I cannot fathom, as a first-timer, that the crew checks your carry-ons every port as you come aboard. I have no intention of paying over $20 for a bottle of wine...while I will frequent the bars on board...a little glass of wine on our verandah before calling it a night is something that my wife and I were looking forward to...any hints on this...we are going Celebrity in March...damn what if they see this posting and make a point of strip-searching me every time I come back from shore?
Actually, they do. They x-ray everything when you re-board. That said, I carried a bottle of excellent rum back aboard in Cozumel and made a big point of it just to see what they would do. Answer: nothing.
I have a fairly current Celeb wine list. There is exactly one wine (a Riesling) UNDER $20.
Put your wine in checked luggage, cushioned with clothes. We've been doing it for years. And so have a lot of other people.
We just came back from a cruise and they DO check all carry-ons. As far as I know you cannot take liquor on board when you first embark. If you buy a bottle of spirits in port (much less money) and bring it aboard, no problem. You just have to consume it all before the end of the cruise. ( You cannot take it with you )
By the way, having a drink on the verandah is great, if you can stand the 40 mph winds and the salty, sticky seats!
On my cruise, Carnival Victory, people did bring on booze, both at the point of embarkation (in checked luggage) and at the ports. All bags have to be x-ray'd for security, but nobody cared about the booze being in the bags. They simply asked if you had any duty free booze. If you were honest, they would take it from you and hold it until the end of the trip.
One thing that might work is wait until shortly before the ship is about to sail and the line is real long getting back on the ship, they'll be in a hurry to get everyone on board. Speed and security will be their main concern.
Carnival does allow one bottle of wine or Champagne for a special occasion at the point of embarkation only, not at the ports. There's always the boxed wine, if you can handle it.