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.
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Updated January 8, 2020
Norwegian Bliss & Norwegian Escape
With the debut of its largest ships to date, Norwegian Cruise Line has 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 on Bliss and Escape 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.) On Bliss, a partnership with M.I.A. Beer Company adds to the lineup. District Ale is exclusive to Escape, brewed just for the ship -- can't get any more craft than that.
These is only one ship in the Celebrity fleet that has Craft Social, 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 Craft Social 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. 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 Symphony of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas
Playmakers Sports Bar livened up the onboard beer game when it debuted on Symphony of the Seas. Featuring 31 flat-screen TVs playing headlining sports matches, table games and gastropub grub, Playmakers serves as "barcade" blending entertainment with a variety of craft beers on tap, like Stone IPA or Hop Valley lager. Choose from domestic, international, ciders and drafts -- pitchers and flights are also on hand. On Oasis-class ships (Symphony), it's located along the Boardwalk with outdoor seating. Expect a lively atmosphere on any ship it's on.
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. With the launch of Carnival Vista, the cruise line took craft up a notch with a working brewery right onboard the ship as part of a next-generation RedFrog Pub. (Tabletop taps let you pour your own beer.) A partnership with Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery introduced three new original brews to Vista: ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin' IPA, ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat and FriskyFrog Java Stout. In 2018, Carnival Horizon debuted with the first-ever Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse | Brewhouse, helmed by the celebrity chef long known on Carnival for his burgers.The venue has its very own brewmaster, with four rotating brews made right onboard. Tours of the mini-brewery are available.
Craft beer and microbrews are served across the fleet, varying by itinerary. Expect cans of Tampa-based Cigar City on any Florida-homeported ship. Likewise, Baltimore-based Heavy Seas Beer ise served on any Carnival cruise sailing out of Charm City. The list goes on: Shiner Bock in Galveston, Abita in New Orleans, and even local beer from Hawaii and Alaska with a Bikini Blonde or Alaskan Amber.
Beer Theme Cruises
Any ship can instantly become a haven for craft beer aficionados when it's hosting beer-themed 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 has hosted holiday/beer theme cruise with tastings, lectures about technique and a beer pairing dinner. Avalon Waterways' theme cruises provide brewery tours, tastings, enrichment and more. Meanwhile, Un-Cruise departs round trip from Seattle, exploring coastal Washington and visiting iconic local breweries along the way.