1. Home
  2. Planning
  3. Best Cruises
  4. Best Ships for a Craft Beer Cruise
Craft Beer Celebration (Photo: qwasder1987/Shutterstock)

Best Ships for a Craft Beer Cruise

The shift from mass-market domestic beer to the small-batch suds available from craft breweries has finally made it out to sea. This makes sense; Americans alone consume billions of gallons of beer each year, and while on vacation, one might be inclined to drink a bit more than average.

The variety -- not to mention quality -- of craft beer appeals to the light beer drinker, the adventurous imbiber and the person who appreciates local flavors. The following cruise ships and cruise lines have made a serious effort to provide top-notch craft beer onboard, from partnerships with homeport-based breweries to their own kegs made right on the ship. If you're a beer-lover looking for a cruise, drink in these best cruises for craft beer.

Updated September 20, 2018

Glass of beer by the pcean

The move from mass-market brand beers to lovingly-brewed and interestingly-named ales from craft breweries has finally made it out to sea. About time to, you might well say, as the craft beer revolution has been going on for a number of years now.

In the U.K., P&O Cruises kick-started the trend with the introduction of Brodie's Bar on Britannia, which features the aptly-named Great British Beer Menu, which features an astonishing 70 different bottled beers, ales and ciders from 56 UK counties (nope, we didn't know that there were that many either!). Celebrity Eclipse had a retro-fitted Gastrobar installed onboard a couple of months later, showcasing a variety of craft beers.

But it's not confined to these shores: The following cruise ships and cruise lines have made a serious effort to provide top-notch craft beer onboard, from partnerships with homeport-based breweries to their own kegs made right on the ship. If you're a beer-lover looking for a cruise, drink in these best cruises for craft beer.

P&O Cruises

Britannia launched in 2015 with a number of firsts, including the most variety of beers sourced from the most British counties onboard a ship: 70 in total from 56 different counties. These include pilsners, ales, stouts, gluten-free beer and speciality beers such as Chocolate Tom from Robinson's Brewery in Cheshire, Ginger Hare from Bath Ales in Somerset and Titanic Quarter (no, we're not sure if we want to sink that one either), from County Antrim, in Northern Ireland. The line has since rolled out a selection (20 in total) from Brodie's to the pubs onboard the rest of the fleet. If you're overwhelmed by the selection and don’t know where to start, try a beer flight, which offers three different beers (a 1/3 of a pint each) from a chosen region of the country. The best bit? Prices start at a cheaper-than-high-street-pub price of £3.85 per bottle, which is to be applauded.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises launched the Gastrobar on the U.K.-based Celebrity Eclipse in May 2015 following a significant refurbishment. In reality, the Gastrobar, which is part of the Passport Bar, is just two fridges full of different types of craft beers. However, what is impressive is there a beer sommelier, who will guide you through all the various beers on offer (and despite there being just two fridges, there is a big selection). The beers are from all over the U.S., Canada and Europe, and they include a Rogue Farms 7 Hop from Oregon that retails at -- deep breath -- $35. The line has since introduced it on Celebrity Equinox.

Norwegian Escape

With the debut of its largest ship to date, Norwegian Cruise Line also rolled out a major partnership with Miami-based Wynwood Brewing Company by developing District Brew House. Powered by the Brignoni family who started Wynwood Brewing, the bar offers 24 rotating beers on tap (from Magic Hat, Brooklyn and Angry Orchard hard cider to Left Hand Milk Stout and others we haven't even heard of), as well as 50 different types of bottled beer. Find your favourite tap from terra firma, or try something completely new: La Rubia Blonde Ale is inspired by the founder's mother, and Pop's Porter is an award-winning robust porter named after the founder's father, "Pops." (It's a family affair.) District Ale is exclusive to Escape, brewed just for the ship -- can't get any more craft than that.


Alaska Brewing Company beer on Noordam

Princess Cruises Fleet

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, Princess Cruises unveiled Seawitch West Coast IPA in partnership with Strike Brewing Company of San Jose, CA. The brew, now available fleetwide, is described as "a balanced aroma of lightly roasted malt and barley, strongly accented by the crisp dry flavor of a unique hop blend." The craft IPA, along with East Coast Blonde Ale and Denali Red, are available on all ships in the Princess fleet. The line is capitalizing on the craft beer culture with a new concept: the Salty Dog Gastropub, pairing creative pub food from Chef Ernesto Uchimura (of Umami Burger) with beers and whiskies. It's presented in the Wheelhouse Bar on Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess to start. An added bonus: If you're sailing on one of the line's popular Alaska itineraries, expect to see bottles of Alaska Brewing Company beer as part of your libation lineup.


Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas

The concept of the gastropub went next level on Royal's Quantum Class of cruise ships. Michael's Genuine Pub, curated by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, features nearly 20 craft beers on tap with tongue-twisting names like Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA and J.K.'s Scrumpy Hard Cider Farmhouse Organic. Also included is Schwartz's own potion, Michael's Genuine Home Brew, described as a "classic American ale." Pair your pick with gourmet snacks like crispy hominy or slow-roasted pork sliders, or go for something sweet, such as peanut butter-pie-in-a-jar.


Group of young people drinking draft beers

Carnival Cruise Line Fleet

Arguably the frontrunner in the craft beer crusade, Carnival has long embraced the importance of a cold one. RedFrog Pub debuted on Carnival Magic in 2011, with its own private-label draft beer: ThirstyFrog Red. Since then, Carnival has partnered with local microbreweries, such as Tampa-based Cigar City, which will serve its cans -- with ales like Invasion Pale Ale and Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White -- on any Florida-homeported ship. Likewise, Baltimore-based Heavy Seas Beer will now be served on any Carnival cruise ship sailing out of Charm City.

Craft beer and microbrews are served across the fleet, varying by itinerary. For example, slug a Shiner Bock in Galveston, enjoy an Abita in New Orleans, and even savor local beer from Hawaii or Alaska with a Bikini Blonde or Alaskan Amber. With the launch of Carnival Vista, the cruise line takes craft up a notch with a working brewery right onboard the ship as part of a next-generation RedFrog Pub. (Tabletop taps will let you pour your own beer.) A partnership with Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery will introduce three new original brews to Vista: ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin' IPA, ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat and FriskyFrog Java Stout.


Beer Theme Cruises

Any ship can instantly become a haven for craft beer aficionados when it's hosting beer cruises. River cruise lines have really embraced the pairing of sailing and sipping with a number of riverboats offering regional brews as you cruise past their locales. AmaWaterways is hosting a holiday/beer theme cruise with tastings, lectures about technique and a beer pairing dinner. Avalon Waterways theme cruises provide brewery tours, tastings, enrichment and the like. Meanwhile, Un-Cruise departs round trip from Seattle, exploring coastal Washington and visiting iconic local breweries along the way.

Find a Cruise
Find a Cruise

Popular on Cruise Critic

What to Pack for a Cruise: A Beginner's Guide
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who didn't feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a good idea. Besides incurring the wrath of her male travelling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny wardrobes. The now savvy seafarer follows her own packing 101 rule: Thou shalt put into one's suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for thyself. Following that advice is getting easier these days because, for the most part, cruising has become a much more casual holiday -- even on luxury and traditional lines. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags and imposing extra fees for overweight luggage), it's just more economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you’re going to wear on a cruise so you don't pack your entire closet. If you're wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you'll need to pack.
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. Autumn -- or "Fall" in North America" -- foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas water sports-lovers (and families) much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travellers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your holiday schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks