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.


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 favorite 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.


Gastrobar on Celebrity Equinox

Celebrity Equinox & Celebrity Eclipse

These are the only two ships in the Celebrity fleet that have Gastrobar, a craft beer lounge. With about 40 brews and bottles on hand, there's a good chance you'll find something to wash down their menu of upscale pub food with. Circle the globe at Gastrobar with a glass of Delirium Tremens from Belgium, Fuller's London Pride from the U.K., La Fin Du Monde from Canada, or a good ol' Sam Adams or Brooklyn ale. Pair your beer with a la carte small plates like steamed pork buns or a charcuterie; large plates like a steak and Guinness pie or truffled grilled cheese; or a flatbread. The burger here is also serious business, and served with truffle fries. Once per sailing you might notice half off all beers, which makes for a great value. Flat-screen TVs can be found around the darkly lit and comfortable lounge space, for catching the game over a pint.


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.

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