If you love beer, cruises can be the perfect holiday for you. You can kick back on the sun deck with a brew in hand and a view of the sun setting over the ocean. You can sail the world, trying local beers in every port.
But getting your favourite drink isn't always beer and Skittles. You'll have to navigate the murky waters of beverage packages, inflated prices and inventory issues. Whether you like a cheap can of beer or are a craft brew connoisseur, here's everything you need to know about beer on cruises.
All cruise ships serve beer in onboard bars and restaurants, but prices, varieties and what's on tap can vary by ship and even by itinerary. Some lines, such as Carnival, carry its own branded brews only available onboard, while others, such as Celebrity, have themed bars that specialise in craft beer for those who are beer connoisseurs.
Look for specials, such as discounted buckets of beer (four beers served in a bucket of ice), at the pool bar. If you're considering a beverage package, make sure it covers the type of beer you prefer. (Note: Some packages do not cover buckets of beer.) You can even order beer to your cabin through room service, though fees will apply.
To give you an idea which brews you can expect onboard, here are cruise beer menus for four lines:
If you wish to immerse yourself in beer-themed travel, you can find the occasional theme cruise dedicated to beer. For example, river cruise line Avalon Waterways offers several sailings for beer enthusiasts to destinations known for their brews, such as Belgium and Germany, as well as some that might surprise you, such as the Netherlands and France. A "beer expert" sails with passengers to give lectures, lead beer tastings and beer-paired dinners, and accompany shore excursions.
We've also seen an Alaska Brews Cruise hosted by a beer news magazine, and sometimes culinary cruises will have a beer component in addition to wine.
Beer in Port
You don't need a theme cruise to try interesting local beers in port. If you're an avid cruiser and drinker, consider drafting a beer bucket list and make a point to try local brews around the world in places such as the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe and Asia. Australia and New Zealand have their fair share of beers, so you could also attempt a local list. Some ships carry local brews onboard, especially if they're homeported in a region for a while.
Beers can also be explored in each port, of course. Simply go into the nearest pub and ask to try something local. Or sign up for a shore excursion that features a brewery tour and tasting.
Sneaking Beer Onboard Your Cruise
Unless you're on an all-inclusive luxury line, such as Silversea or Seabourn, which has an all open bar policy, you'll need to pay restaurant prices for beer onboard your cruise ship.
If your ship charges for beer onboard, you can bet that you're also not allowed to carry your own six-packs onboard; if you do, they'll get confiscated. The exceptions are Disney Cruise Line -- which allows each passenger six bottles of beer brought onboard on embarkation day and in each port of call -- and Azamara, which has a semi-inclusive beverage policy and does allow passengers to bring beer onboard.
To avoid inflated alcohol prices and ensure their favourite brew is available onboard, many cruisers go to great lengths to sneak beer onboard -- trying everything from bribing porters to hiding beer in other containers -- but Cruise Critic does not recommend this strategy.