Can Cruise Ship Scanners Detect Alcohol? (We Tested) 2024

Alcoholic drinks are pretty expensive on a cruise. So people try to sneak alcohol on cruises. But won’t they know? Can cruise ship scanners detect alcohol?

Well, let’s find in this article.

Many budget cruise travelers think they can easily sneak alcohol on board and avoid paying for the expensive drinks package.

I often get asked this question whether the ship scanners can detect alcohol. So let’s see.

Can cruise scanners detect alcohol?

Cruise ship scanners can detect liquids of all kinds. It can be water, shower gel, shampoo, or even alcohol. The scanners cannot detect alcohol specifically. But if a liquid container is found, they will further investigate to see what’s inside the container.

The baggage scanning machines the cruise ships use are the same machines used in airports.

A cruise scanner is basically an X-ray machine. The X-ray can penetrate your bag, and the scanner shows the outline of all content inside.

Liquids are represented as a dark hue on the X-ray machine.

Can cruise scanners detect alcohol?

If the security personnel finds a container containing liquid of any kind, they may open the bag to see what’s inside and eventually find if it is alcohol.

The security team that scans the bags has scanned thousands of luggage in the past, and it should be pretty easy for them to find if it is an alcohol bottle.

In short, the cruise scanner cannot directly detect alcohol. But it can detect liquids, and doing further investigations; they can easily find if it is alcohol.

Cruise Ship Luggage Scanning

Can you bring alcohol on a cruise?

Most leading cruise lines allow guests to bring a specified quantity of alcohol onboard. If you bring more alcohol than the specified limit, the the security team will confiscate the extra bottle and may or may not return them.

All cruise lines out there have drinks packages, or you can even buy drinks of your choice individually inside the cruise. It is one of the main parts of their business and cash flow.

They don’t want people to bring alcohol for the entire duration of the cruise trip. So they limit the quantity anyone can carry on board. If you want more, you need to buy it inside the cruise.

Refer to the table below to find out if your cruise line allows you bringing alcohol and, if yes, how much.

Cruise LineAlcohol AllowedNon-alcoholic Drinks Allowed
Princess CruisesWine – 1 bottle (free). $15 per additional bottleNo limit
DisneyWine – 1 bottle or Beer – 6No limit
MSC CruisesNot allowedWater (for medical needs)
Royal CaribbeanWine – 1 bottle12 x 500ml container per stateroom
CunardWine – 1 bottleNo limit
P&O CruisesWine – 1L, Champagne, beer or spiritNo limit
CelebrityWine – 1 bottleNo limit
CarnivalWine – 1 bottle12 x 330ml cans
NCLUnlimited wine ($15 fee per bottle)Water (for medical needs)
CostaNot allowedWater (for medical needs)

Check out Royal Caribbean drink package.

What bag do cruise ship scanners scan?

Cruise ship scanners scan all types of baggage, including carry-on and checked bags.

Carry On Bags

Firstly, they check the checked bags when you board the ship. The process is very similar to that of an airport.

Your carry-on bag is made pass through an x-ray machine. It will reveal the outline of all items inside the bag. The dark hue area in the X-ray represents liquid of all types.

The X-ray machine can also know the density of each item in your bag.

Now you might ask if there is any limit or restriction on the quantity of liquid you can take on a carry-on bag?

Unlike flying, you are not required to follow the 3-1-1 rule for carrying the liquid on a cruise. You can bring toiletries like shampoo, shower gel, sunscreen, etc. of any size without any problem.

But do keep in mind that it can be a problem if you fly afterward, as the 3-1-1 rule applies to airplanes.

Checked Bags

Similar to carry-on bags, your checked bag is scanned with an X-ray machine. It shows the clear outline of all items packed inside the bag.

If the liquid is found, the security may further investigate what’s inside the container and eventually find if it is alcohol.

In short, checked and carry-on bags are passed through an x-ray machine to find what’s inside before sending them inside the cruise ship.

Since the X-ray scanning reveals the outline of items inside a bag, they can detect vape and other items as well. See if you can bring vape on a cruise or bring your favorite brand snacks on board.

What items do cruise scanners detect?

Cruise scanners are x-ray machines that are capable of detecting all items inside your bag. The x-ray shows the visual representation of all items as outlines, along with their density. Cruise scanners can detect them all, whether liquid, metal, plastic, etc.

One cannot bring just about any item to a cruise ship.

Depending on the cruise line, there are strict rules and regulations on the type of things you can bring on board.

For example, not every cruise line allows you to bring vape on board or bring snacks on your cruise luggage.

So the machine should be capable of finding everything, not just alcohol.

Since these X-ray machines shows the exact outline of all items inside the bag along with their density, the security personnel can outright tell if you take something banned on a cruise ship.

So never think you can get away by bringing weapons, drugs, or other prohibited items on a cruise ship.

How cruise security detects whether a liquid is alcohol?

Now you may wonder how the security detects whether a liquid is alcohol or water without opening the bottle or the container.

A simple shake test will let security know whether it is water or alcohol.

Both alcohol and water, when shaken, produce bubbles, and they will rise to the top.

The bubble inside the bottle with water will quickly rise to the top and disappear in a few seconds.

On the other hand, the bubble inside the bottle containing alcohol will only rise very slowly and take relatively longer to disappear.

This way, the security can quickly know if it is water or alcohol.

They may even open the bottle and take a quick sniff to confirm again, and then further steps are carried out.

What happens if cruise ship scanners detect alcohol?

Now comes the interesting question – what happens if the security finds you are carrying alcohol onto a cruise ship?

The action taken by the cruise line depends on their policy.

In most cases, the alcohol bottles are confiscated, and you may get it at the end of your trip or sometimes never get it back, depending on the port.

If you are traveling on a cruise line that allows alcohol onboard, the extra bottles of alcohol will be confiscated, and you will be allowed to take the rest to your stateroom.

Certain cruise lines may also take disciplinary actions.

Please do not try to sneak alcohol onto a cruise ship that does not allow it. If found, you may be refused to board or face further consequences like fines.

Before bringing alcohol or any other special items onto the cruise ship, carefully go through the cruise lines’ prohibited items list and see what’s allowed and not allowed.

How strict are cruise lines with alcohol?

All cruise lines have a different policy regarding bringing alcohol on board. Certain cruise ships allow guests to carry a limited quantity of alcohol, while others strictly do not allow alcohol.

If you somehow end up getting caught sneaking alcohol onto a cruise ship that lists it as a prohibited item, the bottles will be confiscated.

Depending on the port you are at, you may or may not get the alcohol back. If you are at the home port of the cruise line, chances are, you may get them back when you disembark the cruise.

For cruises like Princess Cruises or Disney, where they allow a limited quantity of alcohol, the extra bottles will be confiscated, and you will be allowed to onboard with the permitted quantity.

After going through the prohibited items page of the Royal Caribbean cruise line, it says they can even deny you onboarding if found with a prohibited item. Although it is highly unlikely, we cannot say for sure.

Since you brought alcohol onboard even after knowing it is not allowed, you may not be eligible for a refund.

In extreme situation where you are drunk and disorderly, you maybe sent to the cruise ship jail.

Do you get your alcohol back?

Okay, you tried to sneak in a bottle of alcohol, and got caught. Now what? Are you going to get the bottle back at the end of the trip?

Well, it depends on cruise line to cruise line and the port at which you embark or disembark.

Usually, the confiscated items are returned to the guests on the disembarkation day.

But many cruise lines do not return the items they confiscate. So make sure you ask and enquire about their policy.

What do cruise scanners see?

If you want to know what cruise scanners see when it scans a bag, refer to the image below.

cruise ship scanner machine

As you can see, the X-ray machine has managed to display an outline of all items inside the bag, irrespective of the type of material. It can show liquid, plastic, metal, glass, cloth, etc.

The dark hue area you see is liquid.

what x ray machine see

Even though cruise scanners can precisely spot liquid, they cannot explicitly find alcohol on their own.

What’s Next?

Now that you know how cruise ship scanners work and whether or not they can detect alcohol, you can decide whether or not to to take alcohol for your next cruise journey.

I recommend you go through the prohibited items list and terms and conditions of the cruise line to find what’s allowed and what’s not. If you want to take alcohol, you may take the risk and try ways to sneak alcohol.


Do Rum Runners Show up on X-Rays?

The rum runner’s outline will be visible on the X-ray scan. If the rum runner is completely filled, a dark hue will appear like a rum runner. Security has scanned thousands of bags in the past, and it should be easy for them to find them.

You may get away with a half-filled rum runner as the shape will differ from a full filed one. But it’s not worth taking the risk.

Can you fool cruise scanners?

No, the outline of all items inside the bag is shown on the screen when sent through the X-ray machine. So chances of bypassing the cruise scanners are nil. If they get suspicious about any items inside your bag, they will open the bag and manually investigate it.

But if you really want to sneak alcohol, there are tons of other creative ideas to do so!

Leave a Comment