So what’s the deal with booze cruises? Do passengers just booze it up on a boat all night long? If you live in the U.S., then yes, but in the Britain, France and Belgium, a booze cruise has an altogether different meaning. Sure, you’ll find lots of booze on a booze cruise, but mostly in boxes – not wine glasses and beer mugs.
A booze cruise is basically a cross-channel shopping trip from Britain to France or Belgium with the intent of taking advantage of lower prices on goods, especially alcohol and tobacco, in large/bulk quantities. During festive holidays such as Christmas and New Years Eve, booze cruisers travel the channel in droves in search of extreme deals on wine, beer and spirits for parties, barbecues and anniversaries or to store for other festive events.
This cross-channel shopping trip has long been a British institution and over the past decade generous allowance for personal use, the strong pound and appealing price tags (excise duty is much lower in Europe) have encouraged booze cruisers to carve out a full day in France or Belgium. Booze cruisers may opt for a “quick trip” or a “day trip” filled with shopping and sightseeing or even overnight trips if cruisers plan to shop until they drop, rest, then shop some more.
For booze cruisers, the deals aren’t limited to the retailers – they stretch all the way back to the ferry companies. During peak times, ferries may discount trips by as much as 50% or more. A wide variety of day trip ferry crossings include: Dover to Calais and Dunkerque, Folkestone to Calais, and Portsmouth to Cherbourg and Le Havre, Hull to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge and Harwich to the Hook of Holland. Information is also provided on all the major shopping destinations in Calais, Dunkerque, Le Havre and Cherbourg.
Just a few popular transports include: P&O Ferries, Sea France, Eurotunnel, Norfolk Lines, Stena Line and Hoverspeed.
So just how many bottles of wine, spirits, cigarettes or cases of beer can the average booze cruiser expect to bring home from each trip? Plenty. There is no limit for “personal use,” but there are a few quantities that may grab the attention of customs officials including:
3+ kg of smoking tobacco
110+ litres of beer
10+ litres of spirits
90+ litres of wine
20+ litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry)
If you’re a tourist hoping to get on the action, getting your goods back home may be a little tricky. While cross-channel shopping results in major savings and deals for booze cruisers traveling from Britain, others hoping to transport their steals back to say, the U.S., may have to engage in some rather risky plans to accomplish this. If you’re flying, packing liquids into checked luggage is possible, but again, it’s very risky. You can also ship your goods home ahead of you, but more than likely the shipping costs will eat up any savings from buying the booze in France in the first place.
If nothing else, participating in a booze cruise can be fun for tourists and the purchase price alone (as a souvenir) may be well worth the headache or expense of getting it home. After all, where else can you find a case of “good” beer for a few dollars?