Questions are often posted about the purchasing of duty free liquor aboard ship, at the airport or pier. The U.S. Custom Service offers a free booklet, "Know Before You Go"
that provides helpful information on the subject. The paragraphs with quote marks are directly from this booklet that is not subject to copyright.
Duty Free Shops "Articles bought in so-called duty free shops in foreign countries are subject to U.S. custom duty and restrictions but may be included in your personal exemption." When you are on a foreign flagged cruise ship, you are in a foreign country. "Articles purchased in American duty free shops are subject to U.S. customs if reentered into the U.S.. Example: Liquor bought in a duty free shop before entering Canada and brought back into the U.S. may be subject to custom duty and Federal Internal Revenue tax."
"Many travelers are confused by the term "duty free " as it relates to shops. Articles in duty free shops are free of duty and taxes only for the country in which that shop is located. Articles sold in duty free shops are intended for export and are not to be returned to the country of purchase. So if your purchases exceed your personal exemption, an article brought in a duty free shop may be subject to duty. Articles bought in U.S. duty free shops before you left the U.S. may be included in your exemption."
In the event you plan top buy liquor while aboard ship to take home, it may be wise to become aware of the price of the liquor at home. There is little logic to lug home liquor you buy where you live if it is cheaper or little price difference. During 2001 while aboard a Holland American ship, the price of a 3/4 liter bottle of Drambuie was $28.75; in our local supermarket a 1 liter bottle costs $25.89. There can be bargains for on a Carnival ship last year I purchased two l liter bottles of Grand Marnier for $40 whereas locally a l liter bottle sells for about $38. Last year on Princess Cruises a 1 liter bottle sold for $29.95 or two for $50 which was a bargain. Know what you are buying and if there is any savings.
The customs duty on liquor : Scotch is 5.3 cents per liter; Gin is 13.2 cents per liter; liqueurs 13.2 cents per liter; Brandy is 10.6 to 89.8 per liter; Vodka is 13.2 to 67.6 cents per liter; Tequila is 33 to 60 cents per liter. The federal excise taxes can range from 15 cents per liter to $3.50 per proof liter of distilled spirits, liquors or cordials. You can bring in one liter of alcoholic that may be included in the $400 per person exemption. There is nil in the information provided by the Custom Service that you cannot bring more than one liter into the country, except the statement " Alcoholic beverages beyond the one liter limitations are subject to duty and Federal Internal Revue . Many states like California limit their residents to one liter person.
I recommend obtaining a free copy of "Know Before you Go" from the Department of the Treasury, U.S., Custom Service, Washington, D,.C, 20229
I know you can bring back more than one liter, whether or not you are charged any "duty" is up to the customs officers. Last month I brought back more than my one liter and the customs officer didn't require me to pay any duty. Even if I had been require to pay duty, the amout that would have been accessed would not have kept my purchases from being great bargains!