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Can I Bring My Own Alcohol on a Cruise?

When it comes to alcohol on cruise ships, you've got questions, and we've got the answers. Whether you're looking to save money or simply want to better understand the rules, you've come to the right place.

Check out six common questions that new cruisers have about alcohol onboard.

1. Can I bring alcohol on a cruise ship?

In most cases, the answer is no. Much of each cruise line's revenue comes from onboard purchases made by passengers. Because alcohol makes up a large chunk of those purchases, lines are hesitant to allow cruisers to bring their own.

Although some lines do allow each traveler to bring a limited quantity of their own water, soft drinks and juice, no major oceangoing cruise ship will allow beer or liquor (spirits) to be brought aboard, with the exception of Disney, which does allow one six-pack of beer per adult 21 years or older.

However, some luxury ocean cruise lines and river lines do allow it -- particularly those that include alcohol in their fares. (Because it's already included, it doesn't take away from onboard sales if you BYO.)

2. Can I bring wine on a cruise?

We've addressed beer and liquor, but if you're wondering how to bring wine on a cruise, you might be in luck.

Most mainstream lines -- such as Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean -- allow each adult passenger (21 years of age or older on North American sailings) to bring a limit of one bottle, no larger than 750 mL, to be consumed onboard.

Those lines allow cruisers to drink their own wine for free in their staterooms, but if they wish to bring it to dinner, a corkage fee of anywhere from $15 to $25 per bottle is charged.

Notable exceptions include MSC, which doesn't allow any alcohol, including wine, to be brought onboard, and Norwegian Cruise Line, which allows an unlimited number of bottles up to 1,500 mL but which charges a per-bottle corkage fee regardless of where the wine is consumed.

3. What are cruise alcohol packages?

If you enjoy a steady flow of adult beverages on vacation, an alcohol package might be your most cost-effective option.

Cruise lines that offer them charge a (somewhat hefty) daily fee that offers passengers nearly unlimited access to drinks -- including nonalcoholic tipples like bottled water, soda and juice -- at nearly all onboard bars and restaurants.

There are caveats, however. For example, some packages stipulate that you can only order one drink at a time, and certain top-shelf liquors could be excluded, depending on the package tier you buy.

Additionally, all packages must be purchased for the duration of your voyage, and some have daily limits -- usually around 15 drinks per day. If you wouldn't normally drink that much in one day, or if the total cost (daily fee multiplied by the number of days you're sailing) is too high, you could be better off purchasing drinks a la carte.

Further, most alcohol packages require all adults sharing a cabin to purchase a package if even one person decides to. The policy is designed to increase the cruise line's revenue by preventing the sharing of packages.

4. Are there ways to get free alcohol onboard?

We've got good news: if you play your cards right, free alcohol isn't so hard to find on cruises.

You likely won't be able to pick and choose the type of drink you'll receive, but Champagne is often passed out at onboard art auctions. You might also find it offered at special events like sailaway parties or captain's galas.

Plus, if you sail with the same cruise line multiple times, you'll rise up the ranks of its loyalty program, which can earn you invitations to welcome receptions and other at-sea celebrations where several types of free libations are generally provided.

There are also ways to find less expensive alcohol onboard. Try purchasing a bucket of beer instead of buying bottles individually; you'll usually save a couple bucks. Or, opt for the drink of the day, which usually comes at a discount. (If you order it without the souvenir glass, they might knock a dollar or two off the cost.)

You an also purchase duty-free bottles of liquor in port or at the onboard shops. You'll save a little, and although the ship will check the alcohol for you until the last night of the sailing (so you won't be able to consume it onboard), you can enjoy it when you get home knowing that you snagged a deal.

5. What's the drinking age on a cruise?

Although drinking age policies can vary from cruise line to cruise line -- or even ship to ship or sailing to sailing, depending on the country of departure -- standard drinking age on voyages from Europe is 18, while the minimum age to consume alcohol on most sailings from North America is 21.

Some cruise lines do make exceptions, though. For instance, Carnival permits passengers from 18 to 20 years old to drink onboard if their parents are sailing and agree to sign waivers.

Younger cruisers, be warned: each passenger's age is tied to the cruise card he or she receives at embarkation. If someone tries to order a drink while underage, the system will flag it, and the order request will be denied.

6. What happens if I try sneaking alcohol on a cruise?

Many a cruiser has attempted to sneak alcohol onboard. Some are successful; some are not.

If you're caught trying to bring contraband beverages on your sailing, they will be confiscated and discarded without compensation, meaning you will be out the cost of the alcohol.

If you're thinking of giving it a go, there are ways to do it, but it's highly discouraged.

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