Wine & Travel

Snooth User: EMark

BYOB on a Cruise

Posted by EMark, Sep 2, 2011.

This comment might be considered a timely follow-up to the recent Snooth items on BYOB restaurants.

Over the last thirty-something years my wife and I have enjoyed several cruise vacations.  We are now booked on a 14-day cruise to Hawaii that departs from and returns to Los Angeles.  It had never really occurred to me that I could bring my own wine.  In fact, I had heard stories from passengers on previous cruises that on boarding they had been relieved of any alcoholic beverages by cruise personnel.

Well, in doing some research on our upcoming adventure, eagle-eyed Peggy discovered that on this cruise each adult passenger when boarding is allowed to bring one bottle (750 ml preferred, but magnums accommodated) of wine.  So, the two of us can each bring one bottle of wine when we initially board in Los Angeles and at each port of call.  We can drink these bottles at our convenience in our room or, for a $15 corkage fee, we can bring it into one of the dining rooms or restaurants and have it with our meal.

If I had to fly to the port of embarkation, I would not bother.  I don’t have a proper case that can be reliably used and checked onto the plane.  (And, who’s kidding who, it is more hassle than it’s worth for two bottles of wine.  If you could bring a case, it might be different.)  However, since I am able to drive to the cruise terminal for this event, this program sounds totally neat.

Has anybody else BYOBed on a cruise?  Does it work as smoothly as Princess Cruises on-line site leads me to believe?

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Replies

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Reply by JonDerry, Sep 2, 2011.

I've heard Princess is a classy cruise line. I haven't BYOBed on the Royal Caribbean cruises i've been on, but on my recent cruise of the Mediterranean I made sure to stock up on wines at a few of the ports of call.  Cassis, which i'll try to post on later is an interesting territory in the south of france. 

Anyway, I'd heard we weren't allowed to drink these wines at dinner so I didn't really ask, but the $15 corkage sounds reasonable. I'm glad to have (6) bottles waiting to be drunk at home that were bought abroad, but I probably would've bought a few more at each port if I could have had them at dinner, would've definitely enhanced the vacation though their wine list really wasn't that bad or unreasonable.

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Reply by gregt, Sep 2, 2011.

Princess, Holland, Carnival all have allowed me to bring wine.  Sometimes they say they'll charge a corkage fee, and sometimes they do, but not always if you give the somm a taste.  Wouldn't occur to me NOT to bring wine, as I don't want to pay $40 for Rosemount Shiraz or a Malbec from Argentina that should cost less than $10.

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Reply by dmcker, Sep 2, 2011.

Interesting to see all the cruise experience here! Am curious, though: what kind of baggage searches occur that would preclude bring bottles of the hardstuff, etc. onboard? As you might guess, I've never been on such a commercial cruise-line voyage myself.

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Reply by gregt, Sep 2, 2011.

I've always wondered the same thing.  I had no idea they searched baggage and in fact, I doubt that they do - if you've seen them load the ships they really don't have a lot of time.  Many people who take a suite will make friends on the ships and have little parties in their suites. If you call ahead, they're usually pretty good about bringing wine and once you're on the ship, they have an investment in your satisfaction so I've never seen them make an issue out of it.  Princess was particularly nice as it's the first time I did it but subsequently Holland was just as nice about it.  Carnival is always looking to hustle you so they'll charge the corkage fee, but the others weren't so concerned.

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Reply by lorenski, Sep 2, 2011.

We have been on several cruise lines, Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, etc and have always brought wine on board.  If you do not make an issue of it they really don't seem to mind.  However there are always signs and reminders of what evil things may happen if you are caught.  Just don't advertise.

lorenski

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Reply by JonDerry, Sep 3, 2011.

Good point Lorenski.

Forgot to mention about how Royal Caribbean has a luggage/bag scanner set up for when you board the ship at a port. This doesn't include checked baggage, but becomes an issue if you'd like to enjoy a bottle you purchased at one of the ports while cruising.  If they see it/find it, they'll have to hold it for you until the end of the cruise.

 

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Reply by gregt, Sep 3, 2011.

Purchased at the ports is different for some reason.  That may be what the signs allude to?  Not sure. But they don't want you buying things on shore and bringing them onto the ship to drink.  I'm not sure what that's about either, except that maybe they don't want all the people bringing in West Indian rum because those people won't buy from the boat?  No idea really. But for wine, my option was always going to be not to have any drink at all with dinner rather than drink their wine.

I'm curious as to whether they have the same shore to ship rules when they cruise the Mediterranean and visit wine places?

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Reply by VegasOenophile, Sep 3, 2011.

They have their rules, but the two cruises I have been on I brought 5 or so bottles.  Back them securely in your luggage and who's the wiser?  Then if you don't mind corkage, you can have one every other ngiht at dinner or in your room.  If you stroke the wait staff right, perhaps offer tastes, they may even waive corkage.  Bon voyage!

