So, as you all know I recently took a cruise on-board the Carnival Victory sailing out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. While I do plan on making a few posts on how that cruise went, the subject of this post is “booze smuggling”.
Over the last few months it has been reported that Carnival has been cracking down on the ability to sneak alcohol on-board its cruise ships. Luckily, one of the best things about cruising out of Puerto Rico is the security never seems to care about how much booze you brought on-board the ship. In fact, the duty free shop in the cruise terminal always advertised that you could bring whatever you bought there onto the ship.
The Carnival policy on alcohol was officially the same for all cruises but the rules just seemed to be different when cruising out of San Juan. Much to my dismay, this is no longer the case. Nowadays the duty free makes it a point to inform passengers of the two wine bottle per stateroom limit. Of course I wasn’t about to let some little disclaimer keep me from having my free in-cabin booze.
A Tale of Two Smugglers (My Story)
When I departed from the Philadelphia airport I was prepared and had already packed a Rum Runner full of vodka as well as a box of wine in my checked luggage. I had read that Carnival had taken to searching checked luggage and at one point had requested that passengers not lock their luggage (yeah right). So, of course I locked my luggage figuring that if they wanted to check my bags they could always saw of the locks at the risk of pissing off a valued customer (of course they didn’t). My checked luggage arrived at my room a couple of hours after boarding with both the rum runner and box o’ wine still intact.
At the duty free I had purchased two bottles of Sangria. The guy who bottles the stuff was in the store and since he was a pretty nice guy, I felt compelled to throw a little business his way. Well, it was that and the fact that I drank about a half bottles worth of samples. I also saw a bottle of absinthe in the duty free and since I had heard of the stuff but never seen it at my liquor store I figured I would buy a bottle to bring home. I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring it on the ship and since I already had enough stateroom booze I figured I would do the right thing check it in.
When we approach the security scanner I inform the guard that I have a bottle of liquor that I want to check in. Instead of marking the bag with a red tag (which I read was the procedure) she just said, “okay the table is that way” and sent me on my way. So, I approached the table and then kept on walking, no one said a word. Had she marked my bag I wouldn’t have cut off or hidden the tag but since she took the lazy way out I just kept on walking, you never know when a party may break out in your cabin in which case a bottle of absinthe may come in handy.
A Tale of Two Smugglers (Their Story)
Later on that evening we were sat at a table with another couple and they asked us if we brought any alcohol on-board the ship. We told them our story and then they told us theirs. It seems that security took a much different approach to them having alcohol. I was told that not only was a red tag placed on the bag containing their liquor, but security had also radioed ahead with a description of what they looked like and what they were wearing just in case the tag was removed. In other words Carnival was not playing around.
What I Think Happened
I don’t really have a concrete explanation for why our two smuggling experiences were so different but I do have a few ideas. We arrived at the terminal pretty early, in fact I would guess there were no more than 50 passengers who boarded prior to our arrival. The other couple didn’t arrive at the terminal until a few hours later in the day. It could be they just weren’t prepared when we got there. The other theory I have is since I was bright eyed and bushy tailed (I flew in the previous day) and greeted the security lady with a huge smile and an honest confession she didn’t feel the need to mark my bag. Since I had volunteered the information about the booze before they even scanned my bag she had no reason to think I would bypass the table. My last theory is that since we were at the beginning of a line about 500 cruisers deep they felt too rushed to mark all the bags and couldn’t keep things flowing if they had radioed ahead for every instance of smuggling.
What this means for future Puerto Rico booze smuggling
While I will probably never stop carrying booze on-board, I will probably stick to Rum Runner, box o’ wine combo which seems to be fairly foolproof. I did like the honesty angle so I will probably try that again occasionally but it will be for fun more than anything else. Truthfully, with two bottles of wine and a rum runner full of vodka was plenty. I ended up giving the box of wine to my cabin steward. Those of you traveling in large groups who still want to maximize your smuggling should probably stick to the checked luggage because slowly but surely carry-on smuggling will be eradicated.