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Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum (or2)

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

All the booze and tobacco onboard ship was duty free so on arrival in certain ports of call the main booze and tobacco storerooms would have to be sealed by customs and excise so that you could not sell alcohol whilst in port. Most countries allowed the onboard bars to remain open, but there again some did not.

During my time at sea one or two incidents concerning Customs officers stick in my mind. It used to be pretty strict arriving back in Southampton. I guess this was one of the most likely places that duty free would be landed for friends and family. Of course, if you were signing off the ship you had a duty-free allowance to take home. But if you were in transit between cruises or voyages any booze in your cabin had to be boxed up and send down to the bonded storeroom.

On one occasion we had just returned to Southampton from the Caribbean where rum was plentiful and cheap. One of our woman assistant pursers was soon to celebrate her birthday so had stocked up on dark rum for making punch for the forthcoming event. For some reason Linda (Lovelace) Tattershall forgot to send the rum down to the bond on arrival back in the UK.

Linda Tattershall and Me

Island Princess

New Year's Eve 1974

HM Customs and Excise for some reason chose to inspect the female officers’ cabins on arrival and found Linda’s stack of Pirates Pleasure. To avoid a fine and paying the duty the miserable customs officers tipped the lot down her cabin sink.

Linda and I Meet again 44 years later

and we haven't changed a bit.


It was not uncommon having to bribe customs officials to get clearance for the ship, this often involved a few bottles of booze and a few hundred cigarettes. As catering assistant purser on Oriana, it was often my job to escort the customs officers down to the bond room to check the inventory and seal the bond. At this time the bribes often changed hands.

On arrival in Naples I had to escort a number of Italian customs officers down below. We went into the tobacco bond. They shut the door behind them and proceeded to take off their uniforms. What the devil was going on here. Underneath the uniforms they were wearing all in one combination underwear. Cartons of cigarettes were emptied out of their wrappings and the individual packets of cigs where then stuffed all around their bodies underneath the combs. With uniforms back on they walked off the ship and past the dock police who were unaware of the stash hidden away. The police normally took a share of anything they carried off the ship.

On a future visit to Naples I went down to the bond with the officials expecting the usual performance and they took not one cigarette. With red lights flashing, I immediately reported this to BKM (yes, the 5’ 19”) Deputy Purser that something was adrift. Sure, enough not 20 minutes later the Chief of Customs arrived on the ship. What did he want – Yes you have guessed it a trip to the tobacco bond only this time it was not cigarettes but half corona cigars that went under the uniform.


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Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
Feb 25, 2021

From Adrian Smith

So, even in the early '70s the "naughty" dockies were up to their old tricks!. When I was Storekeeper on "Oriana" and "Canberra" , '79-'86, you needed "eyes in the back of 'yer head", as far as the dockies were concerned!. Even with the utmost vigilance of the storeroom staff, they still got away with it!!. One of the worst ports was Sydney (no disrespect to Sydney, of course). We would be half-way through a cruise,and we would be finding, what looked like a "full pallet" of Fosters. Half way down the pallet there would be what looked like a full case of cans, full of empty cans!. Even cases of wine had bottles mi…

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