cite a variety of reasons for setting new restrictions on guests bringing liquor on, or purchasing it onboard by the bottle. However, I believe one key reason is the increased propensity of passengers to mix drinks in their cabins, and then take those drinks with them into the ship's public areas, therefore affecting the onboard alcohol revenues.

It seems many people attempt to justify mixing their own drinks with liquor they've smuggled onboard by claiming the cruise lines' drink prices are prohibitive. This is simply not the case. Pricing is basically no different than in most land-based lounges.

Even though they have a monopoly onboard, the cruise lines offer a variety of daily drink specials with prices as low as $2.95 per drink. Certainly, if you're looking to choose from an endless list of fancy martinis or other elaborate and exotic cocktails with brand-name booze, you're facing higher prices… but again, that's no different from any land-based lounge.

I'm not certain why passengers think it's acceptable to treat their alcohol consumption differently on a ship than they would on land. I can't imagine anyone would mix a few drinks at home and then carry those drinks into a local restaurant or bar. At a resort hotel pool or beach, I don't think many people are inclined to bring their own drinks down from their room. Yet many cruisers think nothing of doing so on a ship.

The cruise lines sell you a cabin to use as your home during the cruise, and with that in mind, I think it's perfectly acceptable to have drinks in your cabin.

However, once you leave the privacy of you cabin, you are on a "public street" with various facilities you may or may not choose to use. Some are supplied free, with the cost included in your fare. Others, like the products in the bars and lounges, are offered at a cost. The choice is simple, if you feel the prices are too high, don't buy. Not liking what they charge doesn't give you license to bring your own into public areas where it's being sold.

Please… end it now, before we see people bringing their hibachis and microwaves onboard, and bags full of groceries, because they don't like the quality of food onboard.

We can bring the food, the hibachis, and the liquor, and I'll meet you all for great tailgate party -- just not on a ship.


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