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BYOB? Put a Cork in It.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

You're ready to cruise the Caribbean, soak up the rays and views . . . and partake of that choice rum you'll buy at deliriously duty-free prices. But hold that thought. Many cruise lines won't let you touch any alcohol you've brought onboard at ports of call. Why not?

"We sell a ticket at a certain price, and we expect people will be spending some money onboard, and one of the things they'll spend on is alcohol," says Rick Sasso, president and chief executive of MSC Cruises USA. There are also safety concerns, he says: "There are bars on board, and we can control how much drinking people do. We don't want people drinking a couple of bottles in the cabin."

That said, there is no norm, except for the minimum drinking age, which is 21 on most North American cruise lines. Policies on what you can bring onboard -- initially and at ports of call -- and what you can do with it are all over the map. We asked Margaret Roth to give us the rundown on the top 10 lines (by number of passengers) and their policies.

Carnival Cruise Lines

BYOB? Only fine wine or champagne (what's "fine" is left to the guest's discretion) -- one bottle per adult (21 or older) -- and only on the day of embarkation. Any other alcohol can be confiscated with no money back.

Corkage fee: It'll cost you $10 per bottle to have that wine or champagne opened in the dining room, $14 in the Supper Club.

Alcohol shopping: Passengers may not bring any alcohol onboard from ports of call. The ship will hold any bottles you buy in an onboard gift shop until the end of the cruise.

Royal Caribbean

BYOB? No. Security reserves the right to inspect containers (water, soda, mouthwash bottles, etc.) and dispose of any carrying alcohol.

Corkage fee: Does not apply.

Alcohol shopping: Ship will hold until the last night of the cruise.

Princess Cruises

BYOB? Wine and champagne only (one bottle per person).

Corkage fee: $15

Alcohol shopping: Ship will hold.

Norwegian Cruise Line

BYOB? No.

Corkage fee: $15 per bottle of wine bought onshore during cruise.

Alcohol shopping: Ship will hold all alcoholic purchases except wine, which you can enjoy in the dining rooms.

Note: NCL's drinking age is 21. However, unlike most other cruise lines sailing from North America, it allows passengers 18 to 20 years old to buy wine or beer for themselves while the ship is in international waters (not Alaska or Hawaii) -- with a parent or guardian's written consent.

Costa Cruises

BYOB? Guests may prearrange to bring a limited amount of wine.

Corkage fee: $10 plus 15 percent gratuity.

Alcohol shopping: Ship will hold.

Note: The drinking age is 21 for cruises departing from U.S. ports and 18 for cruises departing from non-U.S. ports.

Holland America Line

BYOB? Wine and champagne only; no bottle limit.

Corkage fee: $15 per bottle.

Alcohol shopping: Ship will hold, except for wine and champagne.

Celebrity Cruises

BYOB? Wine only (two bottles per stateroom).

Corkage fee: $25.

Alcohol shopping: Ship will hold.

MSC Cruises

BYOB? No.

Corkage fee: Does not apply.

Alcohol shopping: Ship will hold.

Norwegian Coastal Voyage

BYOB? Yes to any alcohol that's legal, but only for consumption in the cabin.

Corkage fee: Does not apply; no bottles may be brought into public areas of the ship.

Alcohol shopping: No restrictions, other than the ones mentioned.

Note: The drinking age is 18, regardless of drink, reflecting Norway's laws.

Cunard Line

BYOB? Wine and champagne only.

Corkage fee: $15.

Alcohol shopping: Wine and champagne only; ship will hold other bottles.

Note: The drinking age is 18 (the minimum in Britain, Cunard's home waters), but 21 in U.S. ports and territorial waters.

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For information on six other cruise lines, click here. If it's not listed, check your individual line. Many spell out the alcohol policies on their Web sites under FAQs or contract terms.

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