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Reply by dmcker, Sep 3, 2011.

The kind of policing you mention, Jon, seems counterproductive, for it could generate serious ill will. Maybe can get away with it in the Caribbean, but as Greg mentions it seems crazy for the Mediterranean. Don't see how it would make sense in the Pacific, either, with the often greater distances between ports. As with everything, and as Vegas mentions, it seems like getting to know the staff and management always has its benefits.

Best solution, of course, is either sailing your own boat, or a private charter... ;-)

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Reply by EMark, Sep 4, 2011.

Thanks to all the posters who responded to this topic.  For reference sake, here is the excerpt from the Princess Cruises FAQ page that led me down this path:

"We kindly request that you do not bring alcoholic beverages (other than wine and/or champagne) onboard for consumption.

"Alcoholic beverages sourced from shore-side and brought onboard, no matter where sourced, will be collected at the gangway for safekeeping and will be delivered to the passenger's stateroom on the last day of the cruise.

"A member of the ship's security staff will be at the gangway to assist passengers with the storage of their alcoholic beverage purchases. The only exception to the above rule, is that passengers are permitted to bring one bottle of wine and/or champagne per person purchased in a shoreside location onboard. If the wine and/or champagne is brought to the dining room for consumption, a $15.00 per bottle corkage fee will be applied to the passenger's shipboard account. We prefer that passengers bring wine/champagne no larger than 750ml, however, magnums are acceptable. Wine in a box is not encouraged.

"Passengers are also permitted to consume the wine and/or champagne in the privacy of their stateroom only, but it may not be brought into any public lounge for consumption.

"Please note that any wines and champagnes supplied from the ship's stock to passengers would not be subject to a corkage fee."

I would not be surprised if bottles could be smuggled in checked baggage.  I know that on a Carnival cruise that we took with my wife’s parent’s celebrating their 50th anniversary, my brother-in-law did that.  I have, in fact, buried a bottle or two in my baggage on airline flights, but I have also seen puddles of red wine surrounding a suitcase that was pulled off the carousel at baggage claim.  So, I have stopped doing that.

The “Wine in a box is not encouraged” comment is hilarious.  I wonder what they fell about bota bags.  Somebody else will have to test that because I won’t be doing it.

Can't afford a private charter.  Do not have the desire or the wherewital to own a boat.  ;-) back at ya. 

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Reply by dmcker, Sep 4, 2011.

 "Wine in a box is not encouraged." Hilarious. You beat me to it, Mark.

Also a bit disingenuous is this remark: "Please note that any wines and champagnes supplied from the ship's stock to passengers would not be subject to a corkage fee."

Would love to see them add corkage on top of the winelist price! Then again, you could always offer to pay corkage if they gave the bottle to you at standard retail. Seems they missed the opportunity to talk about corkage "in the privacy of their stateroom." ;-)  So corkage and ownbottles in the restaurant, but not the lounge. Wonder where the brakes would be applied if you brought your own bottle to the dining room every night of the cruise?

PR flacks (not really marketing per se in this instance) always kill me.

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Reply by EMark, Oct 7, 2011.

Well, we're off tomorrow.  I'm planning on taking a Chappellet Pritchard Hills Cab, and I think Peggy will be taking a La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.  More than likely we'll drink the La Crema on our balcony and pay the $15 corkage to have the cab with dinner one night. 

We'll probably pick up a few bottles on our island stops.  At the Big Island stop there is an organized tour to a winery.  We may or may not do that.  I'm intrigued with the idea of going to the top of Mauna Kea to check out the telescopes. 

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 7, 2011.

Sounds great Mark, have a great trip and looking forward to the recap later on. Maybe they'll even be a decent wine or two on their list to go with some dinners. I was able to find quite a few decent wines on my last cruise with Royal Caribbean.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 8, 2011.

Yeah, the islands are lovely, and it's a good time of year for it. Plenty of wine available onshore, too. In addition to the wine imported from the mainland, there's Tedeschi on Maui, Volcano on the Big Island, and Diamond Head on Oahu. Not exactly Domaine de la Romanee Conti, but interesting tastes on a holiday.

I've had a couple of Tedeschi before, the first being their pineapple wine (Maui Blanc was the first of that I tried, back decades now). They offer wine from grape varietals we're accustomed to hearing about these days, but I haven't had them, nor any Tedeschi for several years now.

Haven't had any Volcano, but here's one example of an an approach by them: "Tropical fruits like yellow guava and the exotic jaboticaba berry are blended with traditional wine grapes and transformed into vibrant creations that capture the playful spirit of Hawaiian paradise". I believe their Symphony grape (a cross between muscat and grenache) offering won a gold medal at a Finger Lakes (upstate NY) contest the first half of last decade.

Don't really know anything about Diamond Head....


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Reply by EMark, Oct 25, 2011.

Well, we're back.  The cruise was great, and much too short.

Bringing wine onto the ship actually did work.  However, I ran into a security inspector in Honolulu who did not know the rules.  He was going to take my bottle for safe keeping and have it returned to me at the end of the cruise.  I told him that the Princess policy allowed me to bring on one bottle of wine.  (Actually, I gave that explanation twice.)  Eventually, he went over to confer with another (presumably, superior) security agent.  He came back, took the bottlle out of the bag and said something like, "I guess that's wine."  He returned my wine to me and sent me on my way.  Later, that afternoon, my wife and I boarded with another bottle and were waved right through.  I bought another bottle in Kauai, and there was no problem, there.

The Chappellet that I took from my cellar was outstanding--very round and solid, nice berry fruit, good balance between acid, alcohol and fruit.  This wine may still have some aging potential, but there is certainly no sin in drinking it now.  We drank it with one of our dinners in the ship's specialty steakhouse restaurant.  Happily, we did not get charged the $15 corkage fee that I was expecting.  I would ascribe that to some combination of the following:

  • We ate in the steakhouse several times and had developed a rapport with the staff, there.
  • We gave a taste of the wine to both the headwaiter and our table waiter.
  • They forgot.

The other wines that we brought on board (whites for Peggy and red for me) were consumed in our room, mostly, on the balcony, either with room service or as an afternoon apperitif.

The wines that I brought onto the ship were all California examples in which I had experience and confidence.  The only Hawaiian wines that I saw were pineapple wines, and I really did not care to experiment.

Earlier in this thread I posted that they "discouraged" bringing boxed wines onto the ship.  I had no problem with that.  One morning, though, I was going to breakfast, walking down the corridor from our cabin, dodging the carts that the room stewards leave standing out there while they service the rooms.  I noticed that in the trash receptacle of one of the carts was a (presumably empty) Franzia box.  For anybody who is unfamilitar, Franzia is a very low-dollar California wine.  I think they are owned by Bronco, which is the same company that puts out Charles Shaw ("Two Buck Chuck").  Anyway, I just chuckled as I passed it.

Regarding the prices on the shipboard wines I have to say that their better wines were very reasonable.  Understandably, there was a pretty stiff g-factor on their lower-priced wines.  I'm thinking of trying to decode my billing statement and giving some examples in a separate posting.

 

 

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Reply by ScottLauraH, Oct 25, 2011.

EMark, thank you for sharing your experience with us.  We are planning a family cruise for the coming summer and we have all already discussed at length bringing our own wine as opposed to paying for wine on the cruise.  My father in law seems to want to find out about bringing liquor, as he is not a wine drinker, but a whiskey drinker.  The rest of us love our wine!

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Reply by EMark, Oct 25, 2011.

SLH

Each cruise line has its own policy.  So, check the fine print regarding your cruise.  As I mentioned earlier in the thread, Peggy found the Princess policy on wine at one of their web pages.

My guess is that your father-in-law is going to be out of luck.  Bringing your own spirits is, I believe, universally frown upon by all the lines.  As other posters have mentioned, if you pack it in your checked baggage, you'll probably get it through.  I, however, am very nervous about breakage--especially, if you are traveling by air to your departure port.  Carry-ons are X-rayed at the gangway.  So, there is not much of a chance of getting it in that way.

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Reply by ScottLauraH, Oct 26, 2011.

I'm pretty sure that my father in law will be out of luck as well, but he claims that he was able to pull it off years back.  Of course, that was pre-September 11th, when travel security was MUCH lighter. 

I'm not sure which cruise line we are going with at this point, but we will likely end up flying to our departure port unless we can get a departure out of Baltimore.  That, of course, complicates the issue of bringing your own wine on board. 

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Reply by EMark, Oct 28, 2011.

A couple days ago I received a message from Snoother Rifinneg1979.  Since he apparently could not reply to this thread, he sent the private note.  I think his (or her) comments are interesting, and, so, I am copying his/her communication here.  I had my own problems with submitting replies the other day, and then I was tied up, yesterday.  So, I am just now getting to this.

"Hello! My comment won't post to your string (connection??), but here you go anyways! Feel free to share! Cruise lines (as well as many restaurants) have a sliding scale price structure. The lowest cost wines (biggest volume movers), tend to have the highest markup...which could still only result in a $20 wine list price BTW... and the higher cost wines that are purchased in lower volumes tend to offer the lowest markup. Just some food for thought. Want an example? Check the price of Yellow Tail Shiraz in 10 different stores as opposed to Opus One in 10 different stores. Opus will have the least variation. So, that being said...many times truly collectible wines can be found at the best prices at sea due to economies of scale. One more note...unless you are very sneaky, hard alcohol will always be confiscated until you disembark and if it's already open will have to be destroyed in most cases because the contents cannot be guaranteed. All the above is based on personal experience :) bottoms up and anchors away!"

 

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Reply by ScottLauraH, Oct 29, 2011.

Rif, thanks for your comments, and thank to EMark for posting them. 

